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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: Drama
  • Word count: 4183

Ovid's Metamorphoses: Pygmalion - Why did Pygmalion choose to portray his perfect woman.

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GCSE LATIN POETRY CRITICISM Ovid's Metamorphoses: Pygmalion Why did Pygmalion choose to portray his perfect woman Pygmalion decided to portray women as he searched for the most perfect being and he hadn't found any in Cyprus. He placed all his love and wishfulness in his statues and so the most beautiful of his creations was sculpted. Pygmalion, being a man, and having 'animal' urges, must have wanted a partner to share his emotions and get frisky with, so this was the perfect idea for him. What could be better, a woman with beautiful looks, and never talks back or argues with you? Bliss. Since no one came up to his expectations, it became an obsession that he wanted the perfect wife. Or maybe he wanted to show off to his mates that he had the perfect woman in Cyprus, even though it was ivory. Does anything in the earlier part of the story help to explain Pygmalion's behaviour? Pygmalion's behaviour gets a lot more elaborate and somewhat more perverted with each line. As the story progresses, his obsession and passionate love for the statue gets stronger and stronger, until it reaches the climax of what a man can do with a statue, sleep with it. Nonetheless it is possible to retrace the reason for his perversion. It is explained at the very beginning of the text. Ovid writes that the women around Pygmalion spent their time in wickedness, and that he (Pygmalion), was disgusted by their very many vices, which nature gave to women's minds: "quas quia Pygmalion aevum per crimen agentes viderat, offensus vitiis, quae plurima menti feminae natura dedit ..." It was from this fact that Pygmalion's troubles started. Ever since Aphrodite had turned the women of Cyprus into whores, Pygmalion was never able to be satisfied by the real women on his island. This is what had originally turned his thoughts into creating something female, which was perfect in every way for him. ...read more.


At the beginning he thought that the statue was still a statue, and nothing more, however as he kissed her and felt her, he started realising that the ivory seemed to be alive, and that his precious statue was becoming his perfect woman. The first thing he noticed was that she seemed warm: "visa tepere est". This, although by no means definite, started to put thoughts into Pygmalion about whether she was actually alive or if he was imagining it again. He then felt her breasts, to make certain that she was in fact real, and once again the statue (or ex-statue) seemed to show signs of life - they were soft! "manibus quoque pectora temptat ... " After this, just to completely assure himself that what he was feeling and hoping was true, he felt her again and again, and when he touched her veins they throbbed under his thumb. "rursus amans rursusque manu sua vota retractat;... saliunt temptatae pollice venae." During this realisation, Ovid constantly implies that Pygmalion is in great doubt as to whether it is true or not - for example he adds "credit" (which means "he thought") at the end of the sentence where Pygmalion says that the ivory becomes soft. At another point (line 45) he adds the word "dubie" meaning "hesitantly". This shows that even though Pygmalion's statue has actually become a woman, he is still very cautious about rejoicing, until he is completely sure. The last proof of how long it took Pygmalion to be convinced of what had happened, is that he strokes her again and again. Even though this does have an erotic aspect, it is also quite innocent, if you are in Pygmalion's frame of mind, because he's only trying to reassure himself that the statue has become real. The long time which it took Pygmalion to be convinced suggests that he had possibly thought that she had become real many times before, because this time he is making very sure that she is real. ...read more.


He further believes that his fingers are sinking into her limbs. His perception of reality becomes more faded and distant, as he truly believes that this is a real body and not a statue. He gets consumed with a passion for the idol and starts to lose his grip on sanity. In the eyes of the reader he eventually completely loses it, when he worries about whether he is bruising her by pushing his fingers into her too hard. At the height of his insanity, he applies flattery and gives gifts to her that a Cyprian woman would have appreciated. He gave her: shells, smooth pebbles, small birds, flowers of a thousand colours, lilies and painted balls of crystal or amber. He adorned her body with clothes and decorations such as jewels for her fingers, long necklaces for her neck, rings of light pearl hanging from her ears and pendants over her breasts. At this point in the story there is a turning point. He comes more normal and real, in that he decides to ask Venus to turn her into a real person. He seems to realise that he can't continue like this and that it would be in his best interests if he had a real person instead of a statue as his 'wife'. It seems at this point as though he is a real person and has completely shrugged off his former madness, by actually having a normal woman and not having anything else peculiar about him. There is however one final moment of madness ... When he returns home, he doesn't at first believe that she is real and, although he realises that she is warm, he does not dare to celebrate lest he is proved wrong. Throughout the story he behaves very unlike a normal person and acts very irrationally. However, the very last few lines show that he did manage to overcome it and he did end up being a normal and conventional person. 1 ...read more.

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