Third Paper: Due Tuesday, November 26
Choose one of the following essay prompts and write a brief paper (4-5 pages), following
the guidelines in the course outline. As before, feel free to ask questions about
these topics if anything's not clear to you. If you want to turn in a physical paper,
it's due at the beginning of class on November 21; but if you want to take a few
extra days and turn in the paper by e-mail, you have until noon on Tuesday, November
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has sometimes been read as a manual of
chivalry. Taking it this way, describe the characteristics of the perfect medieval
knight and compare these qualities to those exhibited by Aeneas in the Aeneid.
Note the similarities and differences and discuss how those similarities and differences
reveal shifts in underlying cultural values regarding the hero and his place in
As different as they are, 1-2 Samuel and Sophocles' Oedipus have
one thing in common. At a crucial point in each story the central figure is confronted
by a prophet or seer who suggests that all is not right with the central figure
-- that he is guilty of something he does not recognize. Look closely at the David/Nathan
exchange in 2 Samuel, and at David's reaction as recorded in Psalm
51. What does this exchange tell you about David's character? Does it enable you
to draw any conclusions about "Hebrew values"? What are they? Is David -- transgressions
and all -- a hero? Why or why not?
In his preface to Samson Agonistes Milton discusses his own conception of
classical tragedy as "the gravest, moralest, and most profitable" of all poetry,
and he goes on to endorse Aristotle's claim that tragedy should effect a catharsis
of the emotions of "pity and fear, or terror, to purge the mind of those and such
like passions." Milton ends his tragedy by having the chorus exclaim:
His servants he with new aquist
Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismissed
And calm of mind, all passion spent.
How has Milton altered or adapted classical tragedy to his own purposes? Discuss the
similarities and differences you see between Milton's conception and the classical
tragedies we have read. Cite specific passages in the tragedies and in Milton's poem.