In the final book of the Iliad, Priam, the King of Troy, comes to beg Achilles to give him the body of his son Hector, whom Achilles has killed. Achilles is also grieving over the loss of his beloved Patroclus, whom Hector killed. In the passage below, Achilles addresses Priam and reflects upon the human condition (the way things are for human beings). Read the passage below carefully (at least once) and then answer the two questions.
“Ah, the suffering you’ve had, and the courage.
To come here alone to the Greek ships
and meet my eye, the man who slaughtered
your many fine sons! You have a heart of iron. 560
But come, sit on this chair. Let our pain
lie at rest a while, no matter how much we hurt.
There’s nothing to be gained from cold grief.
Yes, the gods have woven pain into mortal lives,
while they are free from care. 565
Two jars sit at the doorstep of Zeus,
filled with gifts that he gives,
one full of good things, the other of evil.
If Zeus gives a man a mixture from both jars,
sometimes life is good for him, sometimes not. 570
But if all he gives you is from the jar of woe,
you become a pariah, and hunger drives you
over the bright earth, dishonored by gods and men…”
(Iliad, Book 24, lines 557-573)
1) In three to six sentences describe what kind of view Achilles holds about human existence (for example, ‘Achilles holds an optimistic view of human existence, in which life is paradise’) and explain how the image of Zeus and the jars (lines 566-573) conveys this view.
2) In two to five sentences explain how Achilles is characterized in this passage (for example, ‘Achilles is described as/appears to be angry in this passage’). Illustrate your points with reference to specific lines from the passage.
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