Pain’s Echo: Lament and Revenge in Ovid’s “Procne and Philomela”

Ilit Ferber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The article offers a reexamination of Ovid’s story of Philomela and Procne, with an emphasis on revenge and lament as two responses to acts of wrongdoing and loss. My analysis begins by exploring philosophical and psychoanalytic perspectives, mainly from Nietzsche and Freud, which are usually thought of as complete opposites: revenge is considered active and violent, whereas lament is passive and paralyzed. However, upon revising Ovid’s tale of unimaginable suffering answered by both lament and revenge, I show that in Ovid’s story, they appear as interconnected and dependent on each other. Initially, Philomela appears as the passive, lamenting sister, while Procne appears as the angry, vengeful one. Nevertheless, as the narrative unfolds, the roles of the sisters change. Through the characters of Philomela and Procne, Ovid presents a compelling account in which these two responses can be seen as mirror images of the same phenomenon, rather than diametrically opposed binaries.

Original languageEnglish
Article number96
JournalHumanities (Switzerland)
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Freud
  • Nietzsche
  • Ovid
  • Philomela
  • Procne
  • echo
  • lament
  • revenge


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