Study Questions for
Below are a selection of study questions concerning the texts we
discussing this semester.
to Consider from Books
is the Quarrel between
Agamemnon and Achilles? How does it develop? Why?
is the Quarrel between the
Greeks and Trojans? How does it develop and why?
Values do you see being upheld
by the characters in the Book?
are women treated? What is
elements of traditional epics
do you find interesting in this section?
this work glorifying war?
Why or why not?
do you make of the catalog of
ships? See anything interesting?
a few of the main Characters on
each side and describe what they are like?
behavior and comment on it?
are the gods important in this
are Briseis and Chyseis and how
are they important? Do they make
is the importance of honor and
religious observances in the text? How
you know this?
responsibility do Agamemnon and
Achilles each have for the current predicament?
do we see Greek debate and
democracy functioning here?
does Agamemnon tell the Greeks
that they are leaving in Book 2? How is this a disaster?
are Nestor and Odysseus
important characters in these books?
group men together by city when
they are fighting?
is morale like in the Greek
are the most important
Trojans? Describe them?
is the relationship between
Helen, Hector and Paris like?
do the Trojans dislike Paris?
might the god’s be seen as
playing a game using Greek and Trojan warriors?
Greeks to Remember
Things to Consider from Books 6-10
How does Book Six make
clear a major
between the Greek Troops and the Trojan Troops?
relationship with his Andromache and Scamandrius (AAstynax@).
What is Paris like?
What does Hector think of him, really?
What does she think of herself?
What do others think of her?
What is tragic about
of the war=s
outcome (book six)?
Why would the Greeks and
agree to single
combat between Aias (Ajax) and Hector?
What will be determined should one kill the other?
What are the attitudes of
warriors toward the
war? How do the men feel about
fighting? (They have many different
What was the importance
of the gods
What have you noticed
(of men or objects) so far? Anything
Why is Achilles not
offer (book nine)? Is
he being unreasonable? Is his
What is the importance of
Calydonian Boar and Meleager in book nine? How do you apply this
Who is Phoenix and what
part does he
Achilles life? Does Phoenix=s
argument make Achilles look selfish
or foolish? Why or why not?
In book ten, look at how
wake up and
what they grabBcan
make any sense about all of this?
What is interesting about
night interlude with the Trojans and
Discuss a few epic
similes and why
appropriate or striking?
List of Gods
Hades Aphrodite Iris
Consider from Iliad
Discuss Agamemnon as a
leader, and as a warrior. What
does he use to lead? What do you
of his tactics?
Find passages that detail
battle and war and discuss whether those passages are glorifying
What do we know about men
the Iliad? What do we know about the men of the Iliad
comparison to the men of Homer=s
day? What do you make of this?
What discussions of
Omens have you noticed? What do they
imply for those characters involved?
What do they mean in terms of Homer=s
Characterize Hector as a
leader? What are his strengths and
weaknesses? What does his presence in
the story mean?
Discuss the actions of
section. What are his motivations? What about Hera and her actions?
How do the actions of the
attitude toward the humans in the poem?
Can we treat the actions of the gods as typical of actions
humans? Is this always, sometimes, or
Select some of the taunts
affect on the people in the story and their affect on us?
There are verbal elements
men (and gods). Discuss the taunts,
boasts, ancestry, and discussion that occurs between men on the
(both comrades and enemies). What do
these verbal elements add?
What is tragic about Hector=s
faith in Zeus=s
promise to allow him to storm the Achaean wall and bring the
Greek ships? Are the Greek gods evil?
Things to consider
Think of the most positive
you have read so far. What makes it
positive? How positive is it?
A great deal of talking
with all the
fighting, although sometimes heroes warn each other about bragging
too much. Why is there so much
and verbal posturing? Discuss an
What are some of the
Greeks and the Trojans? Discuss some
these differences, why they are apparent, and why do they exist.
It is said that even Zeus
Fate. Do you see this in the story? Support your answer with an example.
Who is responsible for
death? Make a list of a few people if
tell how responsible each person/god was and why.
Discuss the gods=
intervention within this section. What
they do and why? How does this change
or reinforce your beliefs about how the Greeks must have viewed
On page 293 (fourth
Achilles and Patroclus allude to prophecies.
How are prophecies brought to bear on the characters in
section. What prophecies do you know
that have anything to do with Achilles, Patroclus or the Greeks in
Discuss how Patroclus or
during this section. Pick a scene or
and explain it/them.
On Page 328 (book 16 about
from the end)
Zeus is discussing the unhappy fate of Achilles=s
of all the creatures that breathe
and creep about on Mother Earth there is none so miserable as man.@
What do you make of this? What
does it mean/imply that Zeus would say this?
What does it mean that Homer would conceive of a god as
How is fame and reputation
warlike behavior? Give examples and
Things to Consider from Iliad Books 18-22
page 343-45 (about seven pages into Book
XVIII). Hector is confronted by
Polydamas about prophecies and omens concerning the war.
what Polydamas says and why. Explain
Hector’s reaction. Is his reaction
consistent with his leadership style?
Why or why not?
some of the prophecies (concerning
Greeks or Trojans). What ffect do these
prophecies have on the humans? What
effect do they have on the Gods? Do they
preclude free will in the story? How do
the prophecies affect your understanding of the action, its
Achilles’s shield. What do you make of the picture
it. In what ways could you argue that it
is symbolic? What is it symbolic
of? Why is its symbolism appropriate?
first few pages of Chapter XIX (354-61)
depict Achilles’s haste to return to battle.
What do you think of these scenes?
How is the intervention of Odysseus helpful or harmful?
do you make of Briseis’s lament on 361-362
(3 or 4 pages from the end of Book XIX)?
What does this say about Patroclus, Briseis, and/or Achilles?
Gods are especially important in Book XX,
yet they are not all that active. What
do they actually do? Why are they
limited in terms of what they do from a dramatic standpoint?
do they advance the story here?
who is helping Achilles rushes in and
save Aeneas (Achilles’s enemy). There
are a number of reasons why. Discuss
some of these reasons and what they say about fate and the gods.
are Achilles’s problems with Xanthus (the
river god) typical of the problem with having men fight gods.
does it make the importance of the gods
taking sides seem necessary?
the reactions of Hector’s family
concerning his fighting Achilles. What do Priam, Hecabe, and
think? What specifically does each think
Hector should do, an why?
are guilt and shame motivators for Hector’s
appearing outside the wall to confront Achilles? What are some
the reasons that Hector
decides to fight Achilles at that particular time?
Iliad Books 23-24
How do the last two
interpretation of the epic overall.
Should the last chapters be a place of emphasis?
What do these emphasize?
There are eight different
that are part
games. Discuss what the importance of
these are to the work? Do any of the
contests stick out as important? Pick
one or two and comment on what you think they mean?
Achilles does a fair amount
Patroclus as part of these chapters. How
why does his message to Patroclus change?
Does he present a more appealing figure at the end?
On page 438 (two pages in
24) Apollo Aspeaks
grief. What is odd about Achilles=s
grief and the Greeks=
acceptance of it? Contrast
this with Troys= grief
What does the interchange
Achilles reveal? What do you make of
How does ending with a
affect the impact
of the Iliad?
is Lysistra about: Love?
do Greek attitudes about sex appear
to differ from modern attitudes?
are some of the ways Aristophanes
makes sex look reidiculous? Why
and does he make War look
the plot of this comedy?
seems particularly outrageous about
the behavior of the Men? And the Women?
do you suppose the play appeals to
people today? How do you imagine
relevance might differ for its contemporary audience?
are some of the multiple smaller
subplots within the play? Why are
some of the puns and jokes you
noticed? Why are they important? What is their purpose?
the women’s plan and how they
hope to instigate it?
do the choruses function to advance
both the plot and the comedy?
plays often have only one
chorus. How and why is the dual
appropriate to this particular play?
addition to the “sex strike” the
must capture and hold the
do you see greek history and
politics being emphasized in the plot?
do you believe Aristophanes
personifies “Peace” as a naked woman?
Books 1-6 Aeneid
List and discuss some of the
the opening of the Aeneid.
What similarities in content
How is this an epic filled
prophecies? Are the prophecies in this
different from the
prophecies in Homer? If so, how?
How do the gods involve
Virgil is careful with his
Select one simile and talk about how the content of it is
situation it is used to describe.
How does this epic fill in
the Trojan war? What does it add to the
How is Aeneid’s perspective
important in creating subtle differences in how he describes the
How does Aeneas react to
How does his mother intervene? Why?
What happens with Aeneas’s
sack of Troy? Why do they eventually
flee? What obstacles were there? What does Aeneas take with him?
Characterize the group that
Troy. What do they do?
Where do they go?
What purpose do you see for
of beginning a new city?
How is Dido helpful to Aeneas
How are the gods involved in
What is the result of the
relationship and who
are at fault?
In Book IV
lines 500+ (113-114) Dido explains her dilemma?
What is her dilemma? Is there an escape?
How are the funeral Games of
V ironic ,
coming after chapter IV? What is the
reason for the games? What do they
What similarities in the
you see with
How does Juno and the women
possible a stronger Italy?
What must Aeneas do to get
into Hell? Is his trip there especially
useful? What new
information is he given?
Discuss some of what (or who)
Hell? How is what he sees
conventional? How is what he sees
important to his story?
Consider Aeneid 7-12
How is prophecy interfering
wedding plans? Who is in favor of the
wedding? Who against it?
How is Juno involved in the
what is Allecto’s role?
Why would Latinus agree to
Aeneas? Why does he relent?
Why does Aeneas seek out
Evander? What is Evander’s reaction to
Aeneas? What part does Pallus play in
How is Hercules a factor in
Arcadian’s help in chapter VIII? How is
Aeneas like Hercules?
How does Aeneas get his
armor? What is depicted on it? How
is the depiction important?
Pick a prophecy affecting
importance and its relation to other aspects of his destiny.
Discuss the attack on the
camp as a
revisitation of the attack on Troy.
Discuss Pallas and Turnus as
How and why does Pallas’s
and Aeneas’s destiny?
Why should Turnus and Aeneas
combat? Why shouldn’t/don’t they?
Discuss Aeneas’s battle with
Mezentius (and his
son Lausus). What is the importance of
What are the main differences
between Turnus and
Discuss how the Gods
outcome? Is there as much influence as
Does Aeneas’s destiny make
suspenseful? Why or why not?
Compare Virgil to Homer. Which do you prefer and why?
Pick an aspect of Virgil’s
it’s literary nature. Explain its
importance and Virgil’s manipulation of it.
Things to Consider Ramayana
• How is the Ramayana different from other
epics we have read? Be specific.
• In what ways is the Ramayana very similar to
the epics we have read?
• Why is Rama incarnated on earth? How
does it happen?
• Which other gods are incarnated with Rama?
• How are sages, ascetics, gurus, and Brahmins
important in this work?
• Discuss the role of women in this work.
• Why does Viswamithra want Rama to travel
with him? What is the controversy?
• How doe Rama and Lakshmana pass the time
with the sage? Be Specific.
• What background stories were introduced in
the epic and what was their purpose?
• Describe some stories where Rama seems to be
fulfilling his destiny and explain.
• How does Rama meet Sita and Sita Rama?
• What is the effect of their first glimpses
of each other (Rama and Sita)?
• What must Rama do before being allowed to
marry Sita? Why?
• Pick another side story and discuss its
• What happens when one is love sick?
How do women and men behave differently?
• How do the people react to the announced
wedding of Rama and Sita?
• How is astrology and auspicious timing
important to the epic?
• What happens before and after the wedding?
• Why is Dasartha interested in giving up the
• Why is he concerned about doing this
• Why did he send Bharatha away?
• How is Kooni pivotal in this disastrous
• Why is Kaikeyi so upset?
• Why does Kaikeyi get what she wants?
• What is the effect on the King?
• What is the effect on Rama, Sita, and
• How are Kaikeyi and Bharatha affectd?
• Why is Rama so understanding?
• How do we know that Rama is good?
• What is the purpose of this story so far?
• Describe in detail on of the
following Characters: Lakshman, Sita, Rama, Soorpanka,
Ravana, Hunanman, Sugreega, or Vali.
• What is the reason the Sita is targeted for
• What is interesting about the initial
interchange between Rama and Soorpanka/Kamavalli?
• How does Love sickness permeate this book?
• Why is Rama unafraid of Demons?
• How have his past experiences with Demons
affected this section?
• Why would Ravana want to secretly abduct
Sita? Are there other options?
• Discuss the incident with the golden
deer. Why do the events transpire as they do?
• Discuss Ravana’s Ruling style? Why
does he behave as he does?
• Why Kill Vali? Why does it turn out to
• How are talking monkeys different than
• Why will Rama need the help of the Monkeys?
• How is the movie yet another
re-interpretation of this ancient poem?
• Is the movie effective? Why or why
• Do the changes to the story in the movie
change the meaning of the Ramayana?
Questions to Consider on Beowulf
1. Discuss how the comitatus code can be seen
to function in the first half of the poem?
2. Why is it significant that Beowulf borrows
Unferth's sword before battling Grendel's mother?
3. How does the flyting (taunting) tradition
make Unferth's opposition to Beowulf necessary?
4. What is the state of Heorot before Beowulf
5. Describe Grendel. Why does he hate
6. What does Beowulf=s contest against Breca add
to the story?
7. Describe and characterize the following
characters: Hrothgar, Hygelac, Unferth, Wealtheow, Aeschere,
Coastguard, Wulfgar--Why are they important?
8. Describe the fight between Grendel and
Beowulf. Speculate about why it occurs as it does?
9. How do Beowulf's Thanes feel about Beowulf
10. What purpose do the snippets of bard song in
the poem serve?
11. Name some of the Christian or Old Testament
allusions in the poem. Do you see the Christian influence as
strong or weak?
12. Critics have occasionally called Beowulf an
allegory. How might Beowulf be seen as a Christian Allegory
of good against evil? How might this be refuted
13. Why must Beowulf descend into the
Mere? What is it like in the Mere? How does Beowulf
Get there? Why is the Mere Important?
14. Why is it significant that Beowulf borrows
Unferth's sword before battling Grendel's mother?
15. Why Does Grendel's Mother attack? How
does this show that even monsters accept Anglo-Saxon virtues?
16. How and why is the fact that Beowulf's
father received a favor from Hrothgar important?
17. How does the inclusion of queen Modthrytho
comment on Anglo-Saxon beliefs?
18. What will be the difficulty with Freawaru's
marriage? Why would she be called a peace weaver?
19. Discuss four examples of characters who
exhibit good or bad leadership in the poem. What are their
20. Discuss why Beowulf fights Grendel,
Grendel's Mother, and The Dragon from an Anglo-Saxon point of
view? How are Christian explanations for his actions
21. What are the results of Beowulf's visit to
Heorot? What does Beowulf Do when he gets home?
22. Why would the story of Beowulf's deeds need
to be repeated to Hygelac? For what poetic and audience
23. How do Beowulf's thanes behave during the
Dragon Episode. What does their behavior mean? Why is
24. How is Beowulf buried and what is the
significance of this?
25. What will Beowulf=s kingdom be like after he
has gone? Why?
26. What is the importance of being a good
king? How does one behave like a good king? Why is
Beowulf a good King? Why is Hrothgar one?
27. What type of Eternal Reward does Beowulf
hope for? Explain this and relate it to Christian
expectations for the poem?
28. Does the Comitatus Code have any relevance
29. Is Beowulf Right or wrong to fight the
Dragon? Defend or attack his actions.
30. What do you make of the blend of pagan and
Christian elements in the poem? Which predominate?
Why? What does this mean?
31. Why do we read Beowulf? What is its
32. What does the poetry we have read so far
tell us about Anglo-Saxons? What do they like and
dislike? What are they not interested in? Can we make
determinations about people based on their poetry?
Study Questions on Dante's Inferno
• How and why is Dante a Pilgrim?
• Where is Dante at socially, politically,
spiritually at the start of the Inferno?
• Discuss some of the allegorical elements of
the book so farBor focus specifically on some symbolic images.
• Why is Dante=s Guide Virgil? Why is
Virgil appropriate? What is Virgil like?
• Who are the souls in the vestibule of
Hell? Why are they there? Why are the Angels there?
• Who is in the first circle of Hell and
why? How is it Hell?
• Who are Paolo and Francessca and why are they
sinners? What does their book say about the corrupting power
of poetry? Compare the vision of the two lovers in canto
five to the vision of Beatrice and her affect on Vigil and Dante
in canto two.
• How are the Gluttons punished? Why is it
fitting? What will happen to all souls after the Day of
Judgment and how will it affect their eternal rewards.
• Why does Pluto oppose them and how do they get
by? How are the hoarders and spendthrifts punished?
What is their sin and why is it sinful? What does Virgil
have to say on Aluck@ and how does it apply to this circle?
• Why is it appropriate that classical persons,
demigods, and deities appear throughout Hell? How does canto
eight show the limits of Virgil=s power and the strength of God=s.
Why does Virgil know the way through Hell?
• How will the second coming/day of Judgment/
Day of redemption/ End of the world affect the punishments of the
damned according to Dante?
• How is Dante punishing his enemies in
Hell? Is he only punishing enemies? Is the book
teaching any attitudes toward sin that are useful? Can the
book be understood and enjoyed by people who don=t share his
specific religious beliefs?
• How and why is getting through the
Tower/Castle/Gates of Dis so difficult? What are the
threats? Why does this upset Dante so much? How is it achieved?
• In Canto 10 we learn about the odd limitations
placed on the Knowledge of the Damned? What do they know that we
don=t? What do we know that they don’t?
• Pick a Canto. What=s happening
there? Why? What does it mean in terms of religious
content? How does it relate to previous and subsequent
cantos? How does it fit into the overall layout of Hell.?
• Can you attempt to offer literal, historical,
moral, and anagogical meanings for one consistent character or
event in the poem so far? How many meanings can you get?
• Explain the basic three level set up of Hell.
• How are the violent against other=s
punished? Why is that appropriate? What do the
Minotaur and Centaurs have in common? Why are they
appropriate to this level?
• Why might the profligates and suicides be
punished together? How are the profligates a fitting segue
to the violent against nature, art, and God?
• How is violence against, nature, art, and God
worse than violence against others? How are these sinners
punished? Is it appropriate?
• Why are the dead prophetic (first explanation
canto ten)? How is Brunoetto Latini prophetic about
Dante? Is Dante the poet self-indulgent?
• Who is Geryon? How do you call
him? Where does He live? How is his location
particularly suited to him allegorically?
• Who is in Malbowges and why? How is it
set up? Why are Panders (panderers), seducers, and flatterers
• How does Dante punish clergy who attempt to
benefit in the physical world from their office through misuse of
• I particularly like what he does with
Sorcerers. What does he do with them and why?
• How are lawyers treated in Hell? How is
their sin worse than the Simonacs? Why must our heroes stray
from there intended path?
• How are the devils of bowge five comic
relief? What does their behavior reveal?
• How is Caiaphas being punished in Hell and
Why? Why is Virgil intrigued to see him?
• How are thieves punished and why is this
• What is ironic about Dante=s praise of
Florence in canto xxvi?
• What is Odysseus=s storyBrelate it to
• Why is Fraud worse than force?
• Why is Guido de Montrefeltro in bowge vii
(circle eight)? Why might he have hoped to cheat Hell?
• Where and who with are the sowers of schism
punished? How is their punishment uniquely appropriate?
• How are falsifiers punished? Why is
falsifying punished so intensely? Would someone who copies
another=s test answers be a falsifier? Why or why not?
• Why are the giants housed with fraud
complex? What was their crime?
• How are betrayers punished? Who is
punished with Ugolino? Why are they punished? Why do
critics often relate cantos 5, 26, and 33 to each other?
• Who is in the bottom of Hell and why are they
there? What is the reason for Dante=s perplexity when
climbing down Satan?
• What does Hell teach? How is
Inferno like other epic we have read? How is it different?
Study Questions for the Book of the City of Ladies
1. Why does De Pisan Write this text?
2. Why are women in literature so darn wicked?
3. Why might a woman begin to believe the wicked
4. How does a belief in God argue against the
“vileness” of women?
5. How and why have women come to doubt their
6. Why should we not accept what one philosopher
says as the definitive statement on Truth?
7. Why must any attack on Marriage be flawed in
8. How do evil writers about women say more
about themselves than they do about women?
9. Who are the three women and what do they look
like and symbolize?
10. Why do men attack women’s reputations?
11. What type of men write evil about women? How
is De Pisan going to be something like a Moses-figure?
12. How will the city of women be different from
other cities built by men?
13. How will De Pisan build the city?
14. How is earthly Justice not exactly heavenly
15. How are women like Gold?
16. Why is misogyny not Natural?
17. What must be excavated to build the walls of
18. Where does the idea of inferior bodies from
women come from?
19. Why is it unlikely that women have inferior
20. What is the paradox about women creating
21. What is the refutation of women’s
22. What is the refutation of women and
23. Why is their weeping not bad?
24. How are their language skills not holding
25. Why are they not so often associated with
26. What proves they can be good rulers?
27. Why talk about the Amazons?
28. Why is this a Pro-feminist text?
1. Is Christine Merely
Male Bashing?—support your response.
2. How and Why are Sybils, Prophets, and
sorceresses positive models for women?
3. Pick some examples of good behavior and
discuss how they are appropriate residents of the city.
4. Whose worse sons or daughters? Why?
5. Discuss some good daughters and why they
are considered good?
6. Select a way that Christine believes men
misrepresent or misunderstand women and discuss how she tries
to rectify it?
7. How will we determine who gets to live in
8. In what ways are women beneficial to
their husbands? Give examples?
9. How is marriage especially hard on women?
10. In what ways and why are women more
loyal than men?
11. Why are women so good to older husbands?
12. Pick a woman or two who saves her
husband and discuss her positive attributes.
13. Why should men listen to women’s advice?
14. Discuss the role of Queens as forces for
peace in the world.
15. What are the pros and cons of educating
16. How and why do chastity, beauty, and
virtue go hand in hand?
17. Discuss some biblical allusions you see
as important to proving Christine’s arguments.
18. Discuss the story of Griselda—How does
it exemplify positive behavior?
19. Imagine creating a modern book of the
city of ladies. Think of a few women who should be in
there and why.