SOLVED QUESTION ANSWER B.A ENGLISH HONOURS CC-II
BURDWAN UNIVERSITY B.A. Ist Semester (Honours) Examination, 2017
Subject : English
Paper : CC-II
1. Answer any ten of the following questions :2×10=20
(a) Who were the biological parents of King Oedipus?
Ans. Laius and Jocasta were the biological parents of king Oedipus.
(b) Who were Polybus and Merope?
Ans. Polybus was the king of Corinth and Merope was his wife. They were childless. When the shepherd saved Oedipus from his imminent death and gave him to Polybus and Merope, they took care of him as their own child.
(c) Why did the priests come to speak to Oediups?
Ans. At the very beginning of the play we see that some priests have come to the palace of Oedipus to make him realize the devastating state of Thebes, as the great plague is touching everybody with its ‘icy, cold finger’, and as a result of this, ‘Thebes, like a great army, (is) dying’
. (d) How did Oedipus become the ruler of Thebes?
Ans. A winged female monster called Sphinx has been terrorizing Thebes for a certain point of time by eating men who could not answer her riddle: “what is it that walks on four legs at dawn, two legs at midday, and three legs in the evening?” Creon, appointed ruler of Thebes, offered the kingdom and the hand of his sister, Jocasta, to anyone who could solve the riddle. Oedipus solved the riddle correctly and became the king of Thebes.
(e) What motive does Oediups assign to the killer of Laius?
Ans. According to Oedipus, the killer of Laius is a sojourner of Thebes and he has killed Laius in order to fulfill his filthy vested interest of becoming the king of Thebes.
(f) What does Tiresias reveal in response to Oedipus’ accusations?
Ans. When Oedipus asked Tiresias about the cause of the plague of Thebes, the latter became silent as he could see the culprit standing in front of him who was responsible for the death-in-life situation of Thebes. Then, after seeing him mum, Oedipus became furious and accused him of plotting with Creon against him. And, after hearing this, the blind prophet Tiresias said that, Oedipus himself is the culprit who is responsible for this plague.
(g) Why does Oedipus blind himself?
Ans. When Oedipus becomes fully certain about the “truth” related to his identity he becomes totally devastated. It is very shocking to him that the very person he has been seeking is none other than himself. Precisely, he is the killer of his own father and the hubby of his own mother. This epiphanic realization appears to him as a death knell. And what puts the last nail in the coffin is the untimely death of Jocasta. Needless to say, the devastating vicissitudes of life become too much for him, and as a result of this he blinds himself.
(h) Which meter does Ovid use in Metamorphoses? How many books are there in Metamorphoses?
Ans. There are twelve books in Metamorphosis. It is written in Dactylic Hexameter.
(i) What does Phoebus ask Cadmus to do after Cadmus follows the cow? What name is given to the city that Cadmus founds?
Ans. Phoebus asked Cadmus to build the city at the place where the heifer lied down. The name of the city and the name of the place where Cadmus would settle was Thebes and Boeotia respectively.
(k) Name the four nymphs that assisted Goddess Diana during her bath.
Ans. Following are the four nymphs that assisted Goddess Diana during her bath – Nephele, Hyale, Rhanis, Psecas.
(l) Who was Semele? Why was Juno angry with her?
Ans. Juno punished Semele because she was pregnant with the child of Jupiter. Semele was Cadmus’ daughter.
(m) Which incident led to Tiresias’ transformation from a man into a woman? How many years did he spend in that form?
Ans. It was said that, Tiresias was turned into a woman for seven years for disturbing a pair of snakes which were mating.
(0) How did Bacchus appear to the Lydian sailors? Who was the captain of the ship?
Ans. Bachhus is also drawn to be a fully featured person. Unlike the other gods who appear in the book we find the physical features of Bachhus well delineated. Ovid writes that the crew of Acoetes brought Bachhus who was, “… as pretty as a girl.” And in a state of intoxication. Acoetes was the captain of the ship.
2. Answer any four of the following questions :5×4=20
(a) Briefly coment on the invocation in the Iliad.
Ans. When an epic begins, the poet generally begins with an invocation. The narrative as usual begins with an invocation to the gods trying to find the reason as to why Achilles is angry on the Greeks? The narrator requires a heavenly intervention to illuminate him. This was in line with the narrative tradition and convention of the heroic era. Invocation of the muses for minor characters seems to be important.
It shows that each and every so called minor characters in the two books will have some very important role to play in the coming chapters of the epic. Invocation serves the function of uniting the human with the divine. Primary epics were usually written on gods or demi-gods who took keen interest in the lives of men.
(b) Briefly discuss two examples of dramatic irony in Sophocles’ Oedipus the King.
Ans. Irony is a rhetorical device or event in which what appears, on the surface, to be the case, differs radically from what is actually the case. Irony may be divided into some categories like verbal irony, dramatic irony, situational irony etc. In the play Oedipus the King, Sophocles uses dramatic irony so frequently that the fundamental theme of Oedipus the King becomes more compact and condensed.
One example of dramatic irony is when Oedipus is looking for the killer of the king Laius (his father); he fails to understand the fact that he is the man he is searching for. Oedipus knows this quite well that he had killed someone but he did not have a clear idea of who he was.
If we read the play very diligently we will see how he curses Tiresias for hiding the truth from him as he goes on telling him that he is a blind prophet, he does not have any real power of foretelling things. Oedipus calls Tiresias as “stone-blind”. But the irony lies in the fact that Oedipus himself becomes blind at the end of the play. To speak the truth, when Oedipus had eyes to see he failed to see (the truth), while Tiresias (being a blind prophet) could see things properly. What can be more ironical than this?
(c) When did Jocasta realise the truth? How did she react to it?
Ans. In Sophocles’ Oedipus the King Jocasta plays a crucial role. At first she becomes uncomfortable when Oedipus tells her of his dilemma and the oracle’s prophecy. But with the arrival of the messenger from Corinth with his startling announcement that Oedipus is not the son of Polybus, she becomes puzzled and flabbergasted.
Before Oedipus realizes who he is, Jocasta realizes the awful bitter truth lurking under the apparent goodness. The messenger further tells that he found Oedipus as a baby on Mt. Cithaeron while he was herding sheep. And after hearing this, Jocasta becomes completely certain that Oedipus is her biological son and realizes the ultimate truth as well.
The reaction of Jocasta (after realizing the truth) is very heart-rending indeed. She became flabbergasted and baffled after knowing the ultimate truth. She chose silence;Jocasta chose the path which would lead her to the realm of forgetfulness through the primrose way to the everlasting bonfire’. To be precise, she committed suicide. Now, the question is; why does Jocasta commit suicide? Some say that in the end, Jocasta was willing to live in incest with.
Oedipus so long as the truth remained a secret kept from him and the people of Thebes. But when the truth was revealed, she could no longer bear her private pain, and she found it easy to take her life rather than living in such condition. But it is also important to note that, Jocasta holds her responsible for the tragic events of her life. This feeling of guilt culminates in Jocasta’s suicide. Faber interprets Jocasta’s suicide as a means of expressing her frustrated anger toward her dead husband (Laius).
(d) What was Cadmus asked to do with the teeth of the dragon and what was the consequence?
Ans. After Cadmus defeats and kills the snake, Phoebus asks Cadmus to sow the teeth. From the teeth of the snake came out a war like people. The soldiers started fighting as soon as they were born. They fought perhaps because of the two reasons. First, because they came out of the teeth of a snake which is usually considered to be a violent animal. Secondly, the snake was a favourite creature of the god of war – Mars.
People coming out the teeth of the pet of war god must be violent. We are taught that something that begins in violence ends with violence as well. Thus the poem in its simple way explains a lot about the philosophies of life. In this capacity it approaches the condition of a tragedy which often forebodes the impending doom.
(e) Who was Actaeon? What happened to him as he was Diana bathing and incurred her wrath?
Ans. Acteon was the grandson of Cadmus. Acteon changes into a stag while Acteon is in a chase, he chances upon Diana taking a bath. Diana thinks that Acteon deliberately saw Diana taking a bath. Diana also thought that seeing her naked, Acteon’s passions must have had aroused. Bringing in the theme of punishment, Diana turns him into a stag. Acteon is pursued by his own dogs and is killed. These dogs symbolised passions and desire which does not allow a person to rest in peace. Here we realized that when a person is troubled with passion then one cannot rest and could ultimately be killed by his own passions.
3. Answer any two of the following questions : 10×2=20
(a) Identify and discuss the conventions of the Greek epic with particular reference to Books I and II of the Iliad.
Ans. By definition, an epic is a poem comprising of fictional characters usually involved in huge a war. An epic is usually of great length. We can often find a lot of political intrigues. An epic has a very large scale in which things operate. This large scale includes grand clothes worn by characters, long passages of descriptions generally using epic similes, extended metaphors and other figures of speech. We also have the device of dues-ex-machina. They often help or hinder the characters in the epic. Many epics are often about a single hero who conquers many problems during the span of the epic concerned.
We have examples like Odyssey, Beowulf , and Ramayana etc. An epic usually considers to be giving us a picture of the society in which it was created since war is a primary theme of an epic, we often find heroic boasts which adds to the element of hyperbole. In epics we often find many digressions. These digressions are but a natural result of the lengthiness of the epic. When an epic begins, the poet generally begins with an invocation.
Iliad was written in a poetic format. Of course all the characters of this epic are fictional. They are involved in war with each other. Some time the wars are local and sometimes they are fought on a huge scale. For example, the entire epic describes the war between Greece and Troy. Yet we often find in book I and II, small battles between individuals as well as between tribes. For example – we find that Achilles fights with Agamemnon’s men.
Iliad is also of a huge length. It runs into thousands of lines. However, book I and II taken separately is not of such a huge length. In Iliad as early as in book I we find that there are a number of political intrigues. In fact Helen was only an excuse used by Agamemnon to attack Troy. Agamemnon had always wanted to conquer Troy. All through the two books we find Agamemnon involving himself in various deceits. We find him thinking of abetting Achilles to serve him his purpose.
Al the descriptions in the poem are of large magnitude. From the description of the huge number of Greek ships to the description of the city of Troy and its huge walls. We also find that the great warriors, kings and the queens wear magnificent armours and dresses.
From the very beginning of Iliad we find that Apollo hearing the prayer old Chryse, becomes angry at the Greek and kills them with his arrows. Again, when Achilles prays to his mother then she promises that she will help him in fact Achilles himself is half god and half human. In these two books we often find various god and goddesses interfere in human activities.
Though iliad talkes about a number of heroes. There is no single hero who is
portrayed as the all powerful or ideal hero so much so that even the mighty Achilles prays to his mother to help him against Agamemnon. Even the first two books we find our attention divided among Achilles, Hector, Agamemnon and Odysseus. Though we find many heroic acts of the heroes.
Like all epics Iliad also gives us a picture of the society in which it was written. It shows the petty ribaldries among the various, small tribes and nations also come to know about the condition of the women who were not considered anything better than commodities. We also come to know as to how the various policies maintained by the various countries for war and diplomacy.
Digressions are common in the first two books of Iliad. We are often reading about the story of the heroes as they were in their childhood. We often find the stories of the gods and goddess. They do not have anything to do with the main story of the epic. These digressions were not aided in te first draft of the epic. Rather with the progress of time, various authors added various stories tot the main text.
Thus we find that Iliad has almost all the qualities that an epic has. Like all other epics Iliad was also composed as a poem. We can safely say that Iliad is an epic.
Or, Discuss Homer’s portrayal of Achilles with reference to Books I and II of the Iliad.
Ans. Achilles was the son of Peleus, a mortal and Thetis, a goddess. Thus, Achilles is demigod. Achilles perhaps is the most important character in Iliad. It is with him that the epic begins. In the first book Achilles gets the most importance. Achilles is presented as the most valiant and sought after warrior in the epic. Yet Agamemnon says that he was great warrior because, “… God made you so . ” He could be regarded as the foil on one hand of Hector and on another hand of Agamemnon.
While Agamemnon is blinded by is intense desire for material prosperity, Achilles always maintains a balance between his material desire and his war like attitude Agamemnon was always after wealth and other avenues of fame. Achilles according to the epic always took whatever was due to him. Since Hector’s role and character is not mentioned in the first two books we will not deal with his character much. However unlike Hector who fought to protect his home, Achilles was a mercenary. Thus while Hector is a true prince, Achilles is more of a tribal chief.
Through the behaviour of Achilles we can understand a number of things about ancient Greece and their politics. For example, after being insulted by Agamemnon in book 1, Achilles could have had attacked Agamemnon. But if he had done so, then Agamemnon’s forces would have had attacked Achilles’ home.
Thus Achilles just like an intelligent chief protected his people at the cost of his own insult. Not only is Achilles a great warrior who had a strength of a hundred men but he is also a very intelligent person who tries to reason with Agamemnon’s greed. Through Achilles homer tries to show the heroes of the lore. He can be compared with Mahabharata’s Arjun.
Adding to the multi dimensional figure of Achilles, his erring and appealing to his mother to punish Agamemnon, he is presented as a common human being who cries and laments. Thus, through Achilles we can find a marvellous creation of a character who is multi dimensional.
(b) In what sense Sophocles’ Oedipus the King a tragedy?
Ans. Nobody will disagree with the fact that Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex is a tragedy. Whether it is a ‘tragedy of fate’ or a ‘tragedy of character’, is a debatable issue. Whether it is the omnipotent and omniscient god who is playing his role as a ringmaster or is it the “karma” of Oedipus himself, that is, again, very controversial indeed. When Aristotle talks about tragedy in his magnum opus Poetics, he says:
“…a tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious and also, having magnitude, complete in itself; in language with pleasurable accessories, each kind brought it separately in the parts of the work; in a dramatic, not in a narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish its cathersis of such emotions.”
To know the whole thing about this term we need to dissect the definition with the aid of the play Oedipus Rex. First of all, this is not a play about free will versus determinism. Oedipus is both free and determine as he says at the beginning of the play:
“…Here I am myselfyou all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus.”
According to Aristotle, a tragedy should be serious; now, if we read the play diligently we will never overlook the “grave” and “serious” issue of plague which consumes the people of Thebes little by little. Apart from that, the ironic riddle of Delphi, (which Oedipus loves to solve), maintains the serious air of the play very well. Again, the play’s impact on the audience is very dark and grim indeed.
As the grim setting of the play evokes a sense of terror in the minds of the audience, on the other hand, the characterization of the protagonist of the play is painted with the tinge of murky, nebulous air of uncertain mystery, which is, (needless to say), very glory for the tragic flow of the drama. It goes without saying that Sophocles’ Oedipus the King is a ‘complete tale’ of a magnanimous titular tragic character, Oedipus. The play has a beginning, a middle and an end which are peculiar to tragedy.
According to Aristotle, a tragedy, becomes successful only when it leaves an invisible excruciating, rather, titillating pain of “cathersis” in the minds of the readers or the audience. By reading the text we can assume easily the amount of pain that Oedipus has gone through, and we can connect ourselves with Oedipus as well, which, according to Aristotle, is the outstanding characteristic of a tragedy.
One of the renowned critics, Charles Segal opines that, “the tragic effect of the play lies in its dramatic iro.iy, long ago observed by Aristotle: what seems to be bringing salvation in fact brings destruction. In the very first scene the Theban priest invokes Oedipus as the “savior” from the plague, when in fact he is its cause. Later, Oedipus will curse his savior, the man who saved him from death when he was exposed on the mountain in infancy.
Despite all the attempts to avoid the three oracles- the oracles given to Laius in the remote past, to Oedipus some twenty years ago at Delphi, and to Thebes in the present- they all come true.” It is ironical to see Oedipus blind at the end of the play while at the very beginning of the play he castigates Tiresias for his blindness as conspicuous from his speech:
“You (Tiresias) have lost your power, Stone-blind, stone-deaf-senses, eyes blind as stone!”
If we call Oedipus Rex a ‘tragedy of fate’ then some pertinent questions will arise, like, why did the plague not break out immediately after Oedipus’ marriage to Jocasta? Why did Oedipus never mention his crossroad-incident to anybody? And why did Jocasta not tell Oedipus about the little child that she and Laius left to die on the mountain? And most importantly, why Oedipus took so long to put two and two together to discover the truth (about the murder of Laius and his identity), when especially after Tiresias had told him that he was the murderer, (“I say you are the murderer you hunt”).
There is a misconception about the term “tragedy”, a tragedy doesn’t always bring tears in the eyes of the readers or the spectators. The thing is, it undoubtedly brings out a sense of doleful air in minds of the spectators or the readers, but what it must do is, it should evoke a sort of “pity” and “fear” in the minds of the readers.
Now, the question is, what is the “hamartia” or “flaw” of Oedipus, as we all know that a tragedy must demonstrate a “tragic flaw” of the protagonist? One can say that the rude behavior of Oedipus as he rebukes Tiresias for not telling the actual truth about the murderer and his pointless quarrel with Creon can be taken as his “tragic flaw”. Then, is it not like Oedipus is “more sinned against than sinning”? That is the question!
One can also say that Oedipus’ downfall is camouflaged in the action of his ‘quest motif’, as he demands to ‘know himself’ from the beginning of the play. There is no shadow of doubt that Oedipus suffers from ‘hubris’ or of ‘excessive pride’. But this “hubris’ in him (as observed by Thomas Gould) does not enable him to be “a universal fatalist. Nor would it make Oedipus a puppet without character or excellence.” Unanimously, the tragic fate of Oedipus echoes the devastated and deluded image of Shakespeare’s King Lear. We are obviously reminded of the famous dictum from King Lear_by seeing the tragic doom of Oedipus :
“As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods. They kill us for their sport.”
(- King Lear, Act 4 , scene – 1) It is interesting to note that Oedipus’ sense of ‘amor fati’ turns out to be the cause behind his existential crisis. If truth is beautiful then Oedipus’ ‘beautiful truth’ is the unattainable one. Precisely, it is the sense of guilt in Oedipus that impels him to search for the ultimate truth but when he gets to know about it he is left with nothing but shedding tears by pointing his finger at himself:
“The blackest things a man can do, I have done them all!”
Sheppard interprets the philosophical theme of Sophocles’ play as a mild agnosticism or neutral fatalism. Oedipus, he declares, behaves normally, commits an error in ignorance, and brings suffering upon himself. “Sophocles justifies nothing. His Oedipus stands for human suffering… Oedipus suffers not because of his guilt, but in spite of his goodness.”
Last but not least, Sophocles’ Oedipus the King majestically portrays the quest for identity. It ako shows how ‘life’s little ironies’ prevent one to gain that eternal knowledge. Ironically chance makes him the king of Thebes and chance snatches his crown away as well. Chance saves him from the grasp of the ‘icy fingers’ of death and again, chance instigates him to blind himself. Certainly, chance works in a mysterious way. On this note, we can say that Oedipus stands out as a perfect example of the combination of human suffering and human happiness.
The more he suffers the more he acquires knowledge, the more he acquires knowledge the more he becomes aware of his identity, and the more he becomes aware of his identity the more he goes to the precipice of his doom. It is certain that nobody is (completely) happy in this world, for, as Hardy said, “happiness is but an occasional episode in the general drama of pain.”
The drama ends by throwing lights on the complicated catastrophic paths of life leading undoubtedly to grave, where all human agonies end. At the very end of the play Sophocles uses his chorus as the representative of the humanity in general as they philosophize: “count no man happy until he dies, free of all pain.”
Or, Comment on the phrase “character is destiny” with respect to the character of Oedipus in Sophocles’ play.
Ans. Sophocles’ magnum opus Oedipus the King has basically been interpreted as a tragedy of fate in which the characters are caught in a web of circumstances from which they vainly try to extricate themselves. But, a close reading of Oedipus the King would enable us to see Oedipus from a different perspective.
Oedipus is neither a mere puppet in the hands of god nor he is a poor character who falls into the web of confused circumstances. He is a man, more specifically he is a ruler; ruler of Thebes. Now, the question is which self is more dominating, the ‘ruler-self’ or the ‘person-self?
First of all, Oedipus has a range of different qualities that make him a brilliant king. He proves his intelligence by solving the riddle of the Sphinx. After ruling for almost fifteen years in Thebes, a plague has struck killing civilians indiscriminately. The people of Thebes have come to Oedipus to seek his help. He sorrowfully tells them that he can think of no solution to the problem, and says, he has sent Creon to Apollo for help. From this scene we get to know that Oedipus knows this very well how to deal with certain sudden problems. His readiness for every situation makes him a great ruler.
Now, we see a different aspect of Oedipus’ character, we see how he gradually turns into a truth-seeker, especially after knowing the fact that he is the reason behind the death of Laius and the plague of the city. It is clear from his speech that he would not let the murderer go in any condition, as he says:
“I curse myself as well…if by any chance he proves to be an intimate of our house, here at my heart, with my full knowledge,
may the curse I just called down on him strike me!” This speech hammers the impending irony in Oedipus’ life. This speech sheds light on the fact called the significance of fatalism in the life of Oedipus. Then This speech makes the distinction between Oedipus as a ‘ruler’ and Oedipus as a ‘person’. Everybody will corroborate with the fact that Oedipus’ unavoidable intrusion of fate stands in his way of becoming a great ruler; but, on the other hand, it actually helps him to make himself a great person who tries hard to qualify every test of life.
The theme of Oedipus as a ruler and the theme of Oedipus as a person go hand in hand in the play. When we get to know about Oedipus’ (fate-bound) patricide and incest we move to tears instead of developing a sense of grudge against him. This humanitarian approach (from our side) helps Oedipus to become a great person.
He is no more a man who is an instrument of fate, he is no more a ‘ruler of Thebes, he is no more a husband as well as son of Jocasta; he is rather a subdued voice of every person, he is rather an embodiment of everyman’. Undoubtedly it is the “Oracles” that cause the trouble, but we must think about Oedipus’ determinism’ as well. His oscillation between ‘fate’ and ‘free-will paves the path for his doom. If his fate determines his path to ‘everlasting bonfire’, his ‘free-will makes him a stout king of Thebes.
At the very end of play Oedipus comes to know that he is the murderer of Laius and the husband of his mother. When he comes to know that his mother cum wife has committed suicide he takes the brooch from her dress and takes out his eyes. Obviously, the sudden revelation enables him to do this abject, heart-rending task and makes him a spectrea of his former self.
It is as if he has taken a new birth from the ashes of his previous self like a Phoenix bird. To speak the truth, if the play had started with the introduction of Oedipus as a humble ‘ruler’, the play ends with the lugubrious picture of Oedipus as a ‘person’ or a human being. And that is the untold magic of Sophocles.
(c) Explain with reference to Book 3 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses the tragic consequences of change of form.
Ans. Change is supposed to be the only thing that is permanent in the world. Yet change that comes over rather too quickly is often painful especially when the people involved in the pain have gotten used to a particular way of life or things. Any quick change creates a lot of problem for the people since they need to adjust a lot with the same. The changes that comes over in the 3rd book of Metamorphoses are induced by the gods usually as a kind of punishment for the transgressions of the human.
The first change of form that we encounter is that of Jupiter turning himself into a bull to carry off Europa. Agenor asks Cadmus to search for her. Agenor tells Cadmus that if he cannot find her then he will be exiled. Cadmus could not find her and was thus exiled. Though the change of form by Jupiter is not directly responsible for this, Cadmus suffers nevertheless. The change of form that occurs is more fantastic and yet all the more tragic.
After killing the serpent, acting on the advice of Phoebus, Cadmus sows the teeth of the serpent in the ground. From the spot arose an army. However, as soon as they were born they started to fight amongst themselves and all but five of the men were left alive. A race born of a violent creature has issued forth violent men. This also forebodes a continuation of violence throughout the book.
Then we move on we find another change of form that has tragic consequences. Keeping in tune with the theme and the title Acteon metamorphosized into a deer by a curse of Diana and was killed by his own dogs. While Acteon was in a hunt, he lost his way and chanced upon goddess Diana taking a bath in a fountain. He saw Diana naked. Diana became angered by this intrusion. She thought that Acteon had done this on purpose. In anger she turned Acteon into a deer. Diana thought that since Acteoan has seen her naked, his passions might have been aroused.
In order to provide a fitting punishment, she turned him into a stag while his dogs were compared with his own desires which would not let him rest in peace. In the end of Acteon we find the theme of violence and death to predominant. These themes are also predominant themes in the entire work. In this episode we also come across of appearance and reality. The stag appear to be a stag but in reality he was Acteon. Moreover, Diana but that was not true. The theme of divine punishment is also found in the episode. Thus the death of Acteon points towards a number of important themes of Metamorphoses.
Next change of Saturnalia into an old woman to trick Semele bears devastating consequences for the latter. Juno disguised herself as an old nurse called Beroe and tricked Semele to make Jupiter come in all his power and embrace Semele. June told Semele that if often happens that many false people disguising themselves as gods cheat women.
So to prove that it was really Jupiter Semele should ask Jupiter to embrace her in all his power. Juno knew well that if Jupiter embraces a mortal in that form then the mortal is sure to die. Semele could not understand Juno’s trick and asked Jupiter to come as a god. Jupiter tried to reduce his power but could not and Semele was burnt.
Next major change occurs with Echo. After Narcissus rejected Echo she wandered alone in the woods hiding her face with her hands in shame. She started living alone. desolate caves. She did not eat nor sleep and gradually she lost her strength. Then She died slowly. What remains of her today is only her voice because her bones to wear turned into stone. Narcissus also turned into a flower with the same name but the change of form was not tragic in itself. Yet Narcissus’ falling in love with himself is tragic since it remained unrequited.
In another episode we find the punishment of the crew of Acoestes’s ship by Bacchus. One by one Bacchus turned all the twenty sailors into various kinds of sea creatures and plunged them into the sea. Even before that Bacchus presented before them various kinds of horrible shapes like panthers, tigers and lynxes. Finally, we find that Pentheus appears to be a wild boar to his own mother and aunts. He is killed by them as a consequence.
There are other changes as well but with non-tragic consequences, at least not directly. For example, Tiersias was changed into a woman for seven years for disturbing a pair of mating snakes. Though in itself it’s not tragic that he became a woman but Tiersias having an experience of a life of a woman thought that women get more out of a relationship than men do. That resulted in his getting blind by a curse of Juno.
Thus we find that in most of the cases the change of the form brought a tragic change in the lives of those in whose lives the changes came.
Or, Briefly analyse Ovid’s portrayal of the power of gods in determining human lives in Book 3 of Metamorphoses.
Ans. “As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods They kill us for their sport.”
From the very beginning of the book 3, we find that the gods have not only interfered but has also readily destroyed the lives of the human characters. The question that comes to our mind is as to why should the gods do so? First, the Greco Roman gods were not as benign as the Christian god is supposed to be. Secondly, the worship of gods by the people was based on fear rather than on love. The gods perhaps understood it perfectly well and often showed their strength upon them just to make them feel small.
Punishment guaranteed the obedience and sacrifices from the people. Perhaps Ovid was telling the allegory of the Roman way of rule over the people of Rome which was often based on arbitrary laws and regulations. The government of Rome sought to rule over their subjects not by consensus but by the might of their power. Since Ovid towards the end of life was exiled from Rome and could have had a grudge towards his emperor, he could be telling about the strict rule of law of the government within the story of Metamorphoses.
Let us take individual examples, in the first section of the 3rd book Jupiter turned himself into a bull to carry off Europa. It was because of this that Cadmus was exiled by Agenor. Cadmus goes onto find the city of Thebes. However, here too Cadmus gets involved in a bloody battle with the pet of Mars. The teeth of the dead serpent are planted under the advice of Phoebus.
The killing of his favourite animal perhaps was not looked upon very amicably by Mars. Though he did not personally came down to punish Cadmus but he ensured that the coming generations of Cadmus will always face a gruesome death. It was a tragic foreboding that came true throughout the book. First it was Acteon and then Semele and then Pentheus.
Keeping in tune with the theme and the title Acteon metamorphosized into a deer by a curse of Diana and was killed by his own dogs. While Acteon was in a hunt, he lost his way and chanced upon goddess Diana taking a bath in a fountain. He saw Diana naked. Diana became angered by this intrusion. She thought that Acteon had done this on purpose. In anger she turned Acteon into a deer. Diana thought that since Acteoan has seen her naked, his passions might have been aroused.
In order to provide a fitting punishment, she turned him into a stag while his dogs were compared with his own desires which would not let him rest in peace. In the end of Acteon we find the theme of violence and death to predominant. These themes are also predominant themes in the entire work. While being a goddess who should be omniscient, she should have had understood that Acteon did not do it intentionally. Then either Diana was not omniscient or she thought that it will be a good sport to turn Acteon into a stag.
Confirming Plato’s idea that poets often presented gods in a bad light, Ovid shows Jupiter to be a womaniser , who cheats upon his wife Juno. In this episode Jupiter had made love to Semele. Semele is pregnant with Jupiter’s child. Juno is obviously very jealous. She decides to punish Semele. Disguising herself as an old maid she persuades Semele to ask Jupiter to come to her as a god. The old maid argued that many women claim that they bear the child of gods.
In order to prove that Semele’s lover was truly Jupiter, Semele should call Jupiter in his original form. Though reluctant, Jupiter in order to fulfil his promise to Semele, comes with all his terrible glory and Semele dies due to the same. The question that could trouble us is this – if Juno was so jealous why didn’t she hurt Jupiter himself? Why should the gods trouble the weak mortals? Perhaps then gods weren’t that powerful or they chose to do what was easy.
In another episode we find the punishment of the crew of Acoestes’s ship by Bacchus. One by one Bacchus turned all the twenty sailors into various kinds of sea creatures and plunged them into the sea. Even before that Bacchus presented before them various kinds of horrible shapes like panthers, tigers and lynxes. Finally, we find that Pentheus appears to be a wild boar to his own mother and aunts and is killed by them as a consequence.
The goddess of Nemesis punished Narcissus even when Narcissus himself never did anything wrong to her. She only listened to the prayers of those whom Narcissus rejected. Narcissus’ pride was something that became the eye sore of the divine powers.
Thus we find that the gods through their tremendous vengeance show their true strength upon humans. This show of strength was necessary because the superstitious humans wouldn’t have had worshipped the gods otherwise.
(d) Elaborate on the significance of the title of The Pot of Gold.
Ans. The Pot of Gold is the story of an old man who is extremely avaricious and also close-fisted and stingy. Plautus here upholds the hollowness of the society through the image of Euclio, one of the main (stock) characters in the play. The plot of the play The Pot of Gold revolves round Euclio and his magnanimous pot of gold which he gets from his household god (i.e. Lar Familiaris).
It is because of the pot of gold we get to know more about human nature. Again, it is because of this pot of gold we come to know about the societal norms and traditional ethics of that time as Plautus has beautifully described in this play Pot of Gold.
The play begins with the prologue told by the guardian spirit of Euclio’s house, where he lays bare the fact that he is guarding a pot of gold which Euclio’s grandfather buried beneath the fireplace in the house without telling anybody. So, the household god Lar Familiaris gives the pot to gold to Euclio so that he can spend the money on his daughter’s wedding.
But, after getting the pot of gold from the god Euclio becomes completely obsessed with it and becomes over-possessive. He suspects everybody by taking it for granted that the person has come to grab his gold. Needless to say, his over-suspicious nature brings out mirth and fun in the audience.
The title of the play is very significant in the sense that it brings out the hypocrisy of the then society through the portrayal of Euclio. The pot of gold is not just a receptacle; it is the main concern of the play. It is because of this pot of gold we come to know about the vanity and hypocrisy of the Roman society. And it is because of this pot of gold we get to hear the following words from Euclio’s lips:
“When a rich man addresses thus the poor, He knows I’ve gold: and hence his kindly words.” (Act-II, Scene-II)
Needless to say, the whole plot of the play focuses on the pot of gold; the way it is bestowed by Lar Familiaris to Euclio and the way it is lost by him are important. Again, it is not just a pot of gold; it is an insignia of one’s capability of controlling his avarice. This ‘petty’ pot of gold makes the readers realize that avarice is an extremely obnoxious vice in a person which makes the person ridiculous and contemptible. At the same time, this pot of gold is the source of sleeplessness and uneasiness as conspicuous from the speech of Euclio:
“Now I will go and see if the gold is there. Just as I hid it, gold which has become A constant source of trouble to myself.”
(Act-I, scene-I) The play critiques on the value of money; it says money has value only when it adds to a man’s happiness and increases his contentment. Plautus here wants to uphold the vivid picture of avarice, lust and hypocrisy through the ‘pot of gold’.
It is a satire on the contemporary Roman society where marriage is nothing but a mere plaything; where women do not share their views or they do not have any social stand; where predominant moral values uphold the hollowness of male-chauvinism; And where malice and rancor are prevalent everywhere. Now, if we observe clearly we would not fail to overlook Megadorus’ view on the ethics and morality :
“Contentment, peace of mind, and sound sleep at night,
Are worth than a dozen pots of gold.” Unanimously, the title of the play magnificently sums up the entire plot of the play in a nutshell. It describes how a helpless father wants to marry off his daughter pompously, at the same time it shows the utter hypocrisy of the same father and his over-suspicious nature.
That demonstrates how a pot of gold becomes the source of both pleasure and pain at the same time. It depicts the opaque light of faith and the fluctuating filthy flame of evil which lurks under the apparent garb of goodness. So, by seeing all these issues we can draw a conclusion here, that is, we can now safely say that the title of the play “The Pot of Gold” is very apt and unique.
.Or, Critically evaluate the representation of female characters in The Pot of Gold.
Ans. If the whole plot of the play The Pot of Gold revolves round the old skinflint Euclio, the very structure of the play is founded upon the concrete presence of the three women characters; they are Staphyla, Eunomia and Phaedria (though she is not physically present in the play). Plautus here deploys a number of female characters in the play to maintain the very structure of the play.
According to Ann R. Raia, female characters in Plautine comedies can be classified into five stereotypes: the puella or young maiden, the matron or married woman, the matrix or courtesan, the ancilla or handmaid, and the anus or old woman. At the very beginning of the play we get to see the terrible psycho-somatic torture of Staphyla (Euclio’s housekeeper) in the hands of Euclio.
Plautus uses this stock character to provide a sort of commentary on the play, much like a Greek chorus, and also to act as a foil to the absurdity of the central characters. For instance, it is Staphyla who informs the audience of Phaedria’s pregnancy. Through the portrayal of Staphyla, Plautus actually tries to uphold the miserable, pathetic condition of the Roman society and lacuna of the same.
The play opens with Staphyla’s heart-rending cry as she is being beaten up by her master Euclio. This scene evocatively provokes and touches our perturbed soul when we get to see Staphyla’s mind perturbed by the brutal behavior of her master, as she says:
“I (Staphyla) can’t think what has happened to my master, Nor why he is so mad: he beats me so, And thrust me out of doors ten times a day.”
(Act – I, Scene – II) This scene actually opens up plethora of expected interpretations in the minds of the readers. One can assume that, this is how a master treats his servant; this is how a voman is cocooned in the hands of the patriarchy; this is how one gets the advantage of having the upper hand, specially, when someone is below his social status.
The second important woman character in the play is Megadorus’ sister Eunomia. She cares for her brother and tries to dominate him by imposing her ethics on him regarding the marriage. She wants to see his brother getting married which the latter scornfully rejects. But when he agrees to marry the daughter of his next door neighbour, Euclio, she becomes instantly happy.
Again, after a point of time we get to see her coming again to Megadorus to dissuade him from marrying the same woman as the woman has been chosen by Eunomia’s son Lyconides as his wife.
Here lies the major dramatic irony of the play. This act obviously shows the fickle-minded nature of Eunomia and unearths the fact that even a woman treats another woman as a mere innocuous, innocent plaything; (as if) she (Phaedria) has no right to choose her partner. Anyway, the scene between Megadorus and Eunomia eyokes a sense of laughter in the audience or the readers as she first persuades him to marry a girl and later dissuades him from marrying the same girl, so that her son could marry her.
The next woman character in the play is Phaedria . She can be termed as a typical representation of a silly girl.Phaedria does not physically appear in the play but we can feel her presence through everybody’s words. She becomes involved in an illegitimate relationship with Lyconides. when we get to hear that she is going to give birth to an illegitimate child we become shocked. When we hear Phaedria’s labour pain coming from the backstage we are inclined to look at her from a tragic angle. Needless to say she is a very shy, passive and meek character in the play.
In conclusion, we may say that Plautus’ Pot of Gold typically typifies the types of women of that time. If Staphyla is the loyal and compassionate servant in the play, Eunomia is a married woman. she tries to control his brother (and her son to some extent). But the question is, why has Plautus excluded Phaedria from the main action of the play and why he has not provided any dialogue to her?
This question is remained unanswered and it questions the utter hypocrisy of that time. This act actually drags Plautus to the court as it silences the very agonized voice of a distress woman. Because we all know that voices are essential aspects of our humanity, and to be rendered voiceless is to be dehumanized or excluded from one’s humanity.