Sunday, April 15, 2012

illiad notes

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The writings of Homer were a centerpiece of Greek culture for a thousand years, and were so powerful that, 700 years later, Alexander the Great coveted a reputation as a modern Achilles

Cattle and fat sheep can all be had for the raiding,

tripods all for the trading, and tawny-headed stallions.

But a mans life breath cannot come back again�

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Mother tells me,

the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet,

that two fates bear me on to the day of death.

If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,

my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.

If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,

my pride, my glory dies….

Explanation for Quotation

With these words in Book , Achilles rejects the embassy of Achaean commanders come to win him back to the war effort. His response here shows that Agamemnons effrontery�which he discusses earlier in his speech�does not constitute the sole reason for his refusal to fight. Achilles also fears the consequences in store for him if he remains in Troy. His mother, Thetis, has told him that fate has given him two options�either live a short but glorious life in Troy or return to Phthia and live on in old age but obscurity. As he confronts this choice, the promise of gifts and plunder�cattle, fat sheep, stallions�doesnt interest him at all. Such material gifts can be traded back and forth, or even taken away, as his prize Briseis was. In contrast, the truly precious things in the world are those that cannot be bought, sold, seized, or commodified in any way. These include glory and life itself.The choice that Achilles must make in this scene is between glory and life; it is not merely a matter of whether to accept the gifts or to continue protesting Agamemnons arrogance. At this point in the epic, Achilles has chosen life over glory, and he explains that he plans to return to Phthia. However, the allure of glory later proves irresistible when he finds a compelling occasion for it�avenging the death of his beloved friend Patroclus.

We everlasting gods … Ah what chilling blows

we suffer�thanks to our own conflicting wills�

whenever we show these mortal men some kindness.

Explanation for Quotation

Ares voices this lament after being wounded by Diomedes in Book 5. His plaint concisely captures the Homeric relationship between gods and men and, perhaps, Homers attitude toward that relationship. Homeric gods frequently intervene in the mortal world out of some kind of emotional attachment to the object of that intervention. Here, Ares describes this emotion as simply a desire to do kindness, but kindness toward one mortal often translates into unkindness toward another�hence Ares wound at the hands of Diomedes.Divine intervention in the Iliad causes conflicts not only in the mortal sphere but between the gods as well. Each god favors different men, and when these men are at war, divine wars often rage as well. Ares thus correctly attributes the gods chilling blows to their own conflicting wills.Ares whining does not make him unique among the gods. Homers immortals expect to govern according to their wills, which are in turn governed by self-interest. Correspondingly, they complain when they do not get their way. Ares melodramatic and self-pitying lament, which is greeted with scorn by Zeus a few lines later, probably implies some criticism of the gods by Homer. Ares appearance here as a kind of spoiled child provides just one example of Homers portrayal of the gods as temperamental, sulky, vengeful, and petty�a portrayal that may seek to describe and explain the inequities and absurdities in life on earth.

There is nothing alive more agonized than man

of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.

Explanation for Quotation 4

Zeus speaks these words to the horses of Achilles chariot, who weep over the death of Patroclus in Book 17. Grim as they are, the lines accurately reflect the Homeric view of the human condition. Throughout the Iliad, as well as the Odyssey, mortals often figure as little more than the playthings of the gods. Gods can whisk them away from danger as easily as they can put them in the thick of it. It is thus appropriate that the above lines are spoken by a god, and not by a mortal character or the mortal poet; the gods know the mortals agony, as they play the largest role in causing it.While gods can presumably manipulate and torment other animals that breathe and crawl across the earth, humanitys consciousness of the arbitrariness of their treatment at the hands of the gods, their awareness of the cruel choreography going on above, increases their agony above that of all other creatures. For while the humans remain informed of the gods interventions, they remain powerless to contradict them. Moreover, humans must deal with a similarly fruitless knowledge of their fates. The Iliads two most important characters, Achilles and Hector, both know that they are doomed to die early deaths. Hector knows in addition that his city is doomed to fall, his brothers and family to be extinguished, and his wife to be reduced to slavery. These mens agony arises from the fact that they bear the burden of knowledge without being able to use this knowledge to bring about change.

Key Facts

Full title - The Iliad

Author - Homer

Type of work - Poem

Genre - Epic

Language - Ancient Greek

Time and place written - Unknown, but probably mainland Greece, around 750 B.C.

Date of first publication - Unknown

Publisher - Unknown

Narrator - The poet, who declares himself to be the medium through which one or many of the Muses speak

Point of view - The narrator speaks in the third person. An omniscient narrator (he has access to every characters mind), he frequently gives insight into the thoughts and feelings of even minor characters, gods and mortals alike.

Tone - Awe-inspired, ironic, lamenting, pitying

Tense - Past

Setting (time) - Bronze Age (around the twelfth or thirteenth century B.C.); the Iliad begins nine years after the start of the Trojan War

Setting (place) - Troy (a city in what is now northwestern Turkey) and its immediate environs

Protagonist - Achilles

Major conflict - Agamemnons demand for Achilles war prize, the maiden Briseis, wounds Achilles pride; Achilles consequent refusal to fight causes the Achaeans to suffer greatly in their battle against the Trojans.

Rising action - Hectors assault on the Achaean ships; the return of Patroclus to combat; the death of Patroclus

Climax - Achilles return to combat turns the tide against the Trojans once and for all and ensures the fated fall of Troy to which the poet has alluded throughout the poem.

Falling action - The retreat of the Trojan army; Achilles revenge on Hector; the Achaeans desecration of Hectors corpse

Themes - The glory of war; military values over family life; the impermanence of human life and its creations

Motifs - Armor; burial; fire

Symbols - The Achaean ships; the shield of Achilles

Foreshadowing - Foreshadowing is prominent in the Iliad, as the poet constantly refers to events that have yet to occur and to fated outcomes. Patrocluss return to battle foreshadows Achilles return to battle, for example, and Hectors taunting of the dead Patroclus foreshadows the desecration of his own corpse by Achilles. Also, Achilles and Hector themselves make references to their own fates�about which they have been informed; technically, only Hectors references foreshadow any event in the poem itself, however, as Achilles dies after the close of the epic.

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