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Robert Henryson

Robert Henryson (1425-1500) was a Scottish poet who is remarkable mostly for his relationship to Chaucer; Henryson wrote a conclusion to Chacuer’s Troilus.

Henryson’s longest, and in many respects his most original and effective work, is his Morall Fabillis of Esope, a collection of thirteen fables, chiefly based on the versions of Anonymus, John Lydgate and William Caxton. The outstanding merit of the work is its freshness of treatment. The work is unrivalled in English fabulistic literature.

In the Testament of Cresseid, Henryson supplements Geoffrey Chaucer’s tale of Troilus with the story of the tragedy of Cresseid. The description of Cresseid’s leprosy, of her meeting with Troilus, of his sorrow and charity, and of her death, give the poem a high place in writings of this genre.


Robert Herrick

A Cavalier Poet, Herrick is often associated with a carpe diem theme because of his poem “To the Virgins, Make Much of Time,” a poem that ETS holds in high regard.

His reputation rests on his Hesperides, a collection of lyric poetry, and the much shorter Noble Numbers, spiritual works, published together in 1648. He is well-known for his bawdy style, referring frequently to lovemaking and the female body. Many of his bawdy poems focus on the character of “Julia.”


“To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time”

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.

That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry:
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.


George Herbert

Herbert’s poems are characterized by a precision of language, a metrical versatility, and an ingenious use of imagery or conceits that was favored by the metaphysical school of poets. They include almost every known form of song and poem, but they also reflect Herbert’s concern with speech–conversational, persuasive, proverbial. Carefully arranged in related sequences, the poems explore and celebrate the ways of God’s love as Herbert discovered them within the fluctuations of his own experience. Because Herbert is as much an ecclesiastical as a religious poet, one would not expect him to make much appeal to an age as secular as our own; but it has not proved so. All sorts of readers have responded to his quiet intensity; and the opinion has even been voiced that he has, for readers of the late twentieth century, displaced Donne as the supreme Metaphysical poet.


Thomas Hardy

The bulk of his work, set mainly in the semi-imaginary county of Wessex, is marked by imaginative poetic descriptions, and a foreboding sense of fatalism. D.H. Lawrence greatly admired Hardy’s ability to ennoble the common man.


Tess of the d’Urbervilles

It is Hardy’s penultimate written novel. Though now considered to be a great classic of English literature, the book was poorly received at the time of its initial publication. The poignant portrait of heroine Tess illustrates Hardy’s deep understanding of women.

The story concerns a simple country girl, Tess Durbeyfield, whose father’s pretensions to social status lead her into the company of the nouveau-riche d’Urberville family. In a scene which suggests rape, though it is open to interpretation, Tess is made pregnant by the rakish Alec d’Urberville. Tess returns home in disgrace, but the child she bears soon dies, leaving her free to leave her village once again to look for work. While employed as a milkmaid, she encounters the morally upright Angel Clare, who falls in love with her. After their marriage, she is honest with him about her past; though Angel is educated, he remains basically naive, and cannot reconcile his real affection for Tess, his wounded pride, and his image of Tess as a semi-pagan Mary figure.

Abandoned by Angel, Tess is lured into a liaison with Alec d’Urberville, who comes back into her life by chance. When Alec lays eyes on Tess once more, he ruthlessly hunts her down, determined to win her back into his life of sin. Tess, influenced by her desprate situation and the perception that her husband will never rejoin her, yeilds to Alec’s determination and allows him to support her while she lives with him. Eventually Angel returns, repentant, to reclaim her, and Tess murders Alec in order to be with her legal husband. They flee together, but the police catch up with them at Stonehenge, in a memorable finale. Tess is hanged for the murder of Alec.


Jude The Obscure

The novel tells the story of Jude Fawley, a stonemason who yearns to be a scholar at “Christminster”, a city modelled on Oxford, England. Denied entry into the university, Jude is manipulated into an unwanted marriage with a country girl, Arabella, who soon deserts him. He becomes obsessed with his cousin, Sue Bridehead, even after she marries his former schoolteacher. Sue is attracted to the normalcy of her married life but quickly finds the relationship an unhappy one because, inherently, she is a libertine like Jude.

When Jude and Sue begin to live together, employers, who find out about this illicit relationship and its bastard children, dismiss Jude from his employment—and landlords continually evict them. Jude’s eldest son (from his first marriage to Arabella), also called Jude but known as “Little Father Time”, after observing the problems he and his siblings are causing their parents, hangs Sue’s two children and then himself. The child leaves a pathetically misspelled note that reads: Done because we are too menny.

This tragedy ends Jude’s relationship with Sue who returns to her first husband, Phillotson, after experiencing extreme religious guilt. After being tricked yet another time into remarrying Arabella, Jude falls ill and makes one last trip to Sue. Sue first confirms her intense love for him then leaves him forever, evincing the moral stranglehold of the church. Jude returns home and dies alone as Arabella is out courting his doctor.


Far From the Maddening Crowd

Far from the Madding Crowd is a novel by 19th century English novelist Thomas Hardy, published in 1874. The title is apt, as the life of the book’s heroine, Bathsheba Everdene, living in the quiet rural village of Weatherbury is indeed disrupted by the “madding crowd”. After shunning the first man to love her, the shepherd Gabriel Oak, she is courted by two others: the lonely and repressed farmer Boldwood, and the charming but faithless Sergeant Troy. The role of fate is clearly established, with each twist and turn in the book being more luck than the choice of one of the characters. The book is widely seen as Hardy’s first masterpiece.


Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844 – 1889)

Hopkins isn’t properly a Romantic figure, but I have included him in the Romantic poetry section because he falls between the Romantics and the Modernists. A poem or two of his are very likely to appear on the exam, and fortunately, they are pretty easy to spot because of the unusual rhythm.

Gerard Manley Hopkins was a British Victorian poet and Jesuit priest Much of Hopkins’ historical importance has to do with the changes he brought to the form of poetry. Prior to Hopkins most Middle English and Modern English poetry was based on a rhythmic structure inherited from the Norman side of English’s literary heritage. This structure is based on repeating groups of two or three syllables, with the stressed syllable falling in the same place on each repetition. Hopkins called this structure running rhythm, and though he wrote some of his early verse in running rhythm he became fascinated with the older rhythmic structure of the Anglo-Saxon tradition, of which Beowulf is the most famous example. Hopkins called this rhythmic structure sprung rhythm. Sprung rhythm is structured around feet with a variable number of syllables, generally between one and four syllables per foot, with the stress always falling on the first syllable in a foot.

Hopkins saw sprung rhythm as a way to escape the constraints of running rhythm, which he said inevitably pushed poetry written in it to become “same and tame.” Many contemporary poets have followed Hopkins’ lead and abandoned running rhythm, though most have not adopted sprung rhythm but have instead abandoned traditional rhythmic structures all together, adopting free verse instead. Hopkins was also a practitioner of the sonnet. He also invented the “curtal sonnet” (“Pied Beauty” is an example).


A.E. Housman (1859-1936)

Alfred Edward Housman was an English poet and classical scholar, now best known for his cycle of poems A Shropshire Lad.

“When I was one-and-twenty”, “Terence, this is stupid stuff”, “To an Athlete Dying Young”


William Dean Howells

For the sake of the GRE, you need only know that Howells (1837-1920) was a late 19th, and early 20th century critic.

Howells was an American realist author. He wrote for various magazines, including Atlantic Monthly and Harper’s Magazine. He wrote his first novel, The Wedding Journey, in 1872, but his career took off with his first realist novel, A Modern Instance. His most famous novel is The Rise of Silas Lapham.

Howells also wrote plays, criticism, and essays about contemporary literary figures such as Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy, which helped establish their reputation in the United States. Nevertheless, Howells’s own reputation in American literature has waned somewhat, with his novels being considered “prudish.” According to him, the vast majority of people who would read his works were women and he wrote in a way that would not offend them. He believed that literature was potentially injurious and devoid of thought.

Today, Howells is most famous for his literary criticism and his editorial support of authors like Mark Twain, Thorstein Veblen and Henry James.


Oliver Weldell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894) was a physician by profession but achieved fame as a writer; he was one of the best regarded American poets of the 19th century. He first attained national prominence with his poem “Old Ironsides” about the 18th century battleship USS Constitution, which was to be broken up for scrap; the poem generated public sentiment that resulted in the historic ship being preserved as a monument. One of his most popular works was The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table.

In 1846, in a letter to William T. G. Morton, the dentist who was the first practicioner to publicly demonstrate the use of ether during surgery, Holmes coined the word anæsthesia.


H. D.

Hilda Doolittle, prominently known only by her initials H.D., was an American poet, novelist and memoirist. She is best known for her association with the key early 20th-century avant-garde Imagist group of poets, although her later writing represents a move away from the Imagist model and towards a distinctly feminine version of modernist poetry and prose.

Doolittle was one of the leading figures in the bohemian culture of London in the early decades of the century. Her work is noted for its use of classical models and its exploration of the conflict between lesbian and heterosexual attraction and love that closely resembled her own life. Her later poetry also explores traditional epic themes, such as violence and war, from a feminist perspective.


Ernest Hemmingway (1899-1961)

An American novelist, short-story writer, and journalist. His distinctive writing style is characterized by terse minimalism and understatement and had a significant influence on the development of twentieth century fiction. Hemingway’s protagonists are typically stoics, often seen as projections of his own character–men who must show “grace under pressure.” Many of his works are considered classics in the canon of American literature.

Hemingway, nicknamed “Papa,” was part of the 1920s expatriate community in Paris, as described in his novel A Moveable Feast. Known as part of “the Lost Generation,” a name coined and popularized by Gertrude Stein, he led a turbulent social life, was married four times, and allegedly had various romantic relationships during his lifetime.


The Sun Also Rises

The Sun Also Rises is set in the bars and cafes of Paris and the bull-rings of Pamplona during the Festival of San Fermin and the running of the bulls in the 1920s. The story is about a group of young Americans and English expatriats in Paris trying to enjoy their lives after the First World War. Alocohol plays an important part of the story, often making the characters reveal their true selves when they are drunk.
Jacob Barnes (known as Jake) is the narrator of the story and the hero. He is an American from Kansas City now living in Paris and working as writer/newspaper reporter. Jake is impotent after being wounded in the war but he is deeply in love with a woman called Brett - her full name is Lady Brett Ashley, the title she inherited from her husband. Brett is seeking a divorce from her husband and it quickly becomes clear she is a very shallow person who loves to tease men and have affairs with them but she is incapable of having any real deep feeling for anyone.
The story spans just a few weeks in the lives of Jake, Brett and a circle of friends. Hemingway makes much of the comaderie Jake has with men and the support he always offers Brett, despite her rejection of him because he is impotent. Jake sits back and watches Brett's relationships with men in a calm, controlled way but always painfully aware of his own physical inadequacies. Every time she breaks up with someone or is feeling depressed she turns to Jake.
There is repetition in the story. The inevitability that Brett will have another affair, Jake is always there to comfort her. Michael is always there to put up with her. Each character goes away to heal their wounds. Just like the sun always rising every morning and setting every night. Jake has one friend, called Bill Gordon, he is the only male character not to fall in love with Brett but just enjoys the company of Jake in Spain, whilst they fish and watch the bull fights. A bullfighter, called Pedro Romero also falls in love with Brett. He is a young, confident and handsome Spaniard, admired by all for his expertise in the ring. He tries to change Brett, to make her into a more womanly woman. He wants her to grow her hair long, (she has short boyish hair). Pedro will lose respect in his country if he carries on his liaison with Brett. They part but Brett is distraught, perhaps for the first time. She runs to Jake for support. The story finishes with Brett telling Jake they should be together but they can't because he is impotent. Last lines: As they ride in a taxi through the Spanish capital, Brett laments that she and Jake could have had a wonderful time together. Jake responds, "Yes, isn't it pretty to think so?"


“For Whom the Bell Tolls”

It tells the story of Robert Jordan, a young American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerilla unit in the mountains during the Spanish Civil War. As an expert in the use of explosives, he is given an assignment to blow up a bridge to accompany a simultaneous attack on the city of Segovia.

Behind enemy lines, with the guerrilla band of Pablo, he meets María, whose life has been shattered by the outbreak of the war. It is here that the story develops, as Pablo’s unwillingness to commit to the operation clashes with Jordan’s strong sense of duty, and even Jordan’s sense of duty clashes with his newfound love for life caused by the presence of María. A substantial portion of the novel is told through the thoughts of Robert Jordan, with flashbacks to meetings with Russians in Madrid and some reflections on his father and grandfather. Another character, Pilar, relates events that demonstrate the incredible brutality of civil war, in one case by the actions of a revolutionary mob and in another by those of governmental authorities.


“A Farewell to Arms”

The novel, a love story, draws heavily on Hemingway’s experiences as a young soldier in Italy. It tells the story of Lieutenant Frederic Henry, a young American ambulance driver serving in the Italian army during World War I. Henry falls in love with the English nurse Catherine Barkley. After he is wounded at the front by a trench mortar shell, she tends to him in the hospital during his recuperation, and their relationship develops. His recuperation and romance with the now pregnant Catherine ends abruptly when Henry must return to the front. Henry narrowly escapes death at the hands of fanatical Italian soldiers, who are executing officers separated from their troops during the Italians’ disastrous retreat following the Battle of Caporetto. He finds Catherine, and after a sojourn in an Italian resort, the couple flees to Switzerland on the eve of Henry’s arrest for deserting. In Switzerland, their child is born dead, and Catherine dies shortly after due to hemorrhages. A Farewell to Arms is an excellent example of the simple, terse prose style that made Hemingway famous.


Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

Like many writers of the post-WWI era, such as Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, Hughes spent time in Paris during the early 1920s. For most of 1924 he lived at 15 Rue de Nollet. In November 1924 Hughes moved to Washington D.C. His first book of poetry, The Weary Blues, was published in 1926. In 1929 he graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. In 1930, his first novel, Not Without Laughter, won the Harmon gold medal for literature. Hughes, who claimed Paul Laurence Dunbar, Carl Sandburg, and Walt Whitman as his primary influences, is particularly known for his insightful, colorful portrayals of black life in America from the 1920s through the 1960s. Much of his writing was inspired by the blues and jazz of that era; an example is “Montage of a Dream Deferred”, from which a line was taken for the title of the play Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry.


Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960)

Her most famous work is Their Eyes Were Watching God. The main character, Janie, embarks on an epic journey. Her search for self-fufillment as a woman and as an African-American is paralleled with that of Odysseus as her journey takes her far and wide and pits her against the forces of nature and “monsters” that try to stop her from reaching self-actualization:

The main character, a black woman in her early forties named Janie Crawford, tells the story of her life and journey via an extended flashback to her best friend, Pheoby. Her life has three major periods corresponding to her marriages to three men.

Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, was a slave who was impregnated by a white man (Hurston implies that it was the slaveowner) and gave birth to a daughter. That daughter was raped as a teenager and became pregnant with Janie, but left Janie with Nanny and is not present in the novel. Nanny sees Janie kissing a neighborhood boy and fears that Janie will become a “mule” to some man, so she arranges for Janie to marry Logan Killicks, an older man and farmer who is looking for a wife to keep his home and help on the farm. Janie has the idea that marriage must involve love, forged in a pivotal early scene where she sees bees pollinating a pear tree and believes that marriage is the human equivalent to this natural process. Logan Killicks, however, wants a domestic helper rather than a lover or partner, and after he begins to hit Janie and to try to force her to help him with the hard labor of the farm, Janie runs off with the glib Joe (Jody) Starks, who takes her to Eatonville (which in reality was Hurston’s hometown).

Starks arrives in Eatonville (the United States’s first all-black community) to find the residents devoid of ambition, so he arranges to buy more land from the neighboring landowner, hires some local residents to build a general store for him to own and run, and has himself appointed mayor. Janie soon realizes that Joe wants her as a trophy. He wants the image of his perfect wife to reinforce his powerful position in town, as he asks her to run the store but forbids her from participating in the substantial social life that occurs on the store’s front porch.

After Starks dies, Janie finds herself financially independent and beset with suitors, some of whom are men of some means or have prestigious occupations, but she falls in love with a drifter and gambler named Tea Cake. She sells the store and the two head to Jacksonville and get married, only to move to the Everglades region soon after for Tea Cake to find work planting and harvesting beans. While their relationship has its ups and downs, including mutual bouts of jealousy, Janie now has the marriage with love that she had wanted.

The area is hit with a hurricane, and while Tea Cake and Janie survive it, Tea Cake is bitten by a rabid dog while saving Janie from drowning. He contracts the disease himself. He ultimately tries to shoot Janie with his pistol, but she shoots him with a rifle in self-defense. She is charged with murder. At the trial, Tea Cake’s black, male friends show up to oppose her, while a group of local white women is there to support her. The all-white jury acquits Janie, and she returns to Eatonville, only to find the residents gossiping about her and assuming (or perhaps wishing) that Tea Cake has run off with her money.


The Odyssey

Odysseus – The protagonist of the Odyssey. Odysseus fought among the other Greek heroes at Troy and now struggles to return to his kingdom in Ithaca. Odysseus is the husband of Queen Penelope and the father of Prince Telemachus. Though a strong and courageous warrior, he is most renowned for his cunning. He is a favorite of the goddess Athena, who often sends him divine aid, but a bitter enemy of Poseidon, who frustrates his journey at every turn.

Telemachus – Odysseus’s son. An infant when Odysseus left for Troy, Telemachus is about twenty at the beginning of the story. He is a natural obstacle to the suitors desperately courting his mother, but despite his courage and good heart, he initially lacks the poise and confidence to oppose them. His maturation, especially during his trip to Pylos and Sparta in Books 3 and 4, provides a subplot to the epic. Athena often assists him.

Penelope – Wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus. Penelope spends her days in the palace pining for the husband who left for Troy twenty years earlier and never returned. Homer portrays her as sometimes flighty and excitable but also clever and steadfastly true to her husband.

Athena – Daughter of Zeus and goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts. Athena assists Odysseus and Telemachus with divine powers throughout the epic, and she speaks up for them in the councils of the gods on Mount Olympus. She often appears in disguise as Mentor, an old friend of Odysseus.

Poseidon – God of the sea. As the suitors are Odysseus’s mortal antagonists, Poseidon is his divine antagonist. He despises Odysseus for blinding his son, the Cyclops Polyphemus, and constantly hampers his journey home. Ironically, Poseidon is the patron of the seafaring Phaeacians, who ultimately help to return Odysseus to Ithaca.

Zeus – King of gods and men, who mediates the disputes of the gods on Mount Olympus. Zeus is occasionally depicted as weighing men’s fates in his scales. He sometimes helps Odysseus or permits Athena to do the same.

Antinous – The most arrogant of Penelope’s suitors. Antinous leads the campaign to have Telemachus killed. Unlike the other suitors, he is never portrayed sympathetically, and he is the first to die when Odysseus returns.

Eurymachus – A manipulative, deceitful suitor. Eurymachus’s charisma and duplicity allow him to exert some influence over the other suitors.

Amphinomus – Among the dozens of suitors, the only decent man seeking Penelope’s hand in marriage. Amphinomus sometimes speaks up for Odysseus and Telemachus, but he is killed like the rest of the suitors in the final fight.

Eumaeus – The loyal shepherd who, along with the cowherd Philoetius, helps Odysseus reclaim his throne after his return to Ithaca. Even though he does not know that the vagabond who appears at his hut is Odysseus, Eumaeus gives the man food and shelter.

Eurycleia – The aged and loyal servant who nursed Odysseus and Telemachus when they were babies. Eurycleia is well informed about palace intrigues and serves as confidante to her masters. She keeps Telemachus’s journey secret from Penelope, and she later keeps Odysseus’s identity a secret after she recognizes a scar on his leg.

Melanthius – The brother of Melantho. Melanthius is a treacherous and opportunistic goatherd who supports the suitors, especially Eurymachus, and abuses the beggar who appears in Odysseus’s palace, not realizing that the man is Odysseus himself.

Melantho – Sister of Melanthius and maidservant in Odysseus’s palace. Like her brother, Melantho abuses the beggar in the palace, not knowing that the man is Odysseus. She is having an affair with Eurymachus.

Calypso – The beautiful nymph who falls in love with Odysseus when he lands on her island-home of Ogygia. Calypso holds him prisoner there for seven years until Hermes, the messenger god, persuades her to let him go.

Polyphemus – One of the Cyclopes (uncivilized one-eyed giants) whose island Odysseus comes to soon after leaving Troy. Polyphemus imprisons Odysseus and his crew and tries to eat them, but Odysseus blinds him through a clever ruse and manages to escape. In doing so, however, Odysseus angers Polyphemus’s father, Poseidon.

Circe – The beautiful witch-goddess who transforms Odysseus’s crew into swine when he lands on her island. With Hermes’ help, Odysseus resists Circe’s powers and then becomes her lover, living in luxury at her side for a year.

Laertes – Odysseus’s aging father, who resides on a farm in Ithaca. In despair and physical decline, Laertes regains his spirit when Odysseus returns and eventually kills Antinous’s father.

Tiresias – A Theban prophet who inhabits the underworld. Tiresias meets Odysseus when Odysseus journeys to the underworld in Book 11. He shows Odysseus how to get back to Ithaca and allows Odysseus to communicate with the other souls in Hades.

Nestor – King of Pylos and a former warrior in the Trojan War. Like Odysseus, Nestor is known as a clever speaker. Telemachus visits him in Book 3 to ask about his father, but Nestor knows little of Odysseus’s whereabouts.

Menelaus – King of Sparta, brother of Agamemnon, and husband of Helen, he helped lead the Greeks in the Trojan War. He offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find Odysseus when Telemachus visits him in Book 4.

Helen – Wife of Menelaus and queen of Sparta. Helen’s abduction from Sparta by the Trojans sparked the Trojan War. Her beauty is without parallel, but she is criticized for giving in to her Trojan captors and thereby costing many Greek men their lives. She offers Telemachus assistance in his quest to find his father.

Agamemnon – Former king of Mycenae, brother of Menelaus, and commander of the Achaean forces at Troy. Odysseus encounters Agamemnon’s spirit in Hades. Agamemnon was murdered by his wife, Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, upon his return from the war. He was later avenged by his son Orestes. Their story is constantly repeated in the Odyssey to offer an inverted image of the fortunes of Odysseus and Telemachus.

Nausicaa – The beautiful daughter of King Alcinous and Queen Arete of the Phaeacians. Nausicaa discovers Odysseus on the beach at Scheria and, out of budding affection for him, ensures his warm reception at her parents’ palace.

Alcinous – King of the Phaeacians, who offers Odysseus hospitality in his island kingdom of Scheria. Alcinous hears the story of Odysseus’s wanderings and provides him with safe passage back to Ithaca.

Arete – Queen of the Phaeacians, wife of Alcinous, and mother of Nausicaa. Arete is intelligent and influential. Nausicaa tells Odysseus to make his appeal for assistance to Arete.

Remember: you’re not going to need to know about the historical contexts of these poems — just the plot synopses and major characters. You will also need to know that both poems begin in media res, meaning “in the middle of things.”

Also, you will need to know that both poems are written in dactylic hexameter.


The Iliad

Achilles – The son of the military man Peleus and the sea-nymph Thetis. The most powerful warrior in The Iliad, Achilles commands the Myrmidons, soldiers from his homeland of Phthia in Greece. Proud and headstrong, he takes offense easily and reacts with blistering indignation when he perceives that his honor has been slighted. Achilles’ wrath at Agamemnon for taking his war prize, the maiden Briseis, forms the main subject of The Iliad.

Agamemnon (also called “Atrides”) – King of Mycenae and leader of the Achaean army; brother of King Menelaus of Sparta. Arrogant and often selfish, Agamemnon provides the Achaeans with strong but sometimes reckless and self-serving leadership. Like Achilles, he lacks consideration and forethought. Most saliently, his tactless appropriation of Achilles’ war prize, the maiden Briseis, creates a crisis for the Achaeans, when Achilles, insulted, withdraws from the war.

Patroclus – Achilles’ beloved friend, companion, and advisor, Patroclus grew up alongside the great warrior in Phthia, under the guardianship of Peleus. Devoted to both Achilles and the Achaean cause, Patroclus stands by the enraged Achilles but also dons Achilles’ terrifying armor in an attempt to hold the Trojans back.

Odysseus – A fine warrior and the cleverest of the Achaean commanders. Along with Nestor, Odysseus is one of the Achaeans’ two best public speakers. He helps mediate between Agamemnon and Achilles during their quarrel and often prevents them from making rash decisions.

Diomedes (also called “Tydides”) – The youngest of the Achaean commanders, Diomedes is bold and sometimes proves impetuous. After Achilles withdraws from combat, Athena inspires Diomedes with such courage that he actually wounds two gods, Aphrodite and Ares.

Great Ajax – An Achaean commander, Great Ajax (sometimes called “Telamonian Ajax” or simply “Ajax”) is the second mightiest Achaean warrior after Achilles. His extraordinary size and strength help him to wound Hector twice by hitting him with boulders. He often fights alongside Little Ajax, and the pair is frequently referred to as the “Aeantes.”

Little Ajax – An Achaean commander, Little Ajax is the son of Oileus (to be distinguished from Great Ajax, the son of Telamon). He often fights alongside Great Ajax, whose stature and strength complement Little Ajax’s small size and swift speed. The two together are sometimes called the “Aeantes.”

Nestor – King of Pylos and the oldest Achaean commander. Although age has taken much of Nestor’s physical strength, it has left him with great wisdom. He often acts as an advisor to the military commanders, especially Agamemnon. Nestor and Odysseus are the Achaeans’ most deft and persuasive orators, although Nestor’s speeches are sometimes long-winded.

Menelaus – King of Sparta; the younger brother of Agamemnon. While it is the abduction of his wife, Helen, by the Trojan prince Paris that sparks the Trojan War, Menelaus proves quieter, less imposing, and less arrogant than Agamemnon. Though he has a stout heart, Menelaus is not among the mightiest Achaean warriors.

Idomeneus – King of Crete and a respected commander. Idomeneus leads a charge against the Trojans in Book 13.

Machaon – A healer. Machaon is wounded by Paris in Book 11.

Calchas – An important soothsayer. Calchas’s identification of the cause of the plague ravaging the Achaean army in Book 1 leads inadvertently to the rift between Agamemnon and Achilles that occupies the first nineteen books of The Iliad.

Peleus – Achilles’ father and the grandson of Zeus. Although his name often appears in the epic, Peleus never appears in person. Priam powerfully invokes the memory of Peleus when he convinces Achilles to return Hector’s corpse to the Trojans in Book 24.

Phoenix – A kindly old warrior, Phoenix helped raise Achilles while he himself was still a young man. Achilles deeply loves and trusts Phoenix, and Phoenix mediates between him and Agamemnon during their quarrel.

The Myrmidons – The soldiers under Achilles’ command, hailing from Achilles’ homeland, Phthia.

The Trojans

Hector – A son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, Hector is the mightiest warrior in the Trojan army. He mirrors Achilles in some of his flaws, but his bloodlust is not so great as that of Achilles. He is devoted to his wife, Andromache, and son, Astyanax, but resents his brother Paris for bringing war upon their family and city.

Priam – King of Troy and husband of Hecuba, Priam is the father of fifty Trojan warriors, including Hector and Paris. Though too old to fight, he has earned the respect of both the Trojans and the Achaeans by virtue of his level-headed, wise, and benevolent rule. He treats Helen kindly, though he laments the war that her beauty has sparked.

Hecuba – Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, and mother of Hector and Paris.

Paris (also known as “Alexander”) – A son of Priam and Hecuba and brother of Hector. Paris’s abduction of the beautiful Helen, wife of Menelaus, sparked the Trojan War. Paris is self-centered and often unmanly. He fights effectively with a bow and arrow (never with the more manly sword or spear) but often lacks the spirit for battle and prefers to sit in his room making love to Helen while others fight for him, thus earning both Hector’s and Helen’s scorn.

Helen – Reputed to be the most beautiful woman in the ancient world, Helen left her husband, Menelaus, to run away with Paris. She loathes herself now for the misery that she has caused so many Trojan and Achaean men. Although her contempt extends to Paris as well, she continues to stay with him.

Aeneas – A Trojan nobleman, the son of Aphrodite, and a mighty warrior. The Romans believed that Aeneas later founded their city (he is the protagonist of Virgil’s masterpiece the Aeneid).

Andromache – Hector’s loving wife, Andromache begs Hector to withdraw from the war and save himself before the Achaeans kill him.

Astyanax – Hector and Andromache’s infant son.

Polydamas – A young Trojan commander, Polydamas sometimes figures as a foil for Hector, proving cool-headed and prudent when Hector charges ahead. Polydamas gives the Trojans sound advice, but Hector seldom acts on it.

Glaucus – A powerful Trojan warrior, Glaucus nearly fights a duel with Diomedes. The men’s exchange of armor after they realize that their families are friends illustrates the value that ancients placed on kinship and camaraderie.

Agenor – A Trojan warrior who attempts to fight Achilles in Book 21. Agenor delays Achilles long enough for the Trojan army to flee inside Troy’s walls.

Dolon – A Trojan sent to spy on the Achaean camp in Book 10.

Pandarus – A Trojan archer. Pandarus’s shot at Menelaus in Book 4 breaks the temporary truce between the two sides.

Antenor – A Trojan nobleman, advisor to King Priam, and father of many Trojan warriors. Antenor argues that Helen should be returned to Menelaus in order to end the war, but Paris refuses to give her up.

Sarpedon – One of Zeus’s sons. Sarpedon’s fate seems intertwined with the gods’ quibbles, calling attention to the unclear nature of the gods’ relationship to Fate.

Chryseis – Chryses’ daughter, a priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town.

Briseis – A war prize of Achilles. When Agamemnon is forced to return Chryseis to her father, he appropriates Briseis as compensation, sparking Achilles’ great rage.

Chryses – A priest of Apollo in a Trojan-allied town; the father of Chryseis, whom Agamemnon takes as a war prize.

The Gods and Immortals

Zeus – King of the gods and husband of Hera, Zeus claims neutrality in the mortals’ conflict and often tries to keep the other gods from participating in it. However, he throws his weight behind the Trojan side for much of the battle after the sulking Achilles has his mother, Thetis, ask the god to do so.

Hera – Queen of the gods and Zeus’s wife, Hera is a conniving, headstrong woman. She often goes behind Zeus’s back in matters on which they disagree, working with Athena to crush the Trojans, whom she passionately hates.

Athena – The goddess of wisdom, purposeful battle, and the womanly arts; Zeus’s daughter. Like Hera, Athena passionately hates the Trojans and often gives the Achaeans valuable aid.

Thetis – A sea-nymph and the devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis gets Zeus to help the Trojans and punish the Achaeans at the request of her angry son. When Achilles finally rejoins the battle, she commissions Hephaestus to design him a new suit of armor.

Apollo – A son of Zeus and twin brother of the goddess Artemis, Apollo is god of the arts and archery. He supports the Trojans and often intervenes in the war on their behalf.

Aphrodite – Goddess of love and daughter of Zeus, Aphrodite is married to Hephaestus but maintains a romantic relationship with Ares. She supports Paris and the Trojans throughout the war, though she proves somewhat ineffectual in battle.

Poseidon – The brother of Zeus and god of the sea. Poseidon holds a long-standing grudge against the Trojans because they never paid him for helping them to build their city. He therefore supports the Achaeans in the war.

Hephaestus – God of fire and husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus is the gods’ metalsmith and is known as the lame or crippled god. Although the text doesn’t make clear his sympathies in the mortals’ struggle, he helps the Achaeans by forging a new set of armor for Achilles and by rescuing Achilles during his fight with a river god.

Artemis – Goddess of the hunt, daughter of Zeus, and twin sister of Apollo. Artemis supports the Trojans in the war.

Ares – God of war and lover of Aphrodite, Ares generally supports the Trojans in the war.

Hermes – The messenger of the gods. Hermes escorts Priam to Achilles’ tent in Book 24.

Iris – Zeus’s messenger.


Homer's Illiad

In the tenth year of the war between the Greeks and the Trojans, Chryses, a priest of Apollo, comes to the Greek camp to ask for the return of his daughter Chryseis. She had been captured during a raid and given as a prize to Agamemnon. When Agamemnon refuses to return the girl, Chryses begs Apollo to punish the Greeks. The result is that a plague is sent upon them. A few days later, Achilles, the greatest of the Greek warriors, calls an assembly of the Greek forces to discuss how they can bring the plague to an end. The prophet Calchas explains why Apollo is angry with the Greeks and proposes that Agamemnon give up Chryseis. Agamemnon agrees to let the girl if Briseis, the prize of Achilles, is given to him. Achilles protests the loss of Briseis, but Agamemnon sends his men to take her away. Achilles is furious at this insult inflicted on him by Agamemnon and refuses to take any further part in the fighting. He also asks his mother, Thetis, to persuade Zeus to humble Agamemnon and the Greeks. Since Zeus favors Thetis, he agrees to honor her request.

On the next day, Agamemnon marshals the Greek forces, excluding Achilles and his men, and attacks the Trojans. The Greeks succeed in their efforts due to the brilliant fighting of Diomedes. On the second day of battle, the gods, following Zeus' orders, begin to help the Trojans, and the Greeks are driven back by the Trojans. At the end of the day, the Trojans do not even return to Troy for protection; instead, they are so confident of their abilities that they camp on the plain, ready for an onslaught on the Greek camp the next day.

Worrying about the Greek losses of the day, Agamemnon realizes how greatly his army depends upon the prowess of Achilles. As a result, he sends an embassy to the Greek hero to admit that he was wrong and offering to restore Briseis and give Achilles many other gifts if he would rejoin the fighting. The proud Achilles refuses the offer.

To restore the morale of the Greek forces, Odysseus and Diomedes make a successful night attack upon the camp of one of the Trojan allies; but when the fighting begins on the third day, the Trojans, with the help of the gods, again drive the Greeks into retreat. All the great Greek heroes, except Aias, are wounded in the fighting and are forced to leave the battle. As a result, the Trojans succeed in breaking through the Greek wall and are at the point of setting fire to their ships. Worried about the eminent defeat of the Greeks, Patroclos approaches his friend Achilles and
begs him to return to the fight. Achilles agrees to let his men help in the battle and lends Patroclos his own armor for the fight.

The reappearance of Achilles' forces temporarily turns the tide of the battle in favor of the Greeks, and they are able to force the Trojans back. Hector, however, is successful in killing Patroclos and stripping the armor of Achilles from his body. Suffering over the loss of Patroclos and the armor, the Greeks are easily pushed by the Trojans into full retreat once again. Achilles, learning of the events of the day, has had enough. The death of Patroclos motivates him to rejoin the fighting. When he returns to the Greek camp and shouts his battle cry, the Trojans tremble in fear and retreat. Zeus also makes the decision to let the gods help on both sides of the fighting.


Spring and Fall

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Spring and Fall

Poem in couplets, one line longer than a sonnet. Fall of mankind, Margaret is a pearl, blah blah, catholic, blah blah.

To a young child
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves, like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow's springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.


A Raisin in the Sun

Poem by Langston Hughes but Lorainne Hansberry has a play by the same name.
The Play: The story is about the Youngers, a black family living on the South Side of Chicago. It details the family's different views on what should be done with the ten thousand dollar check. The character Mama wants to buy a house. Her son Walter Lee wants to open a liquor store, and the daughter Beneatha wants to finish her schooling. In each scene, a character is faced with a different decision.


Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

The novel opens in the year 632 A.F. (which means After Ford, the god of the New World). All of civilization has been destroyed by a great war. Then there is another war, the Nine Years War, which ushers in the era of Ford, ensuring stability through dictatorship. The society depicted in the novel is based on a rigid caste system. The higher of the five castes enjoy superior tasks, while the lower ones perform menial roles. Ten Controllers hold all the power in this new world and peace is maintained by conditioning infant minds and by soothing adults with the tranquilizer, soma. The population is further controlled through scientific methods; marriage is forbidden, and children are not born but produced in an embryo factory.
When the novel begins, some students are being given a guided tour through the London Hatcheries. Henry Foster and Lenina Crowne, two employees of this center, have been dating each other a little too often, going against state rules. Lenina's friend Fanny warns her against such promiscuity. As a result, Lenina decides to date Bernard Marx, who is very intelligent but not quite like the others of his caste.