The Iliad VII-XII
1. Make a brief (3-4 phrases) summary of each book, trying to think of patterns.
2. What exactly does Book 7 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
3. What makes Hektor's challenge at the beginning of Bk. 7 possible?
4. To what extent is the duel which occupies much of Bk. 7 another manifestation of one or more "patterns" or "repeated episodes" whose other manifestations you have seen earlier in the poem?
5. What event late in Bk. 7 reminds you that yes, even though it has not been obvious, Zeus is in fact fulfilling his promise to Thetis? (Or, what is the significance of the fact that the Greeks here do a certain thing which in ten years they have not felt it necessary to do?)
6. The "long view" of things is fairly rare in the Iliad (Glaukos in Bk. 6 speaks of "the generation of leaves" with respect to human life; Helen in Bk. 6 refers to herself as figuring in the songs of people yet unborn) and almost always poignant. In these terms, what do you make of the discussion between Zeus and Poseidon near the end of Bk. 7?
7. What exactly does Book 8 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
8. Why does Zeus forbid the gods to intervene in the fighting at the beginning of Bk. 8?
9. With the end of Bk. 8 ends the third day of fighting (counting the day-long truce in Bk. 7). What event late in Bk. 8 reminds you that yes, even though it has not been obvious, Zeus is in fact fulfilling his promise to Thetis? (Or, what is the significance of the fact that the Trojans here do a certain thing which in ten years they have not felt it possible to do?)
10. For ten long years (we are to presume) an army camped on a beach has been laying siege to a walled city. In these terms, what is the situation at the beginning of Bk. 9? How would this detail alone make Bk. 9 "pivotal" in a poem about the Rage of Achilles?
11. How would Agamemnon's change of heart near the beginning of Bk. 9 alone make this book "pivotal" in a poem about the Rage of Achilles? Speculate (totally uselessly) about whether or not the story might have once ended here.
12. In Bk. 1, Athene promises Achilles that he will eventually get back "three times" as much stuff as is at that point being taken away from him (which = Briseis). Evaluate Agamemnon's offer (in Bk. 9) in these terms.
13. What elements in Agamemnon's offer to Akhilles in Bk. 9 smack of folk-tales? (Think of "fairy tales" and so on: what is the usual inducement offered by Joe King to some incipient hero to make him, e.g., go out and kill some dragon?) Can we presume that Achilles has heard any of this before? If so, how would we expect him to react?
14. The Rage of Achilles in Bk. 1 is in some ways the rage of a thwarted child. What exactly in Achilles' speech to Odysseus (in Bk. 9) make it clear that his "rage" has undergone a fundamental change? In what ways would this detail alone make Bk. 9 "pivotal?"
15. Discuss Achilles' unique position re "Fate" (as revealed by his speech to Odysseus in Bk. 9). To what extent is he in a "no-win situation?" What would you do, if you were him? To what extent would this consideration alone indicate that his Rage is fundamentally different from what it was in Bk. 1?
16. Discuss the ironies implicit in the following lines (9.338ff., Achilles to Odysseus):
And why was it the son of Atreus assembled and led here these people? Was it not for the sake of lovely-haired Helen? Are the sons of Atreus alone among mortal men the ones who love their wives?.... Now that he has deceived me and taken from my hands my prize... let him try me no more. I know him well....
To what extent would his consideration of these ironies indicate that his Rage has changed completely from what it was in Bk. 1?
17. What is the a point of Phoinix' long, long mythical digression in his speech to Achilles in Bk. 9 [you may or may not want to know that scholars have long been intrigued by the fact that "Kle/o/patr/a" ("famously fathered") is the inverse of "Patr/o/klos" ("famously fathered")]?
18. The three ambassadors to Achilles in Bk. 9 each appeal to a different aspect of his personality. Identify these. To what extent are any of these appeals successful?
19. That there are three ambassadors in Bk. 9 indicates a triad, but the third speech is very short compared to the other two. Nevertheless, in what way can this whole episode be considered "triadic" in structure? (I.e., which is the most important speech in terms of effect, if not in terms of length?)
20. Examine carefully the three different answers which Achilles gives to the three ambassadors in Bk. 9. What do you make of the differences? Which one is closest to what actually is going to happen? Which one is for "public consumption?"
21. What exactly does Book 10 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
22. Book 10 is so bizarre compared to the rest of the Iliad and the Odyssey (among many other details, "heroes" do not usually sneak around in the middle of the night cutting people's throats while they sleep) that many scholars think it doesn't belong to the poem. How would you argue that, on the contrary, it is entirely appropriate to the situation at the end of Bk. 9? [Hint: the cunning of Odysseus represents one aspect of "heroic excellence," the physical power of Achilles represents another.]
23. Homer presumably presumes that we the audience know our mythology, and so he does not mention the famous mythical prophecy associated with King Rhesus of Thrace (the major throat-slitee in Bk. 10): if the horses of Rhesus eat the grass outside Troy and drink the water of the rivers near it, then the city will never ever fall. How does knowing this affect your reading of the Rhesus episode (make for the sake of argument the ridiculous assumption that the Thracians were so exhausted from riding in that day that they forgot to feed and water their horses that night)?
24. What exactly does Book 11 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
25. How many large heroes (don't count cannon fodder) get taken out of the action in Bk. 11? By what methods? What is Homer doing here? (Or, how is "the will of Zeus" being "fulfilled?")
26. Near the end of Bk. 11, Achilles sends Patroklos with a message to Nestor. Why does Homer say that "this was the beginning of his [= Patroklos'] evil?" What important message does Nestor give Patroklos to take back to Achilles? Why doesn't he immediately deliver it? What do you make of Patroklos so far?
27. What exactly does Book 12 have to do with the Rage of Achilles?
28. What is the significance of the simile early in Bk. 12 in which Hektor is likened to "a wild boar or a lion?" Can you think of any other instances of "foreshadowing" so far in the poem?
29. Assess the "tactical situation" (how the war is going) at the end of Bk. 12. Who is at least momentarily winning? What does this have to do with the declared subject of the poem? What would you expect to happen next?
30. By the end of Bk. 12 Patroklos has still not returned to Achilles. What is the poet doing here?
Source: http://duke.usask.ca/~porterj/CourseNotes/IliadStiles.html. Used by permission.