Tales from Ovid

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
First edition (publ. Faber and Faber)
Cover art from 14th-century illuminated manuscript of Roman de la Rose

Tales from Ovid is a poetical work written by the English poet Ted Hughes (17 August 1930 – 28 October 1998). Published in 1997 by Faber and Faber, it is a retelling of twenty-four tales from Ovid's Metamorphoses. It won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award for 1997 and has been translated into several languages. It was one of his last published works, along with Birthday Letters. Four of the tales had been previously published in 1995, in After Ovid, New Metamorphoses, edited by M. Hofmann and J. Ladun.[1][2]

A stage adaptation was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the autumn of 1999 at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon.[3] The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble has also performed dramatisations of excerpts from Hughes' book, between 2006 and 2008.[4]

In 2009, Fiona Shaw performed one of these tales, Echo and Narcissus, in the context of a Prologue to Henry Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, with Les Arts Florissants, directed by French conductor and harpsichordist William Christie.[5]

Professor James Shapiro, writing for the New York Times, said of the book:

"In transforming Ovid, Hughes follows a well-traveled path. Even as Ovid himself pillaged Greek and Roman mythologies in composing his Metamorphoses Chaucer, Milton, Dryden and especially Shakespeare (in whom, one contemporary noted, the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives) ransacked Ovid's stories to furnish their own artistic worlds. Hughes makes clear his admiration for the gift that Shakespeare shares with Ovid: insight into what a passion feels like to one possessed by it. Not just ordinary passion either, but human passion in extremis -- passion where it combusts, or levitates, or mutates into an experience of the supernatural.


Hughes, too, is blessed with this gift, and this book brilliantly succeeds at bringing Ovid's passionate and disturbing stories to life. One of the many pleasures offered by this splendid book is discovering that the sweet witty soul of Ovid now lives in Ted Hughes."[6]


  1. ^ "Tales from Ovid by Ted Hughes, with some autograph corrections". The British Library.
  2. ^ After Ovid: New Metamorphoses: Amazon.co.uk: Hofmann, Michael, Lasdun, James: 9780571170753: Books. ASIN 0571170757.
  3. ^ "Royal Shakespeare Company : Archived releases".
  4. ^ "QSE - Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble | Past Productions". www.qldshakespeare.org.
  5. ^ http://www.operatoday.com/content/2010/01/dido_and_aeneas.php
  6. ^ James S. Shapiro (14 December 1997). "Sex and Violence in Latin Hexameter". New York Times. Retrieved 4 August 2013. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)