Saturday, February 25, 2012

Questions spurred by a hunt

Some of the questions coming up for me with the story of Meleager, Atalanta, Althea and the Calydonian Boar: What are yours?

1. Prof. William S. Anderson notes that the boar hunting scene is closer to farce than to heroic spectacle, with vignettes of great heroes falling on their faces, scrambling to do pole vaults, and hurling errant projectiles, not without tragic consequences. This might remind us of the bloody massacre at the wedding banquet of Perseus and Andromeda, and goes to the recurrent observation that Ovid seems to tote epic paraphernalia out of the closet only to do strange, poetically subversive things with it. Couple this with the fact that many of the characters whose conflicts and emotions are explored in detail through these tales are women: Arachne, Niobe, Medea, Scylla and Althea, for example. Is Ovid, writing in a cosmopolitan urban setting, consciously broadening the scope of this large-scale poem to attract new segments of readers?

2. Why does Meleager, a young, strong and almost immortal man, choose to invite heroes from all over Greece to participate in the hunt?

Althea with the brand of Meleager
3. Why does the hunting party object to the presence of Atalanta? Why do they object to Meleager's awarding her the spoils of the hunt? Why does he so honor her?

4. Why does Meleager kill both of his mother's brothers? What do they do that provokes his wrath?

5. How is this tale of a powerful, seemingly random natural aggressor wreaking havoc complicated by framing it with the divine elements of the Fates (Parcae), Diana, and the Furies (Poenae), and the fateful acts of his parents, Oeneus and Althea?

6. What to make of the parallel between the "smoldering" feelings Meleager feels for Atalanta and the consuming flames of Althea's act? Why is Althea moved to destroy her son? What is at the core of her almost epic inner conflict?

7. The staging of the hunt, notable for heroes throwing erring projectiles, can certainly remind us of Cephalus and his unerring spear (iaculum). What other relationships might suggest themselves between the tale of Meleager and other preceding tales -- Minos and Daedalus, Minotaur and Pasiphae, Scylla and Nisus?

8. How to take the epic magnitude of the expression of grief that overwhelms Calydon after the death of Meleager and his parents? Especially the sisters:

Not though the god had given me a hundred mouths speaking with tongues, the necessary genius, and all Helicon as my domain, could I describe the sad fate of his poor sisters. 8.533-35

[update] 9. Who is hunting whom?

No comments:

Post a Comment