Byblis and Myrrha, two of Ovid's impassioned, transgressive heroines, confess incestuous passions. Byblis yearns for her brother, Caunus, and Myrrha lusts for her father, Cinyras. Mandelbaum translates these tales effectively, but sometimes a different translation by Crane brings new meaning to an argument. As Byblis and Myrrha realize the feelings at hand, they weigh the pros and cons of such emotions. Despite the appalling relationships in question, each young girl provides concrete support and speaks in such a way that provokes pity for her plight. Their paths of reasoning coincide, but Byblis starts where Myrrha's ends, and visa versa; Myrrha begins where Byblis' concludes.
The language used by Byblis and Myrrha arouses sympathy. Right away, Byblis exclaims, "What misery is mine!" to draw attention to her suffering (Mandelbaum 308). Later, she discusses her "grief" caused by the "evil fate" that makes Caunus her brother (308-9). Myrrha points out her "misfortune" in having not been born to those tribes that would allow her to fulfill her desires. Instead she is "forlorn- denied the very man for whom [she longs]" (339). In Crane's translation, Myrrha considers herself "most depraved" (on-line). All of these revelations compel readers to feel sorry for the girls in their situations; they seem to be victims of their desires.
Byblis and Myrrha both denounce their passions. After Byblis awakes from dreaming intimately about her brother, she claims she would never want to see this scene in daylight (Mandelbaum 308). Later in her speech, she refers to her incestuous pursuit as a "forbidden course" and to her burning desires as "obscene, foul fires" (309). According to Cran...
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...irl's speech draws further pity. Aside from all the similarities, each girl travels a different path in her mind. Readers feel more compassion for Myrrha and less for Byblis based on the paths they have followed. Ironically, Myrrha becomes the one who acts out her desires. As a result, she is metamorphosed into a Myrrh tree; in this form she will not contaminate the dead or the living with her foul actions. Regardless of Byblis' drive to build a relationship with her brother, she is denied the passion she seeks. She grieves over her loss profusely, so she becomes a fountain, never-ending in its flow.
Mandelbaum, Allen, trans. The Metamorphoses of Ovid. By Ovid. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & company, 1993.
Crane, Gregory, ed. Perseus Project. 1995. Tufts University. 6 Oct. 1999 http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/text?lookup=ov.+met.+init>
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