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Assigned: Publius Vergilius Maro. The Aeneid.
1. From lines 1-41, how does Virgil use his prologue to set priorities for the epic to come: what will be the essentials, scope, and the point of the work? How does this prologue compare to Homer's invocation in The Odyssey?
2. From lines 42-184, we get our first look at Virgil's gods. What is Juno's (i.e. Hera's) interest in withholding favor from Aeneas? How does she compare with Homer's Hera? What is her relationship with Aeolus? And what is Neptune up to at this point?
3. From lines 185-263, we first meet Aeneas and his crew. What kind of hero does this first look lead you to expect in the person of Aeneas? What qualities can be discerned from his words and actions?
4. From lines 264-355, when Venus (Aphrodite, Aeneas' mother) demands help from Jupiter (Zeus), with what promises does he console her? How might we suppose these promises differentiate Virgil's purpose in The Aeneid from that of Homer in The Odyssey?
5. From lines 356-497, what advice and hope does a disguised Venus offer her son Aeneas? What introduction does she provide him regarding the Carthaginian Queen Dido? How does Aeneas describe his own plight when he answers Venus?
6. From lines 498-595, Aeneas stops to take in some images of the Trojan war. Why is it appropriate that Virgil should include such a metanarratival incident, in which a work of art becomes the subject of a work of art? How does Aeneas' viewing of Dido's these war scenes strengthen him and lend him authority? How does this incident strengthen Virgil's hand as maker of a uniquely Roman epic?
7. From lines 596-752, Aeneas' men recount part of their story to Dido, and then Aeneas steps out of his protective cloud to converse with Dido. What affinities between Dido's new realm and Aeneas' Trojan remnant emerge? What does the Queen offer Aeneas and his people, and why?
8. From lines 782-821, what intrigue does Venus plot? How does she plan to ensnare Dido, and why does she want to do that?
9. From lines 822-908, how does the narrator describe Dido's act of falling in love with Aeneas? How does her passion manifest itself? How does the scene between Dido and Aeneas compare to any one of the guest/host scenes you have come across in Homer?
10. From lines 1-338, Aeneas recounts for Dido and her court the story of Troy's fall. What contrast does Aeneas make between Trojans and Greeks as he retells the tale? In particular, how does he characterize Sinon, whom the Greeks tasked with selling the Trojans on the story of Greek flight and the Wooden Horse's religious value?
11. From lines 339-583, the departed Hector comes to Aeneas in a dream, telling him to abandon the defense of Troy, but Aeneas and his companions return to the fight. Describe Aeneas' self-defense of his valor as a defender of Troy and its ancient ways: what limitations does Virgil impose on him as an individual hero? How has the shade of Hector undercut Aeneas in his desire to go down fighting?
12. From lines 584-702, Aeneas tells of Priam's being forced to witness the slaughter by Neoptolemus of his son PolitÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â«s, and then knifed by the same son of Achilles. How does Aeneas' narration both affirm and undercut Greek heroism? Moreover, how does it drive home the human cost of war (and of empire-building like that of the Romans)?
13. From lines 703-998, Aeneas burns to kill Helen, but Venus makes him see the futility of clinging to Troy and sends him to gather his family. Virgil's Roman tradition relies on pietas (reverence for one's family and ancestors); how does this section rely on such piety to drive the action? Still, what irony is also at work even as Aeneas shepherds his family to safety? (In responding, consider Creusa's fate and the words her shade speaks to Aeneas.)
14. From lines 1-82, Aeneas and his followers build a town (called "Aenas") in Thrace. But what does Aeneas learn from the shade Polydorus that makes him want to leave the new town behind? In what manner is this news imparted, and what significance does the precise manner of delivery add to what would otherwise be straightforward advice?
15. From lines 83-233, Apollo provides an omen to the Trojan remnant, and they, led by father Anchises, try to interpret it. What interpretive error does Anchises make, and as a result what do the followers of Aeneas learn about their true direction and destiny?
16. From lines 234-319, Aeneas and his Trojans land on the Strophades, where they encounter the Harpies. What upsets the Harpies, and what does Celaeno predict lies in store for Aeneas and his people?
17. From lines 320-592, Aeneas sails around various Greek islands, and, a year having passed, goes to Buthrotum where he encounters Andromache, the fallen Trojan hero Hector's wife. What is her story, and what are the main features of the prophecy that her new husband Helenus offers Aeneas?
18. From lines 593-682, the Trojan remnant fulfill some of Helenus' prophecies, and then from lines 683-786 having made harbor at the Island of the Cyclops, they meet Achaemenides and, later, the Cyclops. What advice does Achaemenides give them? And how does the Trojans' encounter with the Cyclops differentiate them from that of Ulysses (Odysseus) and his men?
19. From lines 787-829, Aeneas' father Anchises dies. How do you interpret this event in light of what has happened so far and what must happen in the near future? Why is it appropriate, if sad, that Aeneas' father should depart the epic at this point?
20. From lines 1-297, Dido falls in love with Aeneas after his heroic recountings, and the pair (with Juno's contrivance and Venus' strategic acquiescence) "marry" during their rain-driven encounter in a secluded cave. How does the poet describe this romantic scene? What are the nearly immediate consequences of this liaison for Dido, and what error, by Roman standards, has the Queen committed in this passionate episode?
21. From lines 298-565, Jupiter (warned by Rumor) hears about Aeneas' tardiness, and sends Mercury to remind him of his duties. How does Mercury describe Aeneas' responsibilities? When Aeneas turns his mind to sailing for Italy, what strategy does he choose, and how does he defend himself against the charges leveled at him by Dido?
22. From lines 298-565 again, if Aeneas is still "heroic" in leaving Dido, what constitutes his heroism? What is the irony involved in Virgil's making him behave as he does (abandoning the woman he loves in mid-winter, unannounced)? That is, how does Aeneas' action clash with Roman ideals of loyalty and honor?
23. From lines 566-833, the narrator describes Dido's "fatal madness" and her suicide. The Queen's majestic passion is clearly the center of the fourth book, but in what ways does the narrator try to distance Augustan Roman readers from her? For example, consider how Dido treats her sister Anna and what she (Dido) says about the gods.
24. From lines 834-76, what loyalty does Anna show her dying sister, and how does Juno weigh in on the quality of Dido's demise?
25. From lines 75-663, Aeneas presides over sporting competitions in Sicily, the kingdom of Acestus. What is the occasion of the games, what are either the main events or a few of the more noteworthy competitions, and how does Aeneas manage the whole affair?
26. From lines 664-773, Juno sends Iris down to stir up trouble for the Trojans once again. What kind of trouble does she cause, and what is the outcome? How does this episode (like so many others in The Aeneid) implicitly offer a way to make sense of chaotic and irrational human behavior?
27. From lines 774-864, how does Aeneas at first react to the crisis in his midst? What advice does Nautes give him, and what further insight does the ghost of his father Anchises provide? All this advice combined, what is the plan for Aeneas' near future? How might the episode be said to appeal strongly to Virgil's fellow Romans and contemporaries?
28. From lines 865-972, how do the gods -- in this case Venus (Aphrodite) and Neptune (Poseidon) get involved in the action? How does Neptune defend himself from the charge that he is unfair to the Trojans? What promise does he make to Venus regarding Aeneas and his Trojan followers, and what is the "catch" in his offer?
29. From lines 1-273, what preparatory work and ritual does the Cumaean Sibyl lay out for Aeneas as a traveler to the Underworld? What prophecies does she make, and why is it so important to deal with the departed Trojan Misenus?
30. From lines 273-726, describe the physical and moral structure of the Underworld through which Aeneas passes with reference to at least two of his encounters with the shades as well as his interaction with the Cumaean Sibyl who is his guide.
31. From lines 273-726, what basic similarities do you find between Virgil's account of the Underworld and the one Homer gives in The Odyssey Book 11? What is the biggest difference in Virgil's account? Consider, for example, how the two authors handle the firmness of the boundaries between the living and the dead.
32. From lines 739-1039, Aeneas travels in the Elysian part of the Underworld, and his father Anchises' shade gives him a look at the future of his people -- the future Roman Republic and Empire. What explanation does Anchises offer Aeneas concerning the world's creation and the reincarnation of souls?
33. Again with reference to lines 739-1039, examine the Roman future Anchises lays out for his son with regard to the way the speaker uses causally linked events to reveal the character of Rome rather than just its history -- what qualities does Anchises emphasize in the illustrious Romans-to-be he names? What makes his Rome, as a political and military entity, so distinctive?
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- . On 1125-29, Virgil offers his own variation on Homer's "Shield of Achilles" description in The Iliad 18.558ff (page 189ff in Norton World Lit. A). The technical term for such standout descriptions is ekphrasis. What vision of Rome does the shield offer Aeneas and Virgil's readers? What does it add to Anchises' comments from the Elysian Fields concerning the future?
- . If you have read the part of The Iliad (18.558ff) to which Virgil's description pays its respects, compare the two -- examine the difference between what Homer thought important to describe on the shield Hephaestus (Vulcan) made for Achilles and what Virgil considers worth representing on Aeneas' shield.
34. From lines 1-89 and 144-209, what difference in attitude shows between Turnus and Aeneas and his Trojans? How does their approach to war differ?
35. From lines 210-515, what plan do Nisus and Euryalus form against the Rutulian beseigers? How does it work out (see also 576-605), and what is the signficance of this portrait in the middle of a warlike ninth book so focused on the clash of great armies?
36. Lines 601-876 begin with the epic narrator's prayer to the Muses to help him sing "carnage and death." In the section that follows, how does Ascanius conduct himself during the battle? What special favor does Apollo accord Ascanius? How does Numanus manage to enrage Ascanius, and how does the latter deal with him?
37. From lines 766-923, attention shifts to Turnus. Describe the slaughter that Turnus visits on the Trojans in this section of Book 9. Nonetheless, what mistake does Turnus make even as he triumphs, and how does he manage to escape the dangerous situation in which he finds himself?
38. From lines 1-146 and then from 715-814, what role do the gods play in this book -- namely, Jove (Zeus), Venus, (Aphrodite), and Juno (Hera)? What is Venus' plea to Jove, and how does he satisfy her requests? How does Juno interpret the human action unfolding below her and defend her own actions regarding it?
39. From lines 147-427, what marvels occur that help Aeneas in his quest to shore up the support of allies and then come back to rescue his beseiged Trojans? In responding, discuss the advice given him by the sea-nymphs, and the incident that involves Aeneas's helmet or "crest."
40. From lines 428-602, describe the fight between Pallas and Turnus. In what regard does Turnus appear to hold his opponent, and why? What role does Hercules play in the action that transpires? Why is he filled with sorrow about the death of Pallas?
41. From lines 603-714, Aeneas must rally his dispirited Trojans. What acts of valor does he perform? How does he respond to those who ask for mercy? What insults does Liger make against Aeneas, and how does Aeneas deal with this soldier and his taunts?
42. From lines 815-1079, the spotlight is on the Etruscan king Mezentius. Why do his own people despise him? When he is wounded, how does his son Lausus intervene. Nonetheless, how does Mezentius meet his death, and how does Aeneas behave when he finally takes this fierce warrior down?
43. From lines 1-241, describe the funeral procession and rites of Aeneas' fallen comrade Pallas, son of Evander. How does Evander learn that his son is dead, and how does he handle the news and deal with his ally Aeneas? What are Aeneas' thoughts and emotions about the loss of his friend?
44. From lines 242-354, what problems beset Turnus now that he is back in Latinus' territory? What do the common people say about him, and what case does Drances make against Turnus? What unwelcome advice does the Greek settler Diomedes offer Turnus even as he refuses the Rutulian King assistance?
45. From lines 355-534, what misgivings does King Latinus make clear regarding hostilities against Aeneas? How does Turnus respond to the old King's anxieties and to his proposed solution to Latium's troubles?
46. From lines 535-705, the armies ready themselves for battle, and Camilla comes to the aid of Turnus. What is this woman's story -- how did she come to be the Italian equivalent of an Amazon warrior? What is her special relationship with the goddess Diana, and how does Diana help her? Finally from lines 891-1068, in which Camilla meets her fate, how does the narrator choose to represent this female warrior's death to us -- what makes her last moments so memorable?
47. From lines 1-129, what pressure is brought to bear upon Turnus to end his quest for marriage with Lavinia? What effect does all the pleading have on Turnus, and why does he find it impossible to give up that quest?
48. From lines 130-372, with King Latinus still experiencing misgivings and anxious to come to terms with the Trojans, what promises are exchanged by each side? What do the ordinary people of Latium think of the proposed duel and projected deal? How does Juturna (Turnus' water-nymph sister) insert herself into the unfolding events?
49. From lines 373-518, Aeneas is wounded and Turnus turns his rage on the Trojan forces. How does Venus intervene to help Aeneas through this perilous moment in the battle? What remedy does she provide to heal the wounded warrior?
50. From lines 519-752, describe the domestic scene as Latium appears to be on the brink of destruction: what leads Queen Amata to take her own life. What are Turnus' thoughts as a consequence of the fighting going on around him and his own situation at this point in the story?
51. From lines 753-915, Aeneas and Turnus square off at last. What has spurred Turnus to go forwards and meet Aeneas? How does the encounter play out, and what role do the gods take on as it unfolds?
52. From lines 916-1029, Jove and Juno argue about the human events unfolding below. How does Juno defend her actions in favor of Turnus and against the Trojans? What favor does she ask of her husband now that a Trojan victory is inevitable? How does Jove respond to this request -- what promises does he make to Juno about Italy's future, and how does his response speak directly to Roman readers in Virgil's own time?
53. From lines 1030-1113, Aeneas and Turnus fight for the last time. How does this climactic match between the two opposing champions unfold? What role does Jupiter play in the events? On the whole, how would you assess the relative value of Turnus as an opponent of Rome's futurity now that the epic has come to an end -- how does his defeat, by implication, reflect on Aeneas and his Trojans as well as on Virgil's Rome?
Edition: Virgil. The Aeneid. Trans. Robert Fagles. New York: Penguin Classics, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0143105138.