The Scorned Woman: Ancient and Modern

Liza Wolf, Union College - Schenectady, NY


“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned” is a famous misquotation that has contributed to the prominence of the scorned woman as a culturally recognized figure. However, this idea goes further back into Classical times and can be seen in the writing of various Roman writers. The scorned woman has not disappeared over time, but rather has transformed in order to remain relevant in a modern world.

This thesis begins by looking at three Classical scorned women (Juno, Circe, and Medea) and analyzing the portrayal of these characters in order to attempt to define a scorned woman. Using Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Seneca’s Medea, this project starts to explore this type of characterization and what it says about both the women themselves and how they were created. Then, through original poetry, the ancient model is reimagined and the modern scorned woman is examined. The poetry tackles not only the conventions that the Roman works began to perpetrate, but also the idea that when men are angry, we fear them, but when women are angry it becomes a character flaw to be looked down on. Throughout this project, I seek to understand where this characterization began and how modern society has or has not begun to dismantle it.