Friday, April 2, 2010

More People Should Read Ovid

There are two books that we know for certain Shakespeare has owned: Ovid's Metamorphoses and Michel de Montaigne's Essaies. One does not have to read much Ovid, especially his poems to see that Shakespeare was a devotee. Milton was not as dedicated to Ovid's poetry because Ovid was too naughty for Milton but he was still influenced by Ovid. Even more than Ovid, Milton was influenced by Horace and Virgil.
Few Renaissance writers, apart from Jonson and Milton read the other three elegist Catullus, Tibullus and Propertius. I think they are worth reading too. Milton was lucky enough to be able to read Greek and so he was also able to read Homer.
Why should we care about the Romans and the Greeks? Because by reading them, we get all the Easter eggs hidden in the texts. By reading them, you can get what Milton was trying to do with his incredibly complicated way of stating things. By reading them, you understand so much more and not just Shakespeare and Ovid. If you can, read them in Latin.
I am thinking of taking Ovid in translation and putting him back into Latin and see how close to his own words I get. That is studying Latin old school. They did it like that in Milton and Shakespeare's day. That is how they got to be so good at it.


Anonymous said...

You make quite the sales pitch for these books. Is Ovid in latin already so that you can compare?

My daughter is on second semester Greek and she really likes it, the first semester was really hard for her though. Now she wants to stick with the Greek too which means a summer course or something. It never ends.

Mary Sue

Tracy said...

I agree with you - if you want to really understand an author, go to the original source(s).

I just wish my latin was any good at all, never mind good enough to cope with Ovid - oh well, something to study now I'm going to have a bit more time on my hands.

Anonymous said...

I tried to read Ovid in Latin and it was really difficult - I didn't get the meaning more often than not. My Greek is non-existent, I tried Xenophont and failed pitifully but I think even a translated Ovid is something that can work to your advantage. Of course you'll never be able to appreciate the full beauty of the original text but still, it's better than nothing.


Kristin said...

You guys know my Latin is non-existent unless it's a medical term--it's Greek to me! I really wish they'd teach it here. I'm jealous that you can read it in the original. Like Bridget said, you can appreciate it more.

The Red Witch said...

In translation is perfectly fine. Shakespeare clearly read it in English - the Arthur Golding translation - but I have seen some critics make a good case for his reading Ovid in latin where a translation did not exist. Seeing it in the original helps you to get Milton.
Mary I believe that all of Ovid's writing is available in English. The other three elegists are not as easily found in English but Horace and Virgil are still commonly read.
The Metamorphoses and Aeneid were the texts that most schoolboys learned Latin from in the Renaissance.