Part 2B: Analyzing
- Many of the more recent sources of stories
about Achilles were created by people living in predominantly Christian
societies. The myths are understood through the eyes of Christianity
and may be retold with the same religious perspective.
- In Poussin's painting, the characters were
portrayed as very godlike, characteristic of most Renaissance art. There
are characters standing and characters kneeling, and the focus is on
those who are illuminated in the center of the painting by a light from
above. While influenced by Christian ideology, there are definitely
aspects of Greek and Roman art included. The woman standing over Achilles
(who is dressed as a woman), appears to be pregnant; presumably, she
is Lycomedes' daughter and the child belongs to Achilles. The column
in the background is somewhat out of place and appears to be a phallic
symbol, pointing out Achilles' true sex. The scene portrayed is the
moment that Achilles' gender identity is revealed, and Odysseus has
come to lead him to Troy to fight, and eventually die. This could be
compared to the soldiers that come to take Jesus to his crucifixion.
The sides of the painting that surround the light from the "heavens"
are dark and foreboding, symbolizing Achilles leaving his protected
- As another example of Christian beliefs in
comparison to Achilles' pagan beliefs, Daumier's drawing depicts the
"baptism" of Achilles. The scene is that of Thetis dipping Achilles
into the river Styx to immortalize him. However, neither mother nor
son are beautified as in Iliadic tales. Rather, they are portrayed as
ugly and haggard. This gives the impression that the artist does not
approve of the action taking place and does not esteem the characters
as other works (such as Poussin's) do. The appearance of the crayfish
on Achilles' nose is not consistent with the Greek versions of the story.
Perhaps this symbolizes Thetis being punished or chastised for attempting
to make her son immortal, thus trying to go against God's will and keep
him from death. Achilles himself is punished as well, because the drawing
still shows Thetis holding her son by the ankle,emphasizing his weakness
and foreshadowing his demise.
- The poem " The Shield of Achilles" is also
a work that prophecizes Achilles' impending doom. The main character
is Thetis searching for signs of prosperity and happiness on the shield.
She finds only desolation. The author describes "three pale figures.
. . led forth and bound to three posts driven upright in the ground."
These figures may symbolize Achilles, Patroclus, and Hector. While these
men were not bound to posts, this reference may allude to Jesus and
the two thieves being nailed to crosses. In both cases, the mothers
(Thetis and Mary) mourn their sons' impending deaths; but no matter
how powerful the women are, they cannot save their children from fate
and the decisions made by god(s).
- Why this particular metaphor was created by
Auden is somewhat unclear. The religious comparisons may have been a
personal choice for the author, or written as a method of bringing new
interest to classical mythology. He does this by adapting the Greek
version to a Christian viewpoint to assimilate it into his own culture.
- Van Leefdael's 17th century work, "Achilles
Vanquishing Hecktor" is very true to the Homeric depiction of the battle
between the two men. The scene is definitely Greco-Roman, with the men
appearing larger than life, in helmets and flowing robes. Athena floats
above the scene to remind us of the importance of the gods' power and
whims. The columns wrapped in flowers create a border around the picture
and essentially help to glorify the fight and the men themselves. It
seems that Van Leefdael's purpose is not only to honor the warriors,
but to remind his society of the greatness of the true versions of mythological
tales. He accomplishes this without adapting the tale to fit his own
- Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Troylus and
Cressida is a play about the consequences of love. Shakespeare tells
a different story of Achilles' death than that of Homer. In the play,
Achilles goes to Troy to take Polyxena away, in return for calling off
the Greeks' seige of Troy. When he gets to the palace, he is killed
by the Trojans. This story simply follows the theme of the play and
demonstrates the tragedy that love can cause. Shakespeare frequently
wrote about historical figures (Julius Caesar, King Henry and King Richard).
This play is another example of Shakespeare's historical drama, focusing
on Greek figures and legends.
- Louise Gluck's poem, "The Triumph of Achilles"
also focuses on love and the tragedies associated with it. Achilles'
triumph is not that of honor in battle, but of truly loving another
person and avenging his death. "The source is the survivor" is talking
about love and how love survives mortal man. Eternal love is only met
through mortality. The grief and pain of Achilles were caused by "the
part that was mortal , the part that loved." Some versions of the myth
on the life of Jesus include a story about a ressurection. The idea
of the "ressurection" is that through loving all things eternally that
Jesus lives on through death. Also by his dying or coming to terms with
mortality this eternal love is realized. The same is true of Patroclus'
death with Achilles, according to this Christian poet..
- The Christian value of love has replaced the
Homeric emphasis on honor, valor, courage, and victory in battle. These
works present Achilles as much more human, much more vulnerable, a and
much more forgivable character than the previous ones. They explore
the emotional side of the events in Achilles' life, rather than the
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