Tales from Ovid

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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 were previously published in After Ovid, New Metamorphosis, edited by M. Hofmann and J. Ladun.

A stage adaptation was performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the autumn of 1999 at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.[1] The Queensland Shakespeare Ensemble has also performed dramatisations of excerpts from Hughes' book, between 2006 and 2008.[2]

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

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."[3]