Leave out the death of Itylus, Procne and Tereus
' son, whom the sisters dismember, boil, and serve to Tereus
for punishment, Philomela tossing the boy's bloody head-stump at his father.
Unlike Philomela and Procne, who enact their own vengeance against Tereus
, Lucretia adheres, as best that she still can, to the gender dynamics of Roman patriarchy: she enacts violence on her own body, but leaves public vengeance to those men who witness her suicide.
Now, the trompe-l'oeil above the antique mantel in "A Game of Chess" harks back at the Philomela episode in Ovid's Metamorphoses which Shakespeare took up and reworked in his early Senecan Roman tragedy, Titus Andronicus, where the mutilated Lavinia is the dramatic counterpart of the mythical figure raped by King Tereus
The oracle that Aristophanes' Lysistrata produces from beneath her himation likewise features the swallow, not just (in an oblique reference to the Tereus
and Philomela story) as the object of male pursuit, but also as the type of bird most likely to satisfy a would-be and overeager lover's desires, including those of that (homoerotically inclined) individual who prefers anal penetration (Lys.
Essentially, the "barbarous" Tereus
rapes Philomela, and to guarantee that she cannot accuse him of the crime, he slices off her tongue (Ovid 146-7).
This is the most brutally violent tale in all of Metamorphoses, the story of Tereus
, Procne, and Philomela.
Euelpides and Peisetairos have birds (a jackdaw and a crow) bought from a named Athenian market-trader chained to their wrists, yet purchased with a view to finding, and getting advice from, the mythical character Tereus
On a mythological plane, both story lines--though with varying degrees of lucidity--are projected against Ovid's 'archetypal' narrative about Philomela, Tereus
, and Procne and through it linked to the crucial theme of transformation in the process of creation, and to that of submission, inward and outward, to spatial, temporal, and personal realities.
The image of Nerval's tour abolie, if it were to be taken as a tarot card symbolizing the Tower of Babel, along with a reference to the metamorphosis of Philomela (mythical daughter of the Athenian king) into a swallow after she is raped and has her tongue cut off by king Tereus
of Thrace, further highlights the breakdown of understanding amongst people as a result of the collapse of linguistic unity.
This mother-child relationship is mirrored in the sixth poem in Silenus' songs about Scylla, the daughter of Nisus, and the banquet Philomela presented to Tereus
, though these examples represent the darker side of parent-child relationships.
When I first shared the story of Bunita's quartet with musicologist Suzanne Cusick, she immediately compared it to the ancient Greek myth of Philomela, retold in Ovid's Metamorphoses as that of a woman who, after being brutally raped by her brother-in-law, Tereus
of Thrace, endures the further trauma of him cutting out her tongue so that she can never speak what she knows.
arrives to collect Philomela, her father Pandion asks him to "watch over her like a father," so that Tereus
becomes Philomela's symbolic father.