Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Nestor seems like a minor character in The Iliad, but he actually plays a significant role in the development of the epic’s plot. What are some of the ways in which the aged king propels the action of the story? What effect does he have on the epic as a whole?
2. What is the role of women in The Iliad? Does the poem contain any strong female characters, or do the acts and deeds of males dominate the work?
3. What role does fate play in the emotional and psychological effect of The Iliad? Why does Homer make his characters aware of their impending dooms?
Suggested Essay Topics
1. Is there a “heroic code” that guides the decisions of the characters in The Iliad? Discuss the values of the Homeric hero, paying particular attention to contrasting characters such as Achilles, Odysseus, Paris, and Hector. Does one character emerge as more heroic than the rest? Does one character emerge as less heroic?
2. Discuss Homer’s portrayal of the gods in The Iliad. What is their relationship with mortals? With fate? Why might Homer have chosen the gods as a frequent source of comic relief? What larger points does Homer seem to be making by depicting the gods as he does?
3. With particular attention to Priam and Hector, as well as to Achilles and Peleus, discuss how The Iliad portrays relationships between fathers and sons. In what way does ancestral loyalty affect the characters’ behavior? You may want to consider the encounter between Diomedes and Glaucus as well. How do relationships between fathers and sons differ from those between mothers and sons?
4. Does Achilles ultimately emerge as a sympathetic character? Why or why not? Use examples from the text to explain your answer.
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