Each essay question is worth twenty-five points. Your responses should be a page and a half to two pages in length. Be sure to reference assigned texts and follow MLA guidelines.
- Compare Virgil’s Aeneas with a hero from one of the Homeric epics. What might Virgil be saying by means of the similarities and differences?
When comparing Virgil’s Aeneas with a Homeric hero, it is obvious that Virgil was not after the same thing as Homer. Obviously in order to have a hero, one must possess similar traits such as devotion and leadership. Homer’s Odysseus possessed these traits along with many others. Odysseus was a man of strength, courage, nobility, had a thirst for glory, and confidence in his authority. He was also extremely intelligent and his sharp intellect came in handy numerous times throughout his journey home. For example, he used his wits to outsmart the Cyclops after having been trapped in the cave of Polyphemus.
On the other side, Odysseus was more concerned with his own well-being than that of others on regular occasion. His wife waited 20 years for him to return, while, although he was lost, he was enjoying the company of other beautiful women such as Calypso. Odysseus even tells Calypso that his wife will never compare to her. Seeing the way he acts shows us great amounts about the value he places on his family, they are somewhat important to him, but not as important as his immediate desires.
Virgil’s Aeneas was much like Odysseus in many ways. He too was a man of strength, courage, nobility, had a thirst for glory, and was very confident in his authority. Aeneas was a very intelligent leader who many people loved and trusted. Aeneas, like Odysseus, also had a high respect for the Gods, especially since his mother is Venus, the God of beauty and erotic love. Aeneas places high value on destiny and fate, he tries to include those in all of the decisions he makes.
Aeneas makes up in all the places where Odysseus lacks. Aeneas is a man of high values, who wants the greater good in everything he does. He was known as being very sympathetic towards everyone he met, the rich, the poor, everyone. Aeneas was very compassionate and giving of his time and strength whenever it was needed. He placed very high value on his family and this is shown when he is seen leaving Troy with his son, and his father who could barely stand, carried on his back. Virgil made sure that everything that Odysseus did wrong, Aeneas did right. Aeneas was also able to push aside his own desires and follow the higher laws. He did not give in and choose the easy road when he knew he had greater duties to follow.
After having looked at a Homeric hero and compared it with Virgil’s Aeneas, it is easy to see what Virgil was going for. Since Virgil knew well the works of Homer, he took all the good he could find in the characters, and created what he thought to be an even greater hero. The hero that Virgil created is one that meets our current definition of a hero in today’s society. Someone who stands up for the what they believe to be right even when it’s not the popular one, someone willing to get down and get their hands dirty when they don’t have to, or someone who does something without seeking the reward. Aeneas makes up for what Odysseus lacked, Virgil knew what he was doing.
- Use Shakespeare’s Hamlet and another assigned reading of your choosing to demonstrate qualities of a ‘tragedy.’ How do the works relate to Aristotle’s definition of a tragedy?
Aristotle defines a tragedy as a serious story that is acted out which builds emotion throughout its entirety, then ends with a breath taking moment that brings everything together in one conclusion. Aristotle looked at a tragedy as a form of therapy, different from that of real life. For example, Aristotle would have said that to watch a murder in real life would be emotionally traumatizing, but to watch it in the theater which allows us to think about murder and develop personal thoughts and ideas about the subject. Much like in the story of Hamlet or Oedipus the King, a tragedy can end with the death of the hero, obviously providing the closure needed as to avoid any loose ends.
The story of Oedipus the King is a great example of a tragedy. This story involves a boy who was told that one day he would grow to kill his father and marry his own mother, and so as to avoid that fate, he ran away never again to return to his home. He then comes to Thebes and solves the riddle of the sphinx, which saved the people of the city. The citizens then chose to honor him by making him their king. Soon thereafter, there is a great plague placed upon the city. The people turn to Oedipus to put an end to their suffering. Oedipus then learns through the rest of the story that the reason there was a plague upon the city was because of himself. He learned that in his attempt to escape his fate, he had actually done just the opposite. The oracle of Delphi tells Oedipus that he was adopted as a young child. He also tells him that he killed his real father when he left who he thought was his family. The oracle goes on to tell him that the woman he is married to now, is in fact his actual mother. With all of the recognition happening in this play, it also helps define why this is considered a tragedy. After Oedipus realizes what had happened, he stabs his eyes out and asks Creon to banish him, providing us with the tying up of loose ends for the conclusion.
Hamlet is as well another great example of a tragedy. Different than the story of Oedipus, Shakespeare’s Hamlet focuses mainly on the character of Hamlet, rather than Oedipus which focuses on the recognition of actions that had happened in the past. In the story of Hamlet, young Hamlets father is killed, and his uncle then marries his mother and takes the throne. Hamlet believes that his uncle is the one who killed his father and throughout the play he is determined to prove it. He even goes as far as to have actors put on a play depicting how Hamlet envisioned his father’s murder to be, just to see how his uncle would respond to it. He gets the response he expected and knows his uncle is guilty. The closing scene is what Aristotle would call, an amazing ending. With almost every main character being killed by each other, the tragedy is definitely concluded. We are not left with anything else to think about, other than what had happened during the story.
In both of these stories the plot is very deep and complex, something that Aristotle would say is a must. According to Aristotle, the plot is what makes a piece of work, art. The more closely intertwined a sequence of events is throughout a story, the better for Aristotle. These pieces both have you constantly looking for a possible solution to the situations presented, and do a good job about keeping the conclusion hidden until it comes the right time. A tragedy consists of different parts, such as the plot, characters, thought, rhythm and action, and these stories have it all.
- Choose from the assigned ‘sacred texts’ and discuss how the work might be perceived as being universal. Or discuss how the work is not universal. What does the text teach us about the identity of the work’s audience?
The story of Joseph was and is a story that greatly influenced the people of that time when it was written, as well as a strength and guide for the believers of Hebrew scripture in our day as well. The values that are discussed in the story about loyalty, forgiveness, devotion, and unconditional love, are all things that people could learn from, even today.
When Joseph was sold into Egypt, he felt greatly betrayed by his brothers. He was forced to start a new life as a slave, thinking that he would never see his family again. Having been a slave for some time he had gained a reputation of interpreting dreams. The Pharaoh himself started to have dreams and wanted them interpreted. Joseph did interpret the Pharaoh’s dreams, even the dream regarding the 7 years of feast and the seven years of famine. Joseph told the king that they must prepare for the time of famine during the feast. When the feast came to an end, the Pharaoh had done what Joseph recommended, so when the famine began, they had plenty of storage to last them through the next seven years. People came from all around the country to buy corn from Joseph, even his own brothers.
Now at that moment, most people’s first reaction would be to punish those who had so deeply betrayed you. But Joseph teaches the people of his day, as well as the believers throughout time that the higher law is forgiveness. Instead of punishing them for what they had done to him, Joseph gets his brother to go get his father and other brother. They then eat together and still have no idea that it is Joseph. Joseph then sends them away with as much food as they can carry, but he also plants a silver cup in the youngest brother, Benjamin’s sack. He soon after reveals himself to his brothers, telling them not to fear him or be worried that they sold him into Egypt. Joseph tells them that God allowed them to do it so that Joseph could be in Egypt to help preserve his family during this time of famine.
The story of Joseph being sold into Egypt can apply on a daily basis when we consider all the ways people are betrayed in our day. Those Christians who believe in the Hebrew Scriptures would take Joseph’s example of unconditional love and later compare it to that of even Jesus Christ himself. Joseph also showed great humility when he was a slave, doing exactly what he was told and never complaining. His story is greatly universal and applies to not only the people of his day, but to those that have existed since.
- Use two assigned readings to define ‘skepticism.’ You may compare and contrast the works. Discuss each author’s purpose.
Skepticism is a doubting or questioning attitude, and a lot of the time a true skeptic doubts the existence of any true knowledge at all. Often times, those who follow the Socratic Method are thought to be skeptics. The Socratic method of discovering the truth involves lots of questions and debate, which sometimes ends without a conclusion. This way of reasoning is found in the stories of Shakespeare and Montaigne. The stories are filled with questions about the unknown, often drawing personal conclusions from the questions that are answered. This is also known as a dialectic form of reasoning.
The other form of finding the truth that is found in the text is didactic reasoning. Didactic reasoning, different than dialectic, is where someone looks for the truth by listening and learning from lectures or other text. There isn’t as much debate or questioning as dialectic. Some examples of didactic text are the Hebrew Scripture, the Koran, and Augustine. These texts, contrary to dialectic texts, are written to give answers to questions, not incite them. In these stories, we are to compare them to our own lives to help us give reason to the things we go through.
In Augustine, we read about a young boy’s journey to manhood and his search for truth. Augustine’s lasting effect comes from his combining of the Neo-platonic view of religion, with the Christian views. The purpose behind Augustine’s writing of this text was to praise his God, as well as inform his readers of the path he has found to be correct. He does this to help others avoid going through the same things that he did, in order to find his truth. When Augustine came close to the Academics, he saw firsthand the students of Plato and their skepticism. Those students believed to doubt everything and accept nothing as absolute truth. Augustine decided that that course was not for him, and chose to put more trust in faith than an absolute knowledge.
As we can tell, Skepticism has been around for a very long time. In today’s age, the word skeptic sometimes derives a negative connotation. The idea of someone always asking the question, “Why?” and never being content with the answer is almost an annoyance to most. After realizing the rationale behind that way of thinking, we know that that is clearly a false idea. Skepticism has been proven to be a legitimate way of drawing conclusions time and time again. The way of the skeptic may not be a route most of us would choose, but using that way of thinking, we still mind come to the same conclusion.