Metaphors of Body in Shakespeare’s Epyllia: A Feminist-Cognitive Study
Shakespeare is diverse in his use of metaphors in his works, especially in his epyllia where he imitates the Ovidian style of writing. However, he maintains a twist of theme and approach to the depiction of female characters. Using bodily metaphors, it is argued in this article that Shakespeare’s bodily metaphors mark the author’s deviation from both the Ovidian and his contemporary epyllia, in that he characterizes Lucrece and Venus differently. In The Rape of Lucrece, through metaphors of body, Lucrece becomes a different female character compared to those constructed by his contemporary writers. Instead of becoming speechless and revenge-seeking in the shape of an extraordinary figure, Lucrece remains a human and heroically changes the gender conventions and biases while bodily metaphors are diligently at work to evoke the sympathy of the readers. Also, in Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare applies metaphor to show how Venus can stay human and heterosexual while also a suitor of a male character like Adonis. The characterization of Adonis changes the image of the conventional lover as a masculine and strong suitor as well as the expected image of the beloved to be an exclusively delicate feminine, weak persona. The results of this study indicate that Shakespeare’s epyllia are more faithful to the Ovidian model, compared to those practiced by his contemporaries, with the difference that he does not change the nature of his female characters; he inflects the idea through the manipulation of such rhetorical devices as bodily metaphors that bestow unity upon his poems in favor of a more realistic style. Shakespeare proves original in creating a new version of epyllion in which he advocates the reversal of gender roles in heterosexual relationships.