Tag Archives: Ovid

Origins of Romeo and Juliet: No not Shakespeare

This weekend I saw the latest adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet by the Italian director Carlo Carlei. It was a well made film up until the end when he decided to go a little off script. The dialogue was not the original dialogue, but stayed true in some spots and was still quite poetic. Having already mentioned these things to my date as we were coming out of the theater I fought for something else to add to the discussion of the film. Suddenly it struck me that I knew the origin of the plot made so famous by Romeo and Juliet.

The plot is not originally Shakespeare’s idea even though when anyone thinks of forbidden love they immediately think of this play. The origin of this story is actually one of my favorite parts of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Pyramus and Thisbe, a myth that also appears in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is about a young man and a young woman who speak through a crack in the wall that their houses share. They come from feuding families and must keep their love for each other secret. One night they decided to sneak out of the house to meet and runaway together. Thisbe gets to the meeting point under the mulberry tree first, but seeing a lioness she hides nearby. Pyramus arrives next and sees the lioness with Thisbe’s veil and assumes that the lioness has eaten Thisbe. Pyramus kills himself and when Thisbe finds his body she kills herself with the same sword. That’s the short version. Ovid tells it better so read his, please.

The point is that the plots are the same and I am still waiting for the day when someone does a Romeo and Juliet adaptation that in some way acknowledges the origins of the plot. The metamorphosis in Ovid’s telling is the explanation of why mulberry trees have reddish/purple berries, because they were stained by the blood of the young lovers. I would love to see someone simply add the mulberry tree. With how much Carlo Carlei added to the ending of his film (a wild and crazy change that made me, I must say, believe at one point that he was going to allow Juliet to survive) I think he could have added a small acknowledgement of Ovid and his story.

Advertisements
Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Burning Bushes, Crying Alone, Seeing Stars: Not College Stories, Just Latin Mottos

So recently I was in a teaching workshop and was discussing with some of my colleagues the use of mission statements as well as school credos and mottos. With many schools having Latin mottos I thought I would take a minute to reflect on this phenomenon as a classical reference that is more overt than most of the ones I write about here.

I will start with my alma mater, Temple University. Temple’s Latin motto is Perseverantia vincit (perseverance conquers). Personally of all of the Latin phrases out there I think this one is pretty weak. I might even challenge my friends who are still there to seek a change to this motto. I mean at least use the whole phrase which is Perseverantia omnia vincit (perseverance conquers all). I was unable to find a specific origin of this phrase in ancient literature, but I would venture to say that it is a modern adaptation of Ovid’s phrase Amor omnia vincit.

Now onto some other mottos worthy of comment.

Baylor University- Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: I mention this one first for my friend at Baylor. This makes me laugh simply because Texas was turned into a Latin word. It means “For church, for Texas.”

Campbell University- Ad astra per aspera: “To the stars through difficulties.” This Latin motto makes me think of Steinbeck’s use of a similar motto ad astra per alia porci (to the stars on the wings of a pig) which is my favorite Latin phrase of all time. Ad astra phrases are usually attribute to Vergil who wrote that Aeneas’ son Iulus would “go to the stars.”

Dartmouth College- Vox clamantis in deserto: I include this one solely because the translation on Wikipedia made me laugh hysterically. Wikipedia translates it as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness.” I just conjure up this image of a student sitting alone in the New England wilderness crying over a pile of books; not exactly the image I would want as a prospective student. This is also the translation offered by the Dartmouth website so while I would translate it differently I will not dispute it here.

University of Florida-Civium in moribus rei publicae salus: “The welfare of the state depends upon the morals of its citizens” The birthplace of Gatorade brings us this great motto which many would say was exemplified well by Tim Tebow during his time there. This motto is, however, funny to me as the welfare of that campus clearly depends on its partying student body.

University of Kansas- Videbo visionem hanc magnam quare non comburatur rubus: “I will see this great sight, how the bush does not burn” Alright I know I’m going to catch some crap for this one as this quotation comes from the Bible, but this is the funniest college motto I’ve come across. I don’t think I even need to flesh this one out for the dirty minds of college students everywhere. I’ll just leave you with [Insert STD joke here].

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cosmo Magazine and Ovid’s Ars Amatoria: Sex hasn’t changed in 2,000 years

I’m not going to lie, I find Cosmo to be a hilarious magazine and it became even more hilarious the second I realized that Cosmo is just the modern, female, version of Ovid’s Ars Amatoria. Ovid’s “Art of Love” is basically a guide to love, sex, adultery, etc. Contrary to popular opinion Ovid didn’t just gear his work towards men, rather, it also includes advice for women. The work is broken into three parts which would be found commonly in a magazine like Cosmo. Book 1 is about how to find a woman, book 2 how to keep her, and book 3 is about how women can obtain and keep a man in love. The book is a bit racy, in fact so racy it got Ovid exiled, or maybe it was just that little thing about Julia’s adultery, whatever it was, the poet calls it “a poem and a mistake.”

Ovid’s book is not just about sex, but also includes little things that can be done to keep someone interested. My favorite piece of advice Ovid gives is one that is also covered very regularly in Cosmo, the waiting game. This is basically how to make someone miss you, but not be gone for too long. In modern Cosmo terms that might be considered the three day rule of calling someone or “do you” which apparently translates to leaving time for yourself and not forgetting your friends. It is incredible to me that nothing really has changed in relationships in two thousand years.

Of course there is always the sex part of Cosmo and Ars Amatoria. Both pieces of literature (I use that term loosely) express advice on the physical nature of the relationship. This can be found in every issue of Cosmo and usually is full of things a lot of men might disagree with, but they’re the experts not me. As I went to the website for “research” for this post I found an article titled “The Sexy Body Parts Your Not Using Enough.” This turned out to be an article on how women should use their legs in bed. This reminded me greatly of a line in the Ars Amatoria where Ovid claims that tall women should not straddle their lovers: “quod erat longissima, numquam Thebais Hectoreo nupta resedit equo” (Book 3, ll 778).  This translates very roughly to “because she was taller, the Theban bride (refers to Andromache) never sat on Hector.” I left out the word equo which just describes Hector as a horse, yes that probably has the same meaning as when Cosmo refers to a man as a horse.

The only thing that might differ between Ovid and Cosmo is that Ovid never wrote a useless article like, “What did his weekend texts really mean.”   Although you can bet if text messages existed, Ovid would’ve written about it. Everything else seems to line up pretty well. I’m sure you’ve read Cosmo so if you don’t believe me that nothing has changed, pick up a copy of Ovid and see for yourself.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,