Name Instructor Course Date Character Analysis of Achilles Achilles is the central character in Homer's epic The Iliad his aggressive behavior and his thoughtful personality form much of the plot. Homer displays Achilles as one with superhuman abilities extra strength and one with possessing a good relationship with the gods. He is the greatest in the Achaean army but despite all of these Homer depicts him as one with flaws in his character which hinder his ability to act with integrity and nobility. Homer further portrays Achilles as one who is incapable of controlling his rage and anger and it is as a result of these that Achilles ceases to fight alongside his fellow soldiers when his commander Agamemnon offends him and not until his friend gets murdered that he goes back to war. This article explores the character of Achilles and how it affects the action in the evident by the mentioning of Achilles intentions of going to kill Hector then accepts his own death he had already accepted his impending death. Not only does Achilles has to deal with the demise of his closest friend but also he makes peace with his own death which he presumed would occur soon. Accepting his own death demonstrates other traits of Achilles character strength and courage (Lattimore & Richmond 76). In conclusion despite Achilles failure to demonstrate growth all through the epic he still remains the greatest of Homeric character as a result of his lack of control extreme rage character and an unquenchable thirst for fame and glory. Work Cited Zanker Graham. The Heart of Achilles: Characterization and Personal Ethics in the Iliad. University of Michigan Press 1996. (Zanker &Graham 54) Lattimore Richmond and Richmond Alexander Lattimore eds. Iliad. University of Chicago Press 1961. (Lattimore & Richmond 76) [...]
Your first writing assignment is a short scholarly essay on the Iliad. A scholarly essay is intended to be read by scholarly audiences, that is, people who already have a basic familiarity with the work you are writing about. When writing an essay intended for a scholarly audience, you should assume that your audience is already familiar with the major characters and events of the story. A plot summary will not do for a scholarly essay. You are bringing something new to the table, a fresh perspective, point of view or aspect that quite possibly no one else has considered or thought about before. That may seem like a very tall order, but you can use the recommended topics below, which are things I have thought about. You must have a title (not “Assignment I”) and a thesis for your essay. A thesis is a kind of scholarly argument. I look for your thesis statement somewhere towards the end of the first paragraph or beginning of the second (I often underline it when I grade a paper). The title and thesis statement help communicate to your reader what it is you are writing about. In your essay, you must argue your case (thesis) using evidence from 1. the text itself, and 2. scholarly sources. These sources must be cited according to MLA style guidelines. Scholarly sources can be found in the library’s online databases. Most of the databases licensed by the library will also help you to generate your citation according to MLA style format. (Look in the MLA folder in Supplemental Readings if you need help.) You MUST correctly cite at least one line from the work itself, but preferably a lot more. You MUST correctly cite at least one scholarly source from an academic journal, but it would be advantageous to you (and you will have an easier time writing) if you cite a lot more. No Wikipedia, no Cliff Notes or other sources intended for students; these are not “scholarly” sources. Take your sources from the library’s online databases to be on the safe side. It is OK to take some quotes from outside of the limited selections we have read if needed to argue your case. Please do not give me a running internal monologue of your thoughts and reactions to different aspects of the story. Try to tell me not what you think something means on a personal level (personal: “I know the kind of man Achilles is because my cousin was married to one. . . ”), but rather (scholarly) what Homer is trying to say. Be brave! No one really knows for sure. That’s part of the fun. Honestly, what many people (good students and academics) do is form some initial opinion, and then jump into the databases or Google Scholar to see if they can find articles / evidence to support their opinion. . . The paper should be five pages plus a Works Cited page. You can make it longer than five pages if you like. I don’t mind reading more. You don’t have to write on the topics below but please, please, do not plagiarize!! And do not tell me that Achilles is immortal or say anything about his heel. That’s not in this story. Please also base your essay on more than just Book I of the Iliad. You must demonstrate to me that you have read the work, or at least the selections assigned. Good luck! Iliad Essay Topics 1. Achilles' mom Thetis always seems to know Zeus’s will, which she communicates to her son. She also seems to know Achilles has some sort of destiny to fulfill, and that he will die young. On the other hand, Achilles also seems to believe he has a choice in the matter, which is why he frequently considers sailing home but never does. How does Achilles’ conviction that, in exchange for risking his life, Zeus is supposed to grant him great honor (1.366ff) play into the story? 2. Despite his flaws, Achilles might be said to be the embodiment of a “Greek hero” in the sense that he rushes forward into battle, even though he knows he is going to die, in order to attain honor and glory for himself. After Achilles seems to show compassion for all that Priam has endured—and the Trojans are “humanized”--is it possible that he will have a change of heart and not attack Troy? Do we have any indication from the text as to what he is going to do? Does Homer want to give us hope that Hector's family will be saved? Or do with think they are doomed?? What do you think Achilles will do? What does clues does Homer give us as to what will happen next? 3. Many critics believe that Achilles shows compassion for Priam (Priam reminds him of his own father), and this new found compassion is why he is able to finally let go of grief and anger over Patroclus. A close reading of the text in Book 24 and other books of the Iliad might lend itself to other, very different interpretations of why god-like Achilles felt at peace (anger appeased) and was able to sleep after Priam’s visit--which has more to do with Achilles’ sense of his own honor than his compassion for Priam. In fact, after their cry (pity-party), Achilles’s anger flares up and he fears he might kill Priam by accident. Do you think Achilles shows genuine compassion for Priam or is he merely temporarily “turned aside from wrath” (Phoenix’s Speech), or following Zeus's orders? In light of the compassion argument, what do you make of Achilles’ “two jars speech” to Priam? (Something also to consider: Big Ajax’s speech in Book 9, 651ff, for more on blood money.) After receiving the ransom, how do we know--or do we?--that Achilles is not going to sail home instead of continuing to fight? 4. We all know that Achilles find Briseis highly desirable, but the most important thing in life to him is his own honor (which doesn’t seem to be handled critically by Homer as all). Do you believe Achilles loves Briseis “as a wife” or is this just a rhetorical strategy he employs to up the ante in the argument with Agamemnon and preserve his honor? What indication do we have that he genuinely loves her? What indication do we have that he doesn't care so much? Is there a reason why Homer would have wanted her role (abducted woman/wife) to be ambiguous? Think how characters seem to parallel others in the story. WARNING ABOUT THIS: YOU WILL HAVE TO BE INNOVATIVE AND EXPAND THE TOPIC BECAUSE YOU MAY FIND IT HARD TO GET FIVE PAGES OUT OF THIS! You will have to explore possibly Helen’s relationship to Paris and the other abducted women in the Iliad. 5. Homer ends the story ends with Hector’s funeral and lamentation of his family rather than with the fall of Troy. Funerals are very important in terms of the Greek concept of honor; notice that slave girls are forced to cry tears for dead Greeks—the funeral meant everything, especially since there’s no afterlife. Being remembered in a song through lamentations or praise is another way to achieve honor and eternal glory. Why does Homer end the Iliad with the death of Hector rather than the death of Achilles or the Fall of Troy? 6. The Shield of Achilles is interesting as it seems to invite interpretation. It appears to be like an image of the whole world on the shield. However, no one has been able to explain its meaning. Many speculate that it was actually a separate poem that was embedded into the Iliad. What reason might Homer have had for including it in the story? Is there anything there that might help is to elucidate the meaning of the Iliad? 7. Not sure about this one—might be too much research. The Iliad became a sacred text for the Greeks of the Classical period 5th-4th century BC. It became the basis for Greek pedagogy and at least one sacred rite, where the whole thing was publically recited (reenacted). The recitations were accompanied by public feasting, battle reenactments, and games which went on for days. The Panathenaic Festival was a huge celebration where people enjoyed themselves, but yet the poets or rhapsodes (who could recite Homer and Hesiod from memory) were taken very seriously in Greek society as the guardians of sacred knowledge. We know from reading Plato and other writers of the classical period, that the poets who recited Homer also often claimed special status for being able to interpret Homer’s meaning. They had political power. Socrates questioned the depiction of the gods (that they lie and deceive men) and was put to death (I think by the poets!—check me) for corrupting the youth of Athens. Plato, a follower of Socrates, was also critical of the gods in Homer because they appear to behave immorally. Doing your own research into Plato’s Dialogues, what criticism does Plato have about the way the gods are depicted in Homer? 8. In Book 24, the Burial of Hector, or rather the need to bury him, takes on special importance to the gods in the Iliad. Apollo cares about the unburied body because it is hurting Hector’s honor, and he was a good man; his family wants the opportunity to look upon him mourn. In addition, Achilles’ response to the loss of his friend is regarded as too extreme—he needs to stop grieving and move on. Hera says that Achilles, being semi-divine, needs to be valued more highly than Hector, so it wouldn’t be right just to steal the body from him. Zeus’s solution to bring about peace among the gods and simultaneously give Achilles “honor” is to order Achilles to accept ransom for the body. Even though the scene with Priam is touching and emotional, it is possible that Achilles’ acceptance of blood money—a somewhat legalistic mechanism--is what brings about the reconciliation, and not compassion. Blood money is mentioned throughout the Iliad (it’s even on the Shield) as a mechanism for resolving conflict and preserving the social order. Knowing what you know about the Greek heroic code and gods, why would “blood money” be a preferable method to resolving social conflict than one that relies on compassion? Please use examples from the Iliad to support your argument. 9. How does, or how might, the Iliad invite us to understand Achilles' Wrath as Divine Wrath?