Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice

By Wendy Heller | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Didone and the Voice of Chastity

ARIANNA'S LAMENT

In the central portion of Catullus's poem on the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Carmina 64, the narrative is interrupted by an ekphrasis. The attention of the readers and guests is drawn to the scene embroidered on the wedding couch, depicting the abandonment of Ariadne. In this well-known tale, Ariadne had betrayed her family by helping Theseus conquer the Minotaur and escape from its labyrinth, and Theseus rewarded her by cruelly abandoning her on the island of Dia. Catullus places Ariadne's lament at the center of the poem, fashioning for her a kaleidoscope of shifting, disordered emotions. In this special moment allotted to female speech, Ariadne is a picture of despair and wild distraction. She hardly speaks of love or devotion and calls Theseus by name only once, berating him for broken promises and censuring all men for their acts of deception. She regrets her deeds on his behalf—the murder of her brother, the loss of her family and her royal status. She decries her fate and condemns him for his cruel act of leaving her alone to await certain death. Finally, she asks the dark powers for vengeance:

O Furies, charged with vengeance that punishes evil, you whose bleak foreheads are girded with writhing serpents which clearly display the outrage your cold hearts keep hidden, come here to me quickly, listen to my lamentation, which I deliver in pain from the depths of my passion, unwillingly forced to, afire, blinded with madness! —Since what I say is the truth, since I say it sincerely, do not allow my lament to fade without issue: but just as Theseus carelessly left me to die here, may that same carelessness ruin him and his dearest! (catullus, Carmina 64, 194–202) 1

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Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women's Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Illustr Ations ix
  • Tables xi
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
  • Editorial Principles xvii
  • Abbreviations xix
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Emblematic Woman 27
  • Chapter 2 - Opera and the Accademia Degli Incogniti 48
  • Chapter 3 - Didone and the Voice of Chastity 82
  • Chapter 4 - Woman and Empire 136
  • Chapter 5 - The Nymph Calisto and the Myth of Female Pleasure 178
  • Chapter 6 - Semiramide and Musical Transvestism 220
  • Chapter 7 - Envoicing the Courtesan 263
  • Conclusions 295
  • Notes 301
  • Bibliography 353
  • Index 371
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