ClSt / ComL 200:
Zeus, as king of the Olympian gods, is obviously an important --
arguably the most important -- figure in Greek mythology. But in
individual tellings of specific myths, he may be a character of large or
small importance, and he may be portrayed in a variety of different ways.
First Paper Topic
For your first paper, choose passages from two of the major readings that
we have done in the course up to this point (Hesiod's
Theogony and Works and Days, the Homeric
Hymn to Demeter, Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, and the
four Theban tragedies (Aeschylus' Seven against Thebes and
and Sophocles' Oedipus the King, Oedipus at
Colonus, and Antigone -- though you will probably
find less materially dealing with Zeus specifically in these four plays).
Consider the portrayal of Zeus in each of the two passages that you
choose, and write a comparativc analysis of the role he plays in each of the
two works you choose. In framing your essay, you may want to consider
(though you need not restrict yourself to) the following sample questions:
Your paper should be five pages in length (typed, double-spaced, 12-point
type), i.e. about 1000 words. Do not use secondary sources: the paper is
to be your own analysis, not the presentation of someone else's ideas. Do
not quote extensively from the primary sources or summarize them at great
length. Your work will be evaluated partly on its effectiveness at
highlighting and analyzing important details rather than merely
paraphrasing the general run of a narrative. You may ask for a
consultation over a preliminary draft, but should not construe the advice
you get as insuring good results: your grade depends on the quality of
your work, ie. on how well you execute any advice you may get on
how to approach the assignment.
- Hesiod's Theogony and Works and Days both
assign prominent role to Zeus; but the two poems tell very different
stories about him. What are the most important similarities and
differences between the representations of Zeus in these two poems? How
do you account for the differences in particular? What purposes do the
two accounts serve in their respective poems?
- Consider the role of Zeus in the Homeric Hymn to
Demeter. Does his prominence or lack of prominence in the
narrative reflect the importance of his role in the myth of Persephone,
or in Hymn itself? Choose from among our other major readings another
myth in which Zeus appears. Is he "the same" god in both myths? Is he
equally important in both? How do myths that celebrate any of the lesser
divinities of the Greek pantheon handle the unique figure of Zeus?
- How would you characterize Zeus in in Aeschylus' Prometheus
Bound vis-a-vis earlier portrayals of the god (in Hesiod or
"Homer" for example?). Is Aeschylus' portrayal consistent with the idea
that Zeus is the king of an orderly universe, guarantor of stability, and
source of all justice? To judge from this play. what is Aeschylus'
attitude towards Zeus' dispensation of the world?
The paper is due in sections at the beginning of
class on February 15 or 16.