The Iliad I-VI
1. Make a brief (3-4 phrases) summary of each book, trying to think of patterns.
e.g., Bk. 1:
- quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles
- interview between Ach. and Thetis
- interview between Zeus and Thetis
- quarrel between Zeus and Hera
2. Study Agamemnon in Bk. 1. In what ways is he perhaps being excessive? Is he a good king? Specifically, how does he show this? For example, Chryseis makes him a reasonable request; but is his response reasonable?
3. Study Achilles in Bk. 1. In what ways is he perhaps being inappropriate? Is he excessive? Specifically, how does he show this? Also, does he tell his mother a "fair" version of what has happened?
4. How exactly, in other words, does the quarrel which results in the "rage" develop? Are any peaceable overtures made (and ignored) on either side during it? Are these guys "in control?"
5. Why is Kalchas so worried? Is the poet subtly alluding to something here?
6. What would the audience find ironic in Agamemnon's mention of his wife in his first speech to the Achaians?
7. What exactly does Bk. 2 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
8. Trace the way deception affects events in the first part of Bk. Two. What ironic twists do you find? Is Zeus to be trusted? What is his agenda? Or, to put this another way, why exactly does he make a fool of Agamemnon?
9. Why is the Catalogue of Ships inserted? Is it relevant to this poem? Is it relevant to the whole story of the Trojan War?; if so, how appropriate is it's inclusion here, during the account of an incident in the tenth year of the war? What is our poet doing here?
10. What exactly does Bk. 3 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
11. Is the duel between Menelaus and Paris credible, coming in the tenth year of the war? Does any specific recent development suddenly make it any more credible?
12. Is the "View from the Wall," wherein Helen identifies Greek leaders to Priam, credible in the tenth year of the war? What might be going on here?
13. What do you make of Helen? Guilty? Innocent? What do other people think?
14. What exactly does Bk. 4 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
15. Examine Agamemnon's reaction to the first blood shed in the Iliad (Bk. 4). How could you argue that from this point he "regains" the status of "good king?"
16. What exactly does Bk. 5 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
17. What exactly does Bk. 6 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
18. Near the beginning of Bk. 6, a seer (his brother) tells Hektor to do something. Compare his reaction to the reaction of Ag. in Bk 1 when a seer tells him to do something; what is revealed, or rather, re-emphasized?
19. As of the end of Book 6, what do you think of Hektor and Priam, in contrast to Agamemnon and Achilles? Why? What exactly is each side fighting for? How would you evaluate each of these two things?
20. Compare Hektor's interview with Helen in Bk. 6 with the scene between Priam and Helen in Bk. 3. What is odd about both these scenes? What do you make of Helen, in light of them? Of Priam and Hektor?
21. Look at Hektor's three interviews with women in Bk. 3. What elements of a typical triad do you see here?
22. Knowing, like Homer's audience did, what will happen to the characters involved (Hektor is killed in Bk. 22; Andromache is dragged off by the hair during the sack of Troy, to be the slave of some Greek [just another Briseis/Chryseis], but not before seeing baby Astyanax hurled off the wall of Troy, his brains spattering on the rocks below), can you read the family scene near the end of Bk. 6 without bursting into tears? What is Homer doing here? Does he like war much?