Daphne and Marcela

Today, while listening to Richard Strauss’ opera Daphne and reading some explanation in my mythology text, I noticed some similarities between her and Marcela from Don Quixote. Daphne is (or was) such a well-known tale that it could have been the inspiration for Marcela. You decide:

Companion of Diana, [Daphne]’s joy was in the depths of the forests and the spoils of the chase; a headband kept her flowing hair in place. Many suitors courted her, while she cared not for love or marriage; a virgin she roamed the pathless woods. Her father often said, “My daughter, you owe me a son-in-law and grandchildren”; she, hating the marriage torch as if it were a disgrace, blushed and embraced her father saying, “Allow me, dearest father, always to be a virgin. Jupiter granted this to Diana.” [Her father] Peneus granted her prayer; but Daphne’s beauty allowed her not to be as she desired and her loveliness ran counter to her wish.”

β€”Ovid, Metamorphoses

To make a long story short, Apollo, after being struck by Cupid’s arrow, chased after her and to escape, Daphne asked her father to turn her into a laurel tree, which he did. Thereafter, the laurel was always sacred to Apollo and became the symbol of victory. I wonder if this was part of the reason why Cervantes had Marcela, the shepherdess, escape into a forest? Perhaps he also took the theme of unwanted beauty from Daphne.

As for Strauss, I wonder if he borrowed from Cervantes when he had Daphne chased by two shepherds, one real (though he later dresses as a woman to get close to Daphne), the other Apollo disguised as a shepherd (also to get close to Daphne). Interestingly, in Ovid’s account, Apollo tries to convince Daphne with, “Yet consider who loves you; I am not a mountain peasant; I am not an uncouth shepherd who watches here his flocks and herds.”

Whatever their relations, I enjoy seeing these stories and works of art intertwine. Here is one more branch in Daphne’s tree:

Bernini's Apollo and Daphne
Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne, Borghese Gallery


9 comments on “Daphne and Marcela

  1. Antony says:

    I'm glad to see that you've seen the light and started listening to Strauss instead of Wagner. Now if we can just get you to move on to Johann… πŸ˜› πŸ˜‰

  2. Imani says:

    Don't you love it when you start seeing connections between different works of art? I know the story but the Cervantes' Marcela did not ring that particular bell until now.
    That sculpture is magnificent.

  3. Sylvia says:

    I know. The movement is incredible.

  4. Chuck says:

    I'm glad to see that you've seen the light and started listening to Strauss instead of Wagner.
    I see you don't moderate your comments. πŸ˜›

  5. Sylvia says:

    Well, everyone is entitled to an opinion, even if it's wrong. πŸ˜‰

  6. xensen says:

    The Bernini looks better in the warm tones here than the colder whites of the official site at the link. Is this your photo?

  7. Sylvia says:

    I wish! I “borrowed” it from the NY Times.

  8. Kelly says:

    That's really interesting.

  9. […] Mythology: I’m afraid I got nowhere with this book, other than to look up the stories of Daphne & Apollo and Pyramus & Thisbe. I also read translations of both stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses […]

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