The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The poet-narrator says that Art of Love is a set of entertaining and lighthearted instructions for successfully undertaking the game of love. Seduction rather than deep emotional attachment or marriage, the narrator says, is the poem’s theme.

Rome is full of beautiful young women, so, the narrator says, one looking for love need only go where the women are. The narrator indicates that the likeliest places to meet potential lovers are temples, law courts, the forum, the theater, the races, the public baths, and dinner parties. Timing is important. Beware of occasions on which clever women will demand gifts. Once found, the woman must be enticed to look favorably on the lover.

Be confident, the narrator says, for all women want to be loved. Even if they do not want a lover, they will appreciate attention. Win over the lady’s maid to advance your cause. A man should seduce the maid first, if he thinks doing so may help. He should write many letters promising his beloved anything. He should plead eloquently and persist through constant refusals. The narrator next offers advice on personal hygiene and fashion in dress. He tells of the usefulness of wine in warming hearts, and he explains how to handle a lady’s husband. Weeping and pallor may gain a lady’s pity, but timidity will never gain her favor. The man must take the initiative, and the woman will be glad of an excuse to give in. In short, a man should be adaptable and quick to seize any opportunity to win favor.

The narrator gives advice for holding a woman’s...

(The entire section is 640 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Further Reading

Gibson, Roy, Steven Green, and Alison Sharrock, eds. The Art of Love: Bimillennial Essays on Ovid’s “Ars amatoria” and “Remedia amoris.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Ovid scholars provide differing interpretations of his didactic love poems, analyzing their poetic, erotic, and political elements and describing the ancient, medieval, and modern reception of the two works.

Hardie, Philip. The Cambridge Companion to Ovid. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Collection of essays examining the historical contexts of Ovid’s works, their reception, and the themes and literary techniques of his poetry. Numerous references to Art of Love are listed in the index.

Mack, Sara. Ovid. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1988. A survey of Ovid’s literary career, with a lengthy chapter on the love poetry. Asserts that Ovid creates a foolish speaker who uses his folly as a satire on Augustan values. Regards Art of Love as an assertion of poetic independence.

Myerowitz, Molly. Ovid’s Games of Love. Detroit, Mich.: Wayne State University Press, 1985. Discusses how love, like art, balances emotion and reason: Neither is natural, and both are influenced by conventions. Love is a paradigm for the process of human culture, which liberates through a celebration of play but is constantly threatened by forces of nature.

Sharrock, Alison. Seduction and Repetition in Ovid’s “Ars Amatoria” 2. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. Connects the arts of love and poetry. Demonstrates that Ovid shows how one keeps the interest of the beloved and the reader. Examines Ovid’s attitudes toward art and audience.