Thursday, February 10, 2011

Story of Pyramus and Thisbe

Module 07: Story of Pyramus and Thisbe
Posted by: Jinky Catherine M. Miake


This module intends to let the students:

    * discuss the Greek Literature;
    * identify the elements used in the stories;
    * write an analysis of the given text.


Pyramus and Thisbe is a very touching love story that is sure to move anyone who reads it . Theirs was a selfless love and they made sure that even in death, they were together. The tale has its origins in the Roman Mythology. It is best recounted by Ovid and the passion of love that blossomed between the two young lovers enthralls readers even today.

In the Ovidian version, Pyramus and Thisbe is the story of two lovers in the city of Babylon who occupy connected houses/walls, forbidden by their parents to be wed, because of their parents' rivalry. Through a crack in one of the walls, they whisper their love for each other. They arrange to meet near at Ninus' tomb under a mulberry tree and state their feelings for each other. Thisbe arrives first, but upon seeing a lioness with a mouth bloody from a recent kill, she flees, leaving behind her veil. The lioness drinks from a nearby fountain, then by chance mutilates the veil Thisbe had left behind. When Pyramus arrives, he is horrified at the sight of Thisbe's veil, assuming that a fierce beast had killed her. Pyramus kills himself, falling on his sword in proper Roman fashion, and in turn splashing blood on the white mulberry leaves. Pyramus' blood stains the white mulberry fruits, turning them dark. Thisbe returns, eager to tell Pyramus what had happened to her, but she finds Pyramus' dead body under the shade of the mulberry tree. Thisbe, after a brief period of mourning, stabs herself with the same sword. In the end, the gods listen to Thisbe's lament, and forever change the colour of the mulberry fruits into the stained colour to honour the forbidden love.


Pyramus was the most handsome man and was a childhood friend of Thisbe, the fairest maiden in Babylonia. Pyramus and Thisbe were neighbors. They both lived in neighboring homes and fell in love with each other as they grew up together. However, their parents were dead against them marrying each other. Their parents were totally against their union, leaving the young lovers with no option but burn the light of love brightly in their hearts and meet surreptitiously if they can. Over the years, the lovers could only talk through a hole in their wall because their parents refused them to see each other.

Finally, Pyramus got fed up with his parents and so did Thisbe. One day while whispering through a crack in the wall, they decided to meet the next night under a mulberry tree near tomb of Ninus. They decided to elope then.

So, the next night, just before the crack of dawn, while everyone was asleep, they decided to slip out of their homes and meet in the nearby fields near a mulberry tree. Thisbe reached there first, covered with a cloak. As she waited under the tree, she saw a lioness coming near the spring close by to quench its thirst. Its jaws were bloody, from a previous kill that day. When Thisbe saw this horrifying sight, she panicked and ran to hide in some hollow rocks nearby. As she was running, she dropped her cloak.

The lion, on hearing the shriek, came near the tree where Thisbe was initially waiting. The creature picked up the cloak in its bloody jaws. Then it tattered the cloak with its blood-stained mouth, leaves it on the ground and goes away.

Soon after, Pyramus arrived at the appointed spot and saw Thisbe's cloak, his love gift to her, covered in blood and torn to pieces with the footprints of the lioness left behind. He immediately thought that his only love had been killed by a hungry lion. He is completely devastated. He thought that the lion had just hunted down Thisbe and blamed himself to be the cause of her death. Had he not been late, could the lion have killed Thisbe? Shattered, he prepared to kill himself. Without any haste, he unsheathed his sword (her love gift to him), letting the cold, hard steel pierce his broken heart. He pierced his chest with his own sword.

Meanwhile, unknown to what just happened, Thisbe was still hiding in the rocks due to the fear of the lion. When she came out from her hiding place after sometime and came under the mulberry tree once more, she saw the body of a man writhing in pain. Thisbe, bringing courage to her heart, ran towards the man and was shocked when he found her only love lying on the ground next to the blood-covered Mulberry bush with his own sword impaling his chest.

She gasped in horror as she asked the still breathing Pyramus what happened. Barely able to stay awake, he told her what happened and she cried out in sorrow. Pyramus died soon after leaving Thisbe totally shattered.

"What would I do in this world without my Pyramus?" thought the grief-stricken Thisbe. She resolves to finish herself too.

She brought out from Pyramus' chest his blood-stained sword. Then she said to the dead Pyramus:

"Wait for me my love. I'm coming to you."

Then she brought the blade into her own soft flesh. Thus they died together, in love and peace.

It is said that this is the reason why the berries on the Mulberry bush are red, instead of their original white, in commemoration of the two young lovers and their great sacrifice.

The love story of Pyramus and Thisbe continues to inspire lovers all around the world. The love between the two remain one of the purest and truest ever seen in this world.

Background Information:
Greek Literature, which dates from the early 5th c. B.C. and continues in a traceable tradition to the end of the 4th c. B.C. (after which it becomes what we call Hellenistic, with far greater output apparently based on decreasing talent), was known to the Romans as early as the 3 rd. c. B.C., when they began to read, translate and imitate the works of the established and famous Greek literary masters. Greek literature in every period is a dominating force for the Roman writers, the mark of Hellenic thought and myth is ever-present in the Roman mind, and in many ways it is suitable to speak of the "Greco-Roman experience" in literature and the arts, since the Romans fused everything they did with what the Greeks had done centuries before.

Greek Literature provides a concise yet comprehensive survey of Greek literature - from Christian authors - over twelve centuries, from Homer's epics to the rich range of authors surviving from the imperial period up to Justinian. The book is divided into three parts. The first part is devoted to the extraordinary creativity of the archaic and classical age, when the major literary genres - epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, history, oratory and philosophy - were invented and flourished. The second part covers the Hellenistic period, and the third covers the High Empire and Late Antiquity. At that tine the masters of the previous age were elevated to the rank of 'classics'. The works of the imperial period are replete with literary allusions, yet full of references to contemporary reality. 

Confirmation of Learning:  

Comprehension Question:
  •  Who are the characters in the story?
  • Where did the plot of the story happen?
  •  Why is that their parents were totally against their union?
  •  Where did Pyramus and Thisbe meet when they decided to elope?
  •  What happened to Thisbe's cloak?
  • Why did Pyramus kill himself?
  •  When Thisbe saw Pyramus lying on the ground covered with blood, what did she do to herself?
Discussion Question:
  • Make an analysis as to the theme and plot of the story.
  • Draw the plot of the story of where Pyramus and Thisbe died.
  • How does this story synonymous with the play of Shakespeare?
  • Characterize the characters in the story.
  • Comment on the structure of the story,
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of Pyramus and Thisbe?
  • What values can be learned in the story?


Jayson S Patalinghug said...

u only have one source? how resourceful my dear... exert effort plz

jinky miyake said...


Post a Comment