The Metamorphoses of Ovid

by Ovid

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Why did Pyramus and Thisbe's parents oppose their relationship?

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In Ovid's Metamorphoses, the two lovers' parents hate each other and are feuding—even though their houses are side by side, the properties connected by a wall. The two lovers use a crack in the wall to communicate as they plot to run off together.

The story is set in Babylon and shows the kind of power parents had over their children's marriage choices in the ancient world. It's not surprising that this is the play Shakespeare chooses for Bottom and the other players to perform for the wedding of Hippolyta and Theseus in A Midsummer Night's Dream; after all, Shakespeare's play opens with Theseus backing Hermia's father in forbidding her marriage to Lysander. Hermia and Lysander have a happy outcome, unlike Pyramus and Thisbe.

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The only answer that can be given is that for some reason the two families were feuding. Their houses were joined under one roof, probably with a courtyard in the middle, and their mutual hatred was so great that they built a wall to avoid having to even look at one another.

The story of the star-crossed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe has influenced other writers, particularly William Shakespeare. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Bottom and his group are preparing a play about the lovers: "The most lamentable comedy and most
cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe" (Act 1, scene 2). Likewise, the theme of Romeo and Juliet is basically a retelling of the story.

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