Metamorphoses Book 4 Summary

Metamorphoses Book 4 Summary


Metamorphoses (Book IV) [Pyramus and Thisbe]


1. An Introductory Note

The Latin poet Ovid presents an interesting tale of Pyramus and Thisbe in his Metamorphoses (Book IV). The duo are the lovers. Pyramus is actually a Babylonian youth. Thisbe is his lady-love. Here, he exposes their love tragedy within the shortest span.

2. Summary

Pyramus and Thisbe live in the same place. He is a handsome young boy, while Thisbe is the possessor of a charming beauty. They know each other. Thus, they make a sweet relation between them. At the same time, an amatory feeling and emotion rouse in the minds of them. At last, they fall in love. And they even decide to make a nuptial relation. Unfortunately their parents come to know about the event and then and there forbid them. But they, in secret, continue their amorous relation in full swing.

However, in the midst of their houses, there is a wall. In this wall, they make a chink. Through this chink, they whisper often. They only hear their whispering speeches. One day, they decide to meet under a white mulberry tree in front of the tomb of Nissus, outside the city.

In the venue, Thisbe arrives first. Patiently she waits for him. Waiting there, she sees a lion coming towards her. She gets startled. Then, she casts her veil at the lion and leaves the place. The lion comes, takes the veil and tears it into pieces. A few minutes later, Pyramus comes there and sees the tattered veil of his ladylove. Naturally an anxious thought about his ladylove all on a sudden flashes in his mind. He looks upon that his sweetheart has been devoured. Hence, he is at his wits’end. He stabs himself with his sharp sword. Thisbe, after some moment, turns up thither. Seeing the dead-body of her lover, she falls upon the same sword to slay herself cruelly. The roots of the mulberry tree sucks their blood so that the same tree brings forth the dark red fruit. Their parents buries their ashes in a single urn.

3. A Critical Survey A. Love Tragedy

Love tragedy is a type of tragedy, in which the lovers sacrifice their lives for each other. It is mainly found in a good many number of literary pieces like Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Antony and Cleopatra. Here, Ovid has not failed in shedding light on such a tragic story in his Metamorphoses (Book IV).

Pyramus and Thisbe both were lovers. A tragedy happened in their lives according to the cruel play of fate. But there was no gap in their amorous relation. Based on such a relation, they decided to marry. The irony of fate had not given them green signal to get success in this path. Nonetheless they had not sunk into the sorrow of sea. Rather floating themselves in the tide of love, they from the core of their hearts wanted to make steady such a relation. So, making a slit on the wall, they did not hesitate to communicate stealthily. By means of this conversation, they determined to meet in the tomb of Nissus.

Thisbe reached there before. Like a lark, she waited for her lover. Suddenly, a lion came there. Seeing the lion, she fled in fear. Before the place, she dropped her veil. The lion took the veil and tore it. After some hours, Pyramus reached there and saw the tattered veil with the stain of blood. It seemed to him that Thisbe died. Being utterly disappointed and frustrated, he stabbed himself with his sword. When she returned, she saw the corpse of her lover. She was at sea and ultimately she fell upon the same sword to slain herself. 

As a matter of fact, their profound love, affectionate feeling and erotic emotion compelled them to make such a tragedy in their lives. Actually truth, morality and sincerity were hidden in their genuine love. It was Pyramus and Thisbe who felt the warm emotion sincerely.

B. Notes on the Characters

Pyramus :

Pyramus was a Babylonian youth. He was indeed a possessor of the good health. He was a neighbour of Thisbe. He was also an ardent lover. He had a strong attraction for Thisbe. Based on this attraction, an amatory emotion roused in his mind so that he wanted to make a nuptial relation with her.

had a robust optimism that he never got frustrated in spite of not getting any consent from his parents in the matter of his marriage. Rather, through a device, he maintained such relation.

Besides, he was a weak-minded fellow. He mentally broke down after seeing the pieces of veil of his ladylove at the tomb. Then, he killed himself with his own sword in sorrow. +

Thisbe :

Thisbe was sweetheart of Pyramus. She was a beautiful and attractive girl. She had also an amorous relation with Pyramus.

In the matter of love, she was an ideal figure. She had an inseparable relation with him. As a result, to reply the call of love, she reached first in front of the tomb of Nissus.

She was a patient woman. Standing before the tomb of Nissus, she waited for Pyramus like one in a sacred place. Then, she saw a lion coming towards her.

She was a timid girl also. She left the place as soon as she eyed the lion. To protect herself from such a ferocious animal, she cast her veil at him.

She was a sentimental person too. She got a big blow after seeing the dead body of Pyramus. She, at last, killed herself like Pyramus. 

C. Relation of the Story with the Title

There is an affinity of the story with the title. “Metamorphoses” means transformation. In general, a changing aspect is also found in the case of transformation. Here, in this story, it is not an exception.

The blood of two lovers fully changed the colour of the fruits of the mulberry tree near the tomb of Nissus, because the roots of the said tree sucked the blood of the duo. To show a form of metamorphoses, the Latin poet Ovid has placed such a story in his book “Metamorphoses”.

D. Appreciation of the Story

The present story belonging to Ovid’s Metamorphoses (Book IV).is stuffed with tragic elements. At the dawn of love, Pyramus and Thisbe made a sweet relation. But it was an irony of fate that an ac

out cident all at once happened in their lives when they went to meet in front of the tomb of Nissus. They killed themselves there. They did so of misunderstanding stupidity. Instead of the happiest union, the shadow of tragedy loomed over them.

To tell the truth, the lion was responsible for bringing about such a catastrophe in their lives. In a word, that very ferocious animal changed their wheel of fate. With the influence of their blood, the fruits of the mulberry tree were changed.

Hence, in the above mentioned story, there is a flavor of transformation. From a subtle point of view, it is clear that a pathetic aspect has been noticed in this tale. They were really emotional lovers so that they became able to face such a type of incident simultaneously. This influence had also been found in Shakespearean plays like “Romeo and Juliet” and “Antony and Cleopatra”.

E. Shakespeare’s Treatment on the Story

Shakespeare in his romantic comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, has presented the story of Pyramus and Thisbe as an allusion.” The play, however, presents a variety in this theme of love. By the side of the account of love and marriage of Duke Theseus and Queen Hippolyta, runs parallelly the episode of the two pair of Athenian lovers. Besides, there is the dramatic presentation of the sad tragedy of love-Pyramus and Thisbe-by Bottom and his group.

The chief draw in the love-theme of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, however, reposes neither on the heroic love of Theseus and Hippolyta nor on the amusing absurdity of the interlude on the love of Pyramus and Thisbe, but rather on the stirring madness of the youthful love of the play. Indeed, the story of the pair of young lovers of Athens constitutes the primary element in the love-theme of the play and forms its main source of interest. This sharply suggests concord and discord in the love-theme of the play too.

Besides, Shakespeare had given place to this love-tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe in his popular play The Merchant of Venice to clarify clearly the love-theme of Lorenzo and Jessica. Sitting in the moonlit garden of Belmont, Lorenzo and Jessica make love and imagine various remarkable and memorable love episodes of the past. Among them, the love-episode of Pyramus and Thisbe was one. In the language of Shakespeare : (Act V: Scene 1)

“In such a night Did Thisbe fearfully o’ertrip the dew, And saw the lion’s shadow ere himself,

And ran dismay’d away.” This speech had been uttered by Jessica, the daughter of Shylock, in the play.



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