The Iliad: Book XVI: Tragedy in Minature

This is an analysis of the Tragic Qualities of Book XVI: The Death of Patroclus:

Patroclus is the main protagonist. We are sympathetic to him as he's intrinsically good, as shown by his tending to Eurypulus' wound; his actions in battle are considered standard in Greek warfare. His efforts in battle are ultimately fultile however as his fate had already been prophesied, creating sense of wastefullness and futiliy. Crucially Patroclus' death is the his fault as Homer says 'had he heeded Achilles' he would have lived, his self-delusion led him to challenge the God Apollo, the fourth attempt being his downfall. There is a rising sense of doom throughout the Book as Homer's language gets increasingly extreme and Patroclus more overconfident. Emotively Patroclus gets enlighted at his very end, turning the dramatic irony of his predermined death to pathos, to prophesy Hector's at the hands of Achilles. Homer demonstrates a subtle Greek biase as Patroclus, attendant of Achilles, had to be 'stripped of his armour' by the Gods for the 'best of the Trojans' to prevail.

This is a mind-map of quotes from the Iliad supporting my argument above that Books 11-16 [particularly 16] are a Tragedy in minature. As you can see the sections are colour-coded, the darker ones being quotes from the narator Homer, the lighter Homer through another character [in this: Achilles, Patroclus or Hector].

When analysing this book it's useful to consider the common characteristics of tragic heroes according to Aristotle in his book on literary theory titled Poetics:

1.        Member of the nobility - ancestors are kings/queens/nobles probably is one himself

2.        Is pre-eminently great, usually innately kind, but has a 'hamartia' ('tragic flaw' leading to his own downfall)

3.

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  • BOOK XVI: A Tragedy in Miniature
    • PROPHESIES & WARNINGS
      • "return to me directly.. turn your back"
      • "don't lead the Myrmidons on to Ilium.."
      • "the Archer-God Apollo loves these Trojans dearly"
      • "the great fool"
      • "invoking his own destiny and a dreadful death"
      • "one half the Father granted
        • "not that he should come back safely from battle"
      • "don't entertain  any dreams of fighting on without me"
      • "are fighting... over the dead body of Patroclus"
      • "and that was the beginning of his end"
      • "Patroclus.. will fall to the spear of glorious Hector"
      • "evil destiny"
    • PATHOS
      • "grant him victory... fill his heart with daring"
      • "one half the Father granted"
      • "let him come back to me"
      • "my pride and joy" "beloved companion"
      • "words went straight to Patroclus' heart" "moved to compassion"
      • "at least allow me to fight"
      • "evil destiny"
      • "you, charioteer Patroclus"
      • "plume, defiled with blood and dust"
      • "then Patroclus the end was in sight"
      • "great-hearted"
      • "even great Achilles didn't save you"
    • IRONY
      • "equal to Ares.. like a God"
        • "Phoebus encountered you, Phoebus the terrible"
      • "we two could survive the massacre"
      • "mocking him.. you said: '..How light on his toes..'"
      • "Achilles' godlike attendant"
      • "if twenty men like you [Hector] had confronted me, they would all have fallen to my spear"
    • OVERCONFIDENCE & SELF-DELSUION
      • "you probably thought you'd sack our town... you innocent!"
      • "like an idiot"
      • "as a lion.. may fight with a tireless wild boar"
      • "Zeus and Apollo handed you that victory. They conquered me."

Comments

Kate Goodenough

I just realized a few things I forgot to mention:

A. I spelled 'Miniature' wrong 

B. When analyzing this book it's useful to consider the common characteristics of tragic heroes according to Aristotle in his book on literary theory titled Poetics:

  1. Member of the nobility - ancestors are kings/queens/nobles probably is one himself
  2. Is preeminently great, usually innately kind, but has a 'hamartia' ('tragic flaw' leading to his own downfall)
  3. There's a 'peripeteia' ('reversal of fortune' brought about by the hero's 'hamartia'), therefore it's partially his own fault, but the misfortune is not wholly deserved you could say the 'punishment exceeds the crime'.
  4. The hero is usually unaware of this downfall and therefore has 'hubris' (excessive self-confidence)
  5. His actions result in increased self-awareness and self-knowledge, an 'anagnorisis' (critical discovery), always too late to prevent his death
  6. 'pathos' (pity) and fear is always felt for this character.
  7. TROPE NOT MENTIONED BY ARISTOTLE: the character's are usually prophetic towards their deaths, usually predicting the death of their killer.
C. The Patroclus' death is easily comparable to Hector's death; this is partially due to the formulaic nature of death scenes: A misses, B gets excited and tries to win, A hits and kills B. The similarity between 'vultures are going to eat you on this very spot' (XVI Hector) and ''I only wish I could summon up the will to carve and eat you raw myself' (XXII Achilles) however suggests that Homer deliberately drew a parallel between the two to remind the audience why Achilles is killing Hector, as revenge for Patroclus' death, and as a comment on Achilles' **********, for the death of Patroclus unhinged him so that he has almost become elemental (increased similes comparing him to fire, stars, the sun and lions; this is exemplified in one of the only quotes from the Iliad in the film Troy 'there are no pacts between lions and men'). 

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