Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Iliad Summary

The story of the Iliad

The Iliad (Ancient Greek Ἰλιάς, Ilias) is, together with the Odyssey, one of two ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer, a supposedly blind Ionian poet. The epics are considered by most modern scholars to be the oldest literature in the Greek language (though some believe that the works of the poet Hesiod were composed earlier, a belief that was also held by some classical Greeks). For most of the twentieth century, the Iliad and the Odyssey were dated to the 8th century BC. Some still argue for an early dating, notably Barry B. Powell, who has proposed a link between the writing of the Iliad and the invention of the Greek alphabet. Many others (including Martin West and Richard Seaford) now prefer a date in the 7th or even the 6th century BC.

The poem concerns events during the tenth and final year in the siege of the city of Ilion, or Troy, by the Greeks (See Trojan War). The word "Iliad" means "pertaining to Ilion" (in Latin, Ilium), the city proper, as opposed to Troy (in Greek, Τροία, Troía; in Latin, Troia), the state centered around Ilium, over which Priam reigned. The names "Ilium" and "Troy" are often used interchangeably.
The Iliad begins with these lines:

μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος
οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί' Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε' ἔθηκεν,
Sing, goddess, the rage of Achilles the son of Peleus,
the destructive rage that sent countless pains on the Achaeans...

The first word of the Iliad is μῆνιν (mēnin), "rage" or "wrath". This word announces the major theme of the Iliad: the wrath of Achilles. When Agamemnon, the commander of the Greek forces at Troy, dishonors Achilles by taking Briseis, a slave woman given to him as a prize of war, Achilles becomes enraged, and withdraws from the fighting. Without Achilles' prowess in battle, the Greeks are nearly defeated by the Trojans. Achilles re-enters the fighting when his dearest friend Patroclus is killed by the Trojan prince Hector. Achilles slaughters many Trojans, and kills Hector. In his rage he then refuses to return Hector's body and instead defiles it. Priam, the father of Hector, ransoms his son's body, and the Iliad ends with the funeral of Hector.

Of the many themes in the Iliad, perhaps the most important is the idea of moral choice. Achilles believes he has two options: he can either live a long, unremarkable life at home or else he can die young and gloriously as a mercenary warrior. Military adventuring (that is, pillage and plunder) was a way of life in pre-Homeric times, and the many ruins of thick-walled cities and fortresses in the region give silent testimony to the fear that must have characterized life in the ancient world.
For some men, military adventuring is a more attractive choice than staying home on the farm. Death in battle leads to honor and glory—timae and kleos—which were important values of the day — more important than even right and wrong. One of the remarkable things about the Iliad is the way that Achilles, especially in Book 9, both embraces concepts of honor and glory and also rejects them. It should be noted that, despite the fact that he is the antagonist in the story, Hector probably best displays the qualities of an ancient Mediterranean hero.

Many Greek myths exist in multiple versions, so Homer had some freedom to choose among them to suit his story. See Greek mythology for more detail.

[edit] Background to the Iliad: the Trojan War

The action of the Iliad covers only a few weeks of the tenth and final year of the Trojan War. Neither the background and early years of the war (Paris' abduction of Helen from King Menelaus), nor its end (the death of Achilles and the fall of Troy), are directly narrated in the Iliad. Many of these events were narrated in other epic poems collectively known as the Epic Cycle or Cyclic epics; these poems only survive in fragments. See Trojan War for a summary of the events of the war.

The story of the Iliad

As the poem begins, Apollo has sent a plague against the Greeks, who have captured Chryseis, the daughter of Apollo's priest Chryses, and given her as a prize to Agamemnon. Agamemnon is compelled to restore Chryseis to her father to stop the plague. In her place, Agamemnon takes Briseis, whom the Achaeans had given to Achilles as a spoil of war. Achilles, the greatest warrior of the age, follows the advice of his goddess mother, Thetis, and withdraws from battle in revenge so that the allied Achaean (Greek) armies nearly lose the war.
In counterpoint to Achilles' pride and arrogance stands the Trojan prince Hector, son of King Priam, a husband and father who fights to defend his city and his family. The death of Patroclus at the hands of Hector brings Achilles back to the war for revenge, and he slays Hector. Later Hector's father, King Priam, comes to Achilles alone (but aided by Hermes) to ransom his son's body back, and Achilles is moved to pity; the funeral of Hector ends the poem.

Book summaries
• Book 1: Nine years into the war, Agamemnon seizes Briseis, the captive slave girl of Achilles, since he has had to give away his own; Achilles withdraws from the fighting in anger; in Olympus, the gods argue about the outcome of the war
• Book 2: Agamemnon pretends to order the Greeks home to test their resolve; Odysseus encourages the Greeks to keep fighting; Catalogue of Ships, Catalogue of Trojans and Allies
• Book 3: Paris challenges Menelaus to single combat; Paris is rescued from death by Aphrodite
• Book 4: The truce is broken and battle begins
• Book 5: Diomedes has an aristeia (a period of supremacy in battle) and wounds Aphrodite and Ares
• Book 6: Glaucus and Diomedes greet each other during a truce; Hector returns to Troy and speaks to his wife Andromache
• Book 7: Hector battles Ajax
• Book 8: The gods withdraw from the battle
• Book 9: Agamemnon retreats; his overtures to Achilles are spurned
• Book 10: Diomedes and Odysseus go on a spying mission
• Book 11: Paris wounds Diomedes; Achilles sends Patroclus on a mission
• Book 12: The Greeks retreat to their camp and are besieged by the Trojans
• Book 13: Poseidon encourages the Greeks
• Book 14: Hera helps Poseidon assist the Greeks; Deception of Zeus
• Book 15: Zeus stops Poseidon from interfering
• Book 16: Patroclus borrows Achilles' armour, enters battle, kills Sarpedon and then is killed by Hector
• Book 17: The armies fight over the body and armour of Patroclus
• Book 18: Achilles learns of the death of Patroclus and receives a new suit of armour. The Shield of Achilles is described at length
• Book 19: Achilles is reconciled with Agamemnon and enters battle
• Book 20: The gods join the battle; Achilles tries to kill Aeneas
• Book 21: Achilles does battle with the river Scamander and encounters Hector in front of the Trojan gates
• Book 22: Achilles kills Hector and drags his body back to the Greek camp
• Book 23: Funeral games for Patroclus
• Book 24: Priam, the King of the Trojans, secretly enters the Greek camp. He begs Achilles for Hector's body. Achilles grants him it, and it is taken away and burned on a pyre

Plot Summary

Homer's Iliad begins nine years after the Greek armies first arrived at Troy. A plague has overcome the Greek armies because Agamemnon has refused to return the daughter of a Priest of Apollo. Achilles, the epic's central character, exposes this fact and confronts the king. Agamemnon agrees to release this girl, if, and only if, Achilles gives him his 'war-prize', Briseis in return. Achilles finds this to be tremendously unjust and withdraws from battle taking with him all of his soldiers. He asks the gods to grant him revenge and make the Greeks require his assistance in order to win Achilles remains withdrawn for the greater portion of the epic.
Agamemnon is encouraged to attack by a dream and after some trouble with his troops, rallies them. The Trojan side rallies also. The two armies move towards each other but are stopped by a challenge from Hector: Paris and Menelaus are to fight one on one to decide the war. Paris flees the battle with the help of a divinity and Menelaus rages on with his brother demanding the release of Helen and her treasure.
Zeus, the king of the gods, calls an assembly of the gods and orders them to stop helping the battle because he has decided how it is going to turn out. Meanwhile the battle continues near Troy. The Greek Diomedes makes a heroic stand and kills many Trojans. The Trojan Aeneas fights Diomedes and is wounded but eventually rescued by his mother, Aphrodite. Ares reenters the battle on the Trojan side. With Ares at his side, Hector goes on a rampage. Ares is wounded by Diomedes as Hera and Athena enter to help the Greeks.

Telamonian Ajax joins Diomedes and the Greeks begin to repulse the Trojans. Hector returns to Troy to pray for Diomedes to be taken from battle. He chastises Paris for cowardice, speaks to Helen and spends some time with his wife Andromache. Paris and Hector return to war. The Trojans rally again and then Hector challenges a Greek captain to a duel. Ajax fights him but the duel is ended by nightfall and a truce. Both sides debate the follow day of the war expressing the need for a truce to care for their dead. The Trojans propose a settlement. The Greeks reject this, but agree to a truce day for burials.

Zeus again threatens the assembled gods and for a while they heed him. The battle begins and the Trojans, with the blessing of Zeus, push the Greeks back to their earthen walls. Zeus gives an omen to the Greeks and they rally. The Trojans rally again and continue to push onward. Night comes and the Trojan army camps outside the city. The Greeks send an embassy to Achilles requesting his return to battle in exchange for treasure and an unharmed Briseis. Achilles refuses. The Greeks go to sleep but the captains stay awake and Odysseus and Diomedes raid the Trojan camps. They kill the Trojan Dolon and steals horses from the Thracian camp.
The battle begins the next day with a Greek rally led by Agamemnon. Zeus instructs Hector not to fight until Agamemnon is wounded. With this omen fulfilled, Hector rallies the Trojans and pushes towards the ships. Odysseus and Diomedes are also wounded. Achilles watches the battle and sends Patroclus to see who has been wounded. The Trojans continue attacking and with extraordinary feats of strength and bravery by Hector and Sarpedon, they storm the Greek camp. The fighting remains fierce near the Greek ships. With Zeus turned away from the battle, Poseidon inspires Ajax and Idomeneus to fight more fiercely. Hector is driven back and wounded.
Nestor, wounded, goes back to the battle with other Greek captains in order to rally the troops. Hera plots to seduce Poseidon and put Zeus to sleep. With the king of the Gods sleeping, Poseidon enters the battle on the Greek side and the Trojans are routed.

Zeus wakes and reinvigorates the Trojan line. Apollo helps Hector back into battle and the Trojans again push to the Greek Ships. Ajax defends these valiantly and Nestor continues to spur on the Troops. Hector calls for torches to burn the boats as Patroclus observes the panic in his compatriots.
Patroclus returns to Achilles and requests to enter the battle. Achilles lets him go leading the myrmidons. Ajax and Hector continue to fight each other near the ships when the myrmidons enter battle led by Patroclus, easily mistaken for Achilles in the hero's armor. Patroclus kills the Trojan son of Zeus, Sarpedon and the battle centers around his body. Zeus has Apollo rescue the corpse of his son. The battle is pushed back to the walls of Troy Paris attempts to storm the walls of the city, ignoring the advice of Achilles. Patroclus is killed by a combination of the Trojan Euphorbus, Apollo and Hector.

With the death of Patroclus, the Trojans regain some ground as the two sides struggle for the body. Hector follows Achilles' chariot, desiring his horses. Hector is wounded and must retreat. The Greeks save the body of Patroclus. A runner brings the news of Patroclus' death to Achilles and the hero mourns requesting revenge from his mother. Thetis goes to Hephaestus and gets a new set of armor for her son which she bestows on him even though she finds him lying on the ground weeping.
Achilles goes to battle and Zeus releases the gods to fight as they desire. Aeneas stands up to Achilles but is wounded, saved again by a god. Achilles and Hector clash with their troops following and Achilles rampage continues.

Achilles splits the Trojan line and murders many in the near-by river Xanthus. The river god gets angry with him and Achilles eventually attacks the god himself. The god retaliates and chases Achilles only to be stopped by Hephaestus who repulses him at Hera's bidding. Achilles presses to the very walls of Troy. Hector exits to meet his adversary but then flees him, running around the city three times. Athena tricks him into facing Achilles who kills him after a short struggle. The Greeks dishonor Hector's body and Achilles drags him back to their camp behind his chariot.
The Greeks have a feast and build a pyre for Patroclus. They burn and then bury his body. After this, Achilles hosts a set of funeral games for his fallen friend. At night Zeus has Thetis tell her son that Hector ought to be ransomed and Iris tell Priam to ransom his son. With divine help, Priam comes to Achilles' camp and ransoms the body of his son. The two share a meal together and go to sleep. Priam leaves at the goading of Hermes before day break and the epic ends with the funeral of Hector.

Major characters

The Iliad contains a sometimes confusingly great number of characters. The latter half of the second book (often called the Catalogue of Ships) is devoted entirely to listing the various commanders. Many of the battle scenes in the Iliad feature bit characters who are quickly slain. See Trojan War for a detailed list of participating armies and warriors.
• The Achaeans (Αχαιοί) - the word "Hellenes", which would today be translated as "Greeks", is not used by Homer
o Achilles (Αχιλλεύς) the leader of the Myrmidons (Μυρμιδόνες) and the principal Greek champion whose anger is one of the main elements of the story
o Agamemnon, (Αγαμέμνων), King of Mycenae, supreme commander of the Achaean armies whose actions provoke the feud with Achilles; brother of King Menelaus
o Calchas, (Κάλχας) a powerful Greek prophet and omen reader, who guided the Greeks through the war with his predictions.
o Menelaus, Helen's husband and younger brother of Agamemnon, King of Ancient Sparta
o Nestor, (Νέστωρ), Menelaus, (Μενέλαος), Diomedes, (Διομήδης), Idomeneus, (Ιδομενεύς), and Telamonian Ajax, (Αίας ο Τελαμώνιος), kings of the principal city-states of Greece who are leaders of their own armies, under the overall command of Agamemnon
o Odysseus,(Οδυσσεύς) another warrior-king, famed for his cunning, who is the main character of another (roughly equally ancient) epic, the Odyssey
o Patroclus, (Πάτροκλος), beloved companion to Achilles
• The Trojans and their allies
o Aeneas, (Αινείας) cousin of Hector, and his principal lieutenant
o Hector, (Έκτωρ) firstborn son of King Priam, leader of the Trojan and allied armies and heir apparent to the throne of Troy
o Glaucus and Sarpedon, leaders of the Lycian forces allied to the Trojan cause
o Paris, (Πάρις) Trojan prince and Hector's brother, also called Alexander; his abduction of Helen is the casus belli. He was supposed to be killed as a baby because his sister Cassandra saw the destruction of Troy because of him. Raised by a shepherd.
o Priam, (Πρίαμος) king of the Trojans, too old to take part in the fighting
• Female characters
o Andromache, (Ανδρομάχη) Hector's wife and mother of their infant son, Astyanax (Αστυάναξ)
o Briseis, a woman captured in the sack of Lyrnessos, a small town in the territory of Troy, and awarded to Achilles as a prize; Agamemnon takes her from Achilles in Book 1 and Achilles withdraws from battle as a result
o Hecuba, (Εκάβη) Queen of Troy, wife of Priam, mother of Hector, Cassandra, Paris etc
o Helen, (Ελένη) former Queen of Sparta and wife of Menelaus, now espoused to Paris
The Olympian deities, principally Zeus, Hera, Apollo, Aphrodite, Ares, Eris, Athena, Hermes and Poseidon, appear in the Iliad as advisers to and manipulators of the human characters. All except Zeus become personally involved in the fighting at one point or another (See Theomachy).
Technical features
The poem is written in dactylic hexameter. The Iliad comprises 15,693 lines of verse. Later Greeks divided it into twenty-four books, or scrolls, and this convention has lasted to the present day with little change.

The Iliad as oral tradition
The Iliad and the Odyssey were considered by Greeks of the classical age and after as the most important works in Ancient Greek literature, and were the basis of Greek pedagogy in antiquity. As the center of the rhapsode's repertoire, their recitation was a central part of Greek religious festivals. The book would be spoken or sung all night (modern readings last around 20 hours), with audiences coming and going for parts they particularly enjoyed.

Throughout much of their reception, the Iliad and Odyssey were assumed to be literary poems. However in the late 19th century and the early 20th century, scholars began to question this assumption. Milman Parry, a classical scholar, was intrigued by peculiar features of Homeric style: in particular the stock epithets and the often extensive repetition of words, phrase and even whole chunks of text. He argued that these features were artifacts of oral composition. The poet employs stock phrases because of the ease with which they could be applied to a hexameter line. Taking this theory, Parry travelled in Yugoslavia, studying the local oral poetry. In his research he observed oral poets employing stock phrases and repetition to assist with the challenge of composing a poem orally and improvisationally.

The relationship of Achilles and Patroclus

The precise nature of the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus has been the subject of some dispute in both the classical period and modern times. In the Iliad, it is clear that the two heroes have a deep and extremely meaningful friendship, but the evidence of a romantic or sexual element is equivocal. Commentators from the classical period to today have tended to interpret the relationship through the lens of their own cultures. Thus, in fifth-century Athens the relationship was commonly interpreted as pederastic, since pederasty was an accepted part of Athenian society. Contemporary readers are more likely to interpret the two heroes either as non-sexual "war buddies" or as a similarly-aged homosexual couple.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Divine Comedy

The Divine Comedy
by Dante Alighieri (1265 - 1321)
Type of Work:
Allegorical religious poem
Hell, Purgatory and Paradise; A.D. 1300
Principal Characters
Dante, the Pilgrim
Virgil, the Poet, and Dante's guide
Beatrice, Dante's womanly ideal and religious inspiration
Story Overview

Prologue: Dante, realizing he has strayed from the "true way,. into worldliness, tells of a vision where he travels through all the levels of Hell, up the mount of Purgatory, and finally through the realms of Paradise, where he is allowed a brief glimpse of God.

The traveler sets out on the night before Good Friday, and finds himself in the middle of a dark wood. There he encounters three beasts: a leopard (representing lust), a lion (pride) and a she-wolf (covetousness). Fortunately, his lady, Beatrice, along with the Virgin Mary herself, sends the spirit of Virgil, the classical Latin poet, to guide Dante through much of his journey. But as much as Dante admires and reveres Virgil, and though Dante considers him to have prophesied of the coming of Christ, Virgil is not a Christian. To Dante he represents human knowledge, or unholy reason, which cannot lead a person to God. This infidel may not pass into the highest realms. Thus, Dante is finally led to Heaven by Beatrice, his own personal and unattainable incarnation of the Virgin, who represents divine knowledge, or faith.

Pilgrimage: Terrified, lost "midway in life's journey" in the worldly darkness of error, Dante met Virgil, who offered himself as a guide. Together they passed through the gates of Hell inscribed with the terrifying words: "Abandon every hope, Ye that Enter." Dante, however, as a living soul who had not yet tasted death, was exempt from such final despair. He found Hell to be a huge funnel-shaped pit divided into terraces each a standing-place for those individuals who were guilty of a particular sin. After passing Limbo, reserved for the unbaptized, Dante observed and conversed with hundreds of Hell's souls, many of whom, guilty of carnal sins, were being whirled about in the air or forced to lie deep in mud or snow, under the decrees of eternal damnation. Ciacco, a fellow Florentine, implored of Dante "... When thou shalt be in the sweet world, I pray thee bring me to men's memory."

In pity, Dante frequently offered to write about those he met when he returned to mortality. These gluttons, seducers, and robbers were, for the most part, either historical figures or Dante's personal acquaintances - and each one of them represented one of the apt and horrible possibilities of Hell. For example, Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun were found dwelling in Hell's seventh terrace, forced to grovel in boiling blood - a just end for those who in life loved violence.

In the very depths of Hell was Satan - with three heads, each grasping a sinner in its mouth, and with three pairs of wings that continuously beat over the waters around him, freezing them into perpetual currents of ice.

Dante and Virgil cautiously climbed down the body of Satan. About midway, they turned and scrambled out through an opening (earth's center of gravity) where all things were the opposite of Hell: The sun was shining; it was Easter morning. Now hiking on in silence, they finally arrived on the shores of the Mount of Purgatory, located exactly opposite Jerusalem on the globe.

First and lowest on the mountain was Antepurgatory, a place reserved for those spirits who were penitent in life, who had died without achieving full repentance or without receiving the last sacrament of the church. They were required to spend time there before they could begin their arduous climb up the mountain. A group of those poor souls who had passed away suddenly, unable to receive extreme unction, pled with the mortal visitor to speak with their relatives and friends, urging them to pray that their stay in Ante-purgatory might be shortened.

As the pilgrims entered Purgatory, an angel inscribed the letter "P" on Dante's forehead seven times, to represent the seven deadly sins (pride, envy, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust). As Dante made his way through the seven areas reserved for those who committed each of these sins, the letters were erased one by one, and the climb became less difficult.

Like Hell, Purgatory was arranged in terraces. However, the inhabitants here could, through confession, repentance, patience, and the prayers of the living, move on to higher realms after a time of proper purification. In the first terrace (pride), the occupants bowed down under huge stones which they carried on their backs, while reciting The Lord's Prayer, a fitting penance for haughty souls. Each terrace in turn was designed to purge its dead souls of one particular deadly sin.

The travelers finally moved beyond the seventh terrace. An angel directed them to pass through a huge wall of flames; on the other side they would find Beatrice. Dante did not hesitate. Emerging from the flames, he saw a mountain. At its summit, Virgil bade Dante farewell, for this was as far as Human Reason would allow a non-Christian to go.

Dante noticed a beautiful garden nearby, and began to explore it. A young woman appeared to inform him that this was the Garden of Eden - and there, across a river, awaited Beatrice. But the woman called out to Dante, demanding that, before entering the stream, he stop to acknowledge remorse for his sins and confess them. Hearing her, Dante was so overcome with remorse that he fainted and had to be carried across Lethe, the river of forgetfulness of past sins.

On the other side of the river, accompanied now at last by the beautiful Beatrice, Dante discovered that Paradise was divided into various spheres orbiting the earth. Each of the first seven (the Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn) represented a particular virtue, and those who in life had exhibited this virtue became its inhabitants. Ascending through the spheres, Dante encountered various famous saints, martyrs, and crusaders, in addition to many of the just, the chaste and the meditative. One soul he greeted was Cacciaguida, his own great great grandfather, who had served as a crusader in the previous century. This ancestor addressed him: "O my own blood! O grace of God poured forth above measure! ... " and then went on to reminisce on the earlier glory and splendor of Florence, and to lament its present fallen state.

Dante next followed Beatrice past the Fixed Stars, where many of the Apostles dwelt. These men, in turn, questioned the poet, examining his opinions. Dante offered complicated treatises on the duality of Christ (that he is both human and divine) and earthly versus godly love, and explained then modern scientific theories to account, among other things, for moonspots.

At last Dante was conducted to the ninth heaven (outerspace), where he received grace, and was permitted to gaze upon divinity and hear the angels' chorus. Beatrice then departed the reverent admirer, who witnessed the entrance of the triumphal Christ, followed by Mary.

Then, in union with the divine, Dante was left alone to behold the glory of God on his throne. "O how scant is speech and how feeble to my conception," he gasped in a final, striking, poetic description of breathless awe.

"The Divine Comedy" is an epic poem brimming with information and eloquent literary devices. (The word "comedy" is used here in its classical sense - to denote a story which begins in suspense and ends well.) The lengthy work combines Dante's vast knowledge of classical Latin writers (Virgil, Ovid, Cicero, Seneca ... ) and Greek philosophers (Plato and Aristotle) with his readings from the religious and theological classics of Catholicism (Augustine, Thomas Acquinas ... ).

Some awareness of medieval symbolism and imagery can greatly enrich the modern reader's understanding and enjoyment of Dante's personal, visionary odyssey through the realms of the dead. For example, the significance of certain numbers figures importantly in both the structure of the work and the geography of tile netherworld. Tile number three symbolizes the trinity; the "perfect" number, ten, was obtained by multiplying three times three, and adding one (which represented the unity of God). Furthermore, Dante's work is divided into three canticles (the Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise) and each canticle is then divided into thirty-three cantos. These, added to the book's general introductory canto, make for a grand total of one hundred, or, the square of ten. The poem's rhyme scheme, which Dante invented, is known as "terza rima" (third rhyme), where rhymed lines are grouped in interlocking sets of three (aba, bcb, cdc, etc.)

In addition to this obsession with numbers, the reader should also fathom the notion of ancient courtly love. Most poetry of Dante's age was written in praise of a woman whom the poet had chosen as an ideal, but with whom he was not intimate nor even necessarily personally acquainted; a pure love, an unattainable inspiration. Dante had met Beatrice Portinari at least twice, but had no intention of developing a relationship with her. She was married, as was he. "If it pleases God," Dante had written in the third person, "he will write of Beatrice, that which has never yet been said of mortal woman." This, in fact, Dante does in The Divine Comedy, placing his lady in the highest realms of Paradise.

Almost as much as he loved Beatrice, Dante loved Italy; and one of his greatest beliefs was the equal importance of the Church and the State. He became disgusted with the corruption of the Church by politics during his lifetime. In fact, it was while he was in political exile from Florence that he wrote this masterpiece, its complete title being "The Comedy of Dante Alighieri, Florentine by Citizenship, Not by Morals."

Dante also believed in matching writing style with the material being treated. Thus, in Hell, the language is faced with common, sometimes revolting phrasing. Then, in Paradise the speech turns much more ethereal and lofty. (Curiously, Hell was and remains - the most popular of the three books.)

By using common expressions and the language of his native Tuscan dialect rather than the traditional Church Latin, Dante created a revolutionary work. His comedy, rich as it was in multilayered medieval allegory, set fire to the then radically modern idea that literature - works meant primarily to be read rather than retold or enacted could be made both accessible and popular. So highly regarded was this comedy that it earned the eventual title of "Divine."

Monday, December 3, 2007

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin
by Harriet Stowe

Character List

Uncle Tom: An old slave and the protagonist of the novel, Tom's two most prevalent qualities are his inherent goodness and piety. He is a passive Christ-figure who consistently forgives the wrongs committed against him and turns to God in times of crisis. From learing to read the Bible and write letters to his kin, Tom is consistently trying to improve himself despite the limits placed upon him by slavery. Tom also serves as a Christian leader for the other slaves in the novel.

Arthur Shelby: Tom's master in Kentucky. Shelby is characterized as a "kind" slaveowner; he is the stereotypical Southern gentleman. When Shelby experiences a financial crisis because of gambling debts, he sells Tom and the little boy Harry to save his plantation.

Emily Shelby: Mr. Shelby's wife is a deeply devote woman who strives to be a kind and moral influence upon her slaves. She is appalled when her husband negotiates to sell his slaves with a slave trader, and realizes that slavery is wrong and very unchristian.

George Shelby: The master and mistress' son. At the beginning of the novel he is thriteen years old and teaches Tom to read. He vows to find Tom when he is sold. This he does, but not until many years later when Tom is near death. Inspired by his beloved Tom, young Shelby frees the slaves on his deceased father's plantation.

Mr. Haley: the coarse slave trader who buys Tom and Harry from Mr. Shelby. Ironically, he considers himself a humane man although he is pursues Eliza and her son with dogs across the frozen Ohio River.

Eliza: Mrs. Shelby's personal maid, the wife of George and the mother of little Harry. Eliza is a beautiful quadroon, meaning she is three-quarters white, and has a very spiritual and docile nature. She risks everything however, when she discovers that her son has been sold. She runs north and crosses the dangerous Ohio River. Once she reaches Ohio, she is helped by kindly Quakers and eventually reunited with her husband.

George Harris: Eliza's husband who lives on a neighboring plantation. Desperate for his freedom, George escapes disguised as a Spaniard and finds his family in Ohio. He then takes them to Canada, and eventually to France and Liberia.

Harry: George and Eliza's five-year-old son. He is both beautiful and talented, as he sings and dances for the master's pleasure. When he is sold to Mr. Haley, his mother escapes with him to the North.

Aunt Chloe: Uncle Tom's wife is a renowned cook. This plump and cheery woman takes initiative when her husband is sold, and sells her pastries to raise money to buy him back.

Tom Loker and Marks: the slave hunters Mr. Haley hires to track down Eliza.

Sam and Andy: Slaves on the Shelby plantation who are ordered to help Haley look for Eliza. Because of their elaborate schemes to stall the slave trader, Eliza has time to escape.

Augustine St. Clare: Tom's master in New Orleans. He is is a very rich, romantic man who becomes very fond of Tom when he saves his daughter from drowning. St. Clare is an unstable man looking for faith, and Tom tries to aid him. He promises Tom his freedom, but unfortunately is killed in a bar before he can sign the papers.

Marie St. Clare: Augustine's wife, who was once a popular Southern belle. Now, she is a hypochondiac who cares about no one but herself. She disapproves of her husband and daughter's close relations with the slaves and sells Tom and eleven others when her husband dies.

Eva St. Clare: The five-year old "Little Eva" is characterized as a beautiful, angelic child. She and Tom become best friends, and they are bonded by the common love they have for those around them. Eva dies young, and upon her death she both asks the slaves to be good Christians, and has her father promise that he will free them.

Miss Ophelia: St. Clare's northern cousin who comes to help him run the plantation affairs. St. Clare buys Ophelia a slave so she can have a "missionary project" of her own. At first Ophelia dislikes Topsy, but her feelings of racial superiority are eventually broken by the friendship she forms with the needy little girl.

Topsy: the slave girl whom St. Clare bought for Miss Ophelia to reform. Mistreated all her life, Topsy acts like the jovial, mischievious sprite she is and does not care what white people or slaves think of her. Topsy finally learns about love from Little Eva and moves to the North with Miss Ophelia at the end of the novel.

Simon Legree: Tom's evil and tyrranical final master. Legree is a Yankee who has moved to the South to make his money in the plantation business. An alcoholic, he brutalizes his slaves and forces them to live in sqaulid conditions. Because he does not have the respect of other slave-owners, Legree wants his slaves to grovel before him. The fact that Tom finds comfort in the Lord and will patiently bear any load is discomforting to Legree, who begins to hate him viciously.

Cassy: Legree's mistress and Eliza's mother. She is the only person on the plantation who can stand up to Legree, and she tries to protect Tom from his wrath. Cassy escapes the plantation by her shrewd wits, and later is reunited with her daughter.

Sambo and Quimbo: Legree's oversears, who have been trained to brutalize their fellow slaves. When they beat Tom and he forgives them, they are converted to Christianity.

Short Summary

Uncle Tom's Cabin, described by Stowe herself as a "series of sketches" depicting the human cruelty of slavery, opens with a description of Arthur Shelby's Kentucky plantation during the antebellum period. Although Shelby is not characterized as a cruel master, he has nevertheless incurred serious debts- prompting him sell some slaves to avoid financial ruin. Mr. Haley, the slave trader, purchases Uncle Tom, Shelby's loyal servant since childhood, and five-year-old Harry, a beautiful and talented child who sings, dances and mimes. Shelby regrets taking the child away from his mother, Eliza, as much as he regrets betraying Uncle Tom's faithfulness. Eliza overhears Mrs. Shelby, a very religious woman, protesting her husband's decision, and decides to flee the plantation with her son. George, her husband from a neighboring plantation, has already left for Canada via the "underground railroad," a secret network of people who usher runaway slaves to freedom in the North. Eliza plans to do the same, and tries to convince Uncle Tom to save himself and come with her. Uncle Tom, however, must remain loyal to his master, despite his betrayal and the risk of death at the cruel hands of a new master, and does not accompany Eliza on her journey to the Ohio River.

Haley searches for Eliza in vain, for she is spurred on by fear of losing her child and reaches the river quickly. Amazingly, Eliza crosses the river by jumping from one ice flow to the next. Upon reaching the shore in Ohio, Mr. Symmes, a man who has observed her brave feat, listens to her story. Fortunately, Symmes hates slave traders and thus takes Eliza and Harry to the house of Senator Bird, where they receive food and lodging. Ironically, Bird has just voted for a bill prohibiting aid to fugitive slaves, but the Senator is very moved by Eliza's story. He thus changes his convictions and takes the runaways to a Quaker settlement, where they stay with the Halliday family. Coincidentally, Eliza's husband George has sought refuge in this very community, and the young family is reunited. The Quakers help the family board a ship for Canada before Haley's hired slave hunters, Loker and Marks, can capture them.

After the hunt for Eliza and Harry fails, Haley returns to Shelby's to collect the other half of his purchase, Uncle Tom. The slaves at the plantation are very mournful, but Tom remains placid and tries to read his Bible for comfort. On the steamboat to New Orleans, where Tom is to be sold, Tom befriends an angelic little girl, "Little Eva" St. Clare. Uncle Tom saves the five-year-old beauty from drowning, and she convinces her father to buy Tom for her own family. Tom finds life on the St. Clare plantation agreeable, for although he is head coachman he spends most of his time with Little Eva. The love and goodness of which she constantly speaks influences those around her, convincing people of their inner value and that of the people around them. Eva even manages to convince the impish slave girl Topsy that she deserves to be loved, and touches the heart of her stern aunt, Miss Ophelia, who has traveled from Vermont to manage the plantation because Mrs. St. Clare is a hypochondriac.

Tom's contentment does not last, however, because Eva soon falls ill. Dying, she asks that all the slaves surround her bedside, where she gives each of them a golden lock of hair and tells them they must Christian so that they can see each other in heaven. Eva implores Mr. St. Clare to free Tom after her death. Mr. St. Clare is so distraught by her death, however, that he never legally frees Tom before he himself is killed trying to mediate a barroom scuffle. Mrs. St. Clare sells the slaves to settle her husband's debts, and the deplorable Simon Legree purchases Tom. Legree is a drunkard who beats his slaves brutally. Only one of his slaves, Cassy, defies her master by threatening to do voodoo on him. Cassy tries to help Uncle Tom, but he is a pacifist and will not resist the terrible beatings Legree inflicts upon him.

Mr. Shelby, in the meantime, has been tracking Tom down, and arrives at the Legree plantation one day. By this time, however, Tom is very near death. Once Tom is dead and buried, Shelby takes a steamboat to Kentucky, where he meets Cassy and another slave from Legree's, Emmeline, who are fleeing the plantation. The three then meet Emily de Thoux, who is George Harris's sister, and discover that Cassy is the mother of Eliza. Once in Kentucky, Shelby frees his slaves. Cassy, Emmeline, and Emily travel to Canada where they are reunited with Eliza and George. The Harris family and Cassy eventually travel to Liberia to found a freedom colony for ex-slaves. The novel ends with a chapter summarizing the lesson learned from these "sketches" of experiences with slavery: that slavery is indeed a very cruel and evil institution that should be abolished.

Biography of Harriet Stowe (1811-1896)

Harriet Elizabeth Beecher was the seventh of Lyman and Roxana Foote Beecher's nine children, born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Harriet's mother died when she was five years old, and Lyman, a minister, remarried the following year, in 1817. At the age of twelve, Harriet began to attend the Hartford Female Seminary, an academy founded and run by her older sister Catherine. In 1832, the Beecher family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when Lyman became president of the Lane Theological Seminary.

In 1834, at the age of 23, Harriet's first story was published in Western Monthly Magazine. In 1836 she married academic Calvin Stowe. Harriet was destined to live a life of prolific childbearing, as well as writing. Their twin daughters, Eliza and Harriet, were born the same year. A son, Henry, was born in 1838, and Frederick followed in 1840. In 1843, Harriet published The Mayflower, which was a collection of stories about the descendants of the Puritans. Her daughter, Georgiana, was also born this year.

In 1846, Harriet was diagnosed with exhaustion from pregnancy and childbearing. She spent fifteen months at a water cure in Vermont to recover her physical and mental strength. Her son Samuel was born in 1848, but died the following year in a cholera epidemic. In 1850, the Stowe family moved to Brunswick, Maine, when Calvin became a member of the Bowdoin College faculty. Their son Charles was also born that year.

1850 was also an important year for Stowe because the Fugitive Slave Law, requiring Northerners and Southerners alike to turn in runaway slaves, was passes. This law was a major catalyst in Stowe's antislavery writing. In 1851 Uncle Tom's Cabin first appeared as a serial in an antislavery paper, The National Era. Due to its popularity, it was published the next year as a two-volume book. In 1853, A Key to "Uncle Tom's Cabin" was published to corroborate the novel's facts. Harriet took a triumphant tour of Europe as a now famous anti-slavery author. Although she was a prolific author, none of her successive works could match the popularity or importance of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which became a powerful tool of the abolition movement.

In 1856 Stowe published her second anti-slavery novel, Dred, A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp, and again traveled to Europe to promote the book. In 1859 Stowe took her third successful European tour, and published a novel, The Minister's Wooing. In 1862, The Pearl of Orr's Island was published and the following year the Stowe family moved to Hartford, Connecticut.

In 1869, the novel Oldtown Folks was published. Harriet also published a book with her sister Catherine, The American Woman's Home, the same year. In 1872, Oldtown Fireside Stories was published, followed by her last novel in 1878, Poganuc People. In 1886, Calvin Stowe died. Harriet outlived her husband by ten years, dying in 1896 at her home in Hartford at the age of eighty-five.

Song of Roland

The Song of Roland


For seven years, Charlemagne has made war in Spain against the Saracens. He has conquered the entire country, except for the stronghold of Saragossa, which is held by the pagan King Marsile. Seeing that defeat is inevitable, King Marsile, in repose in his garden, calls an assembly of 20,000 men to ask their advice. Only the lord Blancandrin speaks up, and he offers a plan of treachery. Marsile should sue for peace, offering to be Charlemagne's tribute-giving vassal and to be baptized as a Christian in Charlemagne's capital, Aix. To guarantee good behavior, they will offer their own sons as hostages. Charlemagne will leave Spain, to await Marsile in Aix. But neither the promised treasure nor Marsile will arrive. Although the French king will then kill the hostages, the military threat will be over. The Saracens unanimously approve of this plan, and Marsile sends "ten of his most treacherous men" (l. 69) to act as emissaries.
Charles, having just conquered the city of Cordoba, is resting in a garden, surrounded by some of his vassals. Marsile's emissaries, led by Blancandrin, approach bearing olive branches and a gift of ten white mules. Blancandrin gives Charles Marsile's offer. Charles considers carefully: although he does not exactly trust Marsile, he has been in Spain for seven years and is an old man. He calls his vassals to discuss the proposal. Roland, one of Charlemagne's twelve peers and the most beloved of Charlemagne's vassals, urges the king to refuse the offer. Marsile has proved treacherous in the past; he sued for peace on a previous occasion, but when Charlemagne sent two trusted emissaries Marsile had them beheaded.
Ganelon, Roland's stepfather, speaks next. He brutally criticizes Roland's advice, characterizing it as foolhardy and uncaring about the Christians who will die if the war continues. A wise duke named Naimes speaks next, in more measured tones: since Marsile is in effect already defeated, and is now begging for mercy, it would be sinful to proceed. Charles asks whom they shall send as the emissary. Duke Naimes immediately volunteers, but Charlemagne cannot spare him. He needs the trusted councilor by his side. Roland volunteers, but his friend Oliver, another one of the twelve peers, voices disapproval, because Roland is far too hotheaded for the job. Oliver volunteers. Charlemagne again vetoes these proposals, saying he cannot spare any of the twelve peers. The warrior-archbishop Turpin volunteers next, and is likewise shot down.
Roland nominates Ganelon, who is furious, and believes that Roland wants him to do. He threatens Roland, but Roland coldly dismisses the threat and says that he only sought a wise emissary. He offers to go in Ganelon's place, which makes Ganelon angrier. Ganelon accepts the task, certain that he will die. He tells Charlemagne that he hates Roland, and he also hates Oliver and the rest of the twelve peers because they love Roland. Charlemagne rebukes him, insists on him going, and invests authority in him by giving him his staff and his glove. But Ganelon drops the glove, which the rest of the Franks take as an evil premonition.
Blessed by Charlemagne, Ganelon departs with staff and letter in tow. During the journey, he talks to Blancandrin, and the two villains plot Roland's death. Ganelon and Blancandrin go before Marsile, who is seated outdoors and surrounded by opulence. The meeting gets off to a rocky start, as Ganelon tells Marsile that if he does not comply with Charles demands, he will be captured and executed. Marsile is furious, and moves to strike Ganelon, but he is restrained. Ganelon holds his ground, impressing the Saracens.
Marsile reads Charlemagne's letter aloud. Charlemagne bids him to remember Basan and Basile, the executed Frankish emissaries, and says that if he wishes to redeem his life, he should send his uncle the caliph. Marsile's son demands the right to kill Ganelon for his insolence; Ganelon brandishes his sword, ready to fight. But Marsile goes into private council in his garden, where Blancandrin tells him that Ganelon is willing to help them. They summon Ganelon into the garden, and begin to plot Roland's death.

Marsile apologizes for his earlier anger and promises great wealth to Ganelon. Marsile asks Ganelon three times if the two-hundred-year-old Charles will ever tire of war; Ganelon replies that Charles will continue to wage war as long as Roland is alive. Ganelon suggests an ambush: as Charles pulls out of Spain, going through the pass of Cize, he will live a rearguard of twenty-thousand men, led by Roland and Oliver. Marsile should attack the rearguard with a force of a hundred thousand pagans.
Ganelon returns to Charles, bearing gifts from Marsile. The traitor claims that the Marsile's uncle the caliph, along with four hundred thousand Moslems, died in a God-sent sea storm. The Franks celebrate, suspecting nothing.
As the Franks are withdrawing, heading toward the pass of Cize, Charles has strange dreams. He dreams that at the pass of Cize Ganelon seized and broke the king's ash lash. He also dreams that he is at Aix. A boar bites his right arm, and a leopard come from the direction of the Ardennes and attacks him; then, a hunting dog appears and fights the other two animals.
The next day, when Charles asks who should head the rearguard, Ganelon nominates Roland. Roland excepts, although his comment indicate that he is angry at his uncle. He willingly take the king's lance, making a show of not dropping it, as Ganelon dropped the king's glove. He refuses the king's offers of retaining a large force. Oliver will join Roland, as will the archbishop. Other volunteers to stay include the rest of the twelve peers: Anseis, Berenger, Engeler, Gerin, Gerer, Gerard of Roussillon, Oliver, Oton, Samson, Yvon, and Yvoire.
Gautier patrols the heights. Charles treks back toward France, and when at last the men see their native land, they weep. Charles is anxious about his dreams; he fears that they portend treachery and Roland's death.
Marsile assembles his men. Marsile's nephew wants to strike at Roland first. He asks Marsile to select twelve barons to lead the Moslem force. The barons are described in some detail; Falsaron, Corsalis, Malprimis, the emir of Balaguer, an alcamor from Moriane, Rugis, Escremiz, Estorgans, Estramariz, Margariz, and Chernubles.
The Christians hear the Moslem force approaching, and Roland welcomes the chance for battle. He has absolute confidence that they will win: "The pagans are wrong and the Christians are right" (l. 1015). On the hill, Oliver sees the Moslem army and reports that their force is vast. He asks Roland to blow his oliphant horn to summon Charlemagne's forces, but Roland refuses. Oliver pleads for Roland to blow the horn, but Roland will do no such thing. They will fight this battle alone.

Roland, ready for battle, encourages his men to fight bravely. He readies his sword, Durendal. Archbishop Turin tells the men to ask forgiveness for their sins, for which he will absolve them, and promises that all who die will be rewarded with martyrdom and a place in heaven. Roland reminds them of the spoils they will win. Oliver, protesting one last time, tells the men to fight bravely. The two armies clash.
Marsile's nephew, Aelroth, insults the Franks, and an angry Roland immediately dispatches him for it. Falsaron, Marsile's brother, is killed by Oliver. Archbishop Turin kills King Corsablix. Gerin dispatches Malprimis of Brigal. Gerer kills the emir. Duke Samson defeats the almacor. Anseis kills Turgis of Turteluse. Engeler kills Escremiz. Oton slays Estorgans. Berenger strikes down Estramariz. Ten of the twelve Saracen peers are dead: only Chernubles and Count Margariz remain.
Margariz makes for Oliver. He smashes through Oliver's shield, penetrates his armor, and destroys his lance. Only God's intervention protects Oliver from being seriously wounded. Meanwhile, Roland is fighting so fiercely that he wears his own lance to splinters. He fights with his sword, Durendal, and kills Chernubles. The twelve peers fight bravely. Oliver, too, wears his lance down to a stub, and then at Roland's suggestion unsheathes his sword, Halteclere.
The battle goes on, with the Franks slaughtering the pagans even though the Christian force is vastly outnumbered. But the Franks, too, suffer heavy casualties: "How many lives of fine young Franks are lost!" (l. 1401). Midbattle, the poet breaks to remind us that all of this carnage was caused by Ganelon's treachery, but assures us that Ganelon will get his in the end: "In the trial at Aix he was condemned to hang / And thirty of his relatives with him" (ll. 1409-10). In France, as the battle in Spain continues, storms and earthquakes ravage the land. The disasters are signs of God's sadness for Roland.
An even larger pagan force, led by Marsile, appears on the horizon. The battle now begins to turn against the Christians. The archbishop is the first to dive into battle against the new force, and he kills the mighty pagan Abisme. The courage of the Franks begins to falter, and Turpin tries to encourage them. He tells them that death is certain for all of the Christians on the field, but paradise awaits them. They must fight bravely.
The pagan Climborin kills Engeler, one of the twelve peers. Oliver avenges him. The pagan Valdebrun kills Samson, another one of the twelve peers. Roland avenges him. Malquiant, an African, slays Anseis. Anseis is avenged by Archbishop Turpin. A mighty pagan named Grandonie kills a number of Franks, including three of the twelve peers: Gerin, Gerer, and Berenger. The Franks are falling fast. Roland charges after Grandonie and defeats him. He and Oliver work themselves into such a great frenzy that the Moslem forces begin to retreat. With the Archbishop, Roland and Oliver head up a strong offensive: "Those whom they kill cannot easily be counted. / It is written in the charters and records, / That, as the annals state, there were four thousand" (ll. 1683-5). But the Franks suffer heavy losses, until only a handful are left, and Roland tells Oliver that he wants to blow the oliphant to call for Charlemagne's help. Oliver condemns the action as coming too late to do any good. The two friends argue, but the Archbishop begs them to set aside their anger. Although blowing the horn will not save the rearguard, the Archbishop says, at least Charlemagne will hear the horn and come to avenge their deaths. The Franks can also come back and bury their dead.
Roland blows the horn. The effort is so intense his temples burst: three times, Charlemagne hears the horn. Each time, Ganelon denies that the sound indicates a battle. Finally, Duke Naimes says that Roland, to continue blowing so long, would need to be in great danger. Duke Naimes also says that Ganelon's advice reveals that he has betrayed Roland. Charlemagne and the Franks prepare for battle. Charlemagne has Ganelon chained and put in the custody of the cooks. The main Frankish force sets off, but they are too late.

Roland mourns the deaths of his men, and spurs himself on to kill as many Moslems as he can. Marsile fights fiercely as well, killing several of the twelve peers. Roland's fierce response terrifies the pagans, and a hundred thousand of them, including Marsile, flee. But his uncle Marganice remains, along with his fearsome entourage of troops from Africa. His assembly of warriors includes the contingent from "accursed" Ethiopia, where the men are black and have "large noses and broad ears" (l. 1918). The sight of them unsettles even Roland, who feels certain that the Franks will die. The Ethiopians alone number fifty thousand, and the Franks have only sixty men left.
Marganice battles Oliver, and manages to mortally wound him, but the dying Oliver strikes Marganice a lethal blow. He calls for Roland's help. Oliver fights on, asking Roland to come and fight by his side one last time. On seeing Oliver wounded, Roland faints, but he is so securely strapped to his horse that he cannot fall off. Oliver's sight is so blurred that he cannot recognize Roland, and strikes him a might blow; luckily, Roland is not hurt. When he hears Roland's voice, he apologizes to him. Roland forgives him, and they bow to each other. Oliver dies, and Roland bellows and wails in grief. He faints again.
Now all the Franks are dead, save three: Roland, Gautier, and the Archbishop. The three make a last stand. Gautier is killed by the first volley of lances and spears; the Archbishop fights on bravely, despite being horribly wounded. Roland and the Archbishop fight on. Roland's temples are burst from his last attempt to blow the oliphant, but he blows the horn again, feebly. Far away, Charles hears it, and orders his men to blow their horns in reply. The sound frightens the pagans, who know now that Charlemagne is coming. The pagans let loose a volley of missile weapons, killing Roland's horse right from under him. They flee, and Roland has no way to pursue. He tries to make the Archbishop comfortable, and then goes to search for the bodies of their dear friends. He brings the bodies of the twelve peers back to the Archbishop, who absolves them. Roland weeps and swoons again. The Archbishop goes to get water for him from a stream. On the way there, he collapses, confesses his sins, and dies. Roland wakes and mourns for him.
Roland climbs a hill, faces Spain, grasps his sword and his oliphant, and collapses. A pagan who was playing dead attacks him, but Roland comes to and kills him. Roland begins to strike mighty blows against a stone nearby, recounting the many victories he won for Charles. He hopes to break the sword because he fears it will fall into pagan hands; the sword is full of holy relics. He wears down the stone, but the sword does not break. Roland senses death is near. He confesses his sins. He holds his right glove up to God, and Angels come down to him from heaven. He lays down beneath the pine tree, turns to face Spain, and reflects on his life and struggles. He dies. A cherubin angel, along with Saints Michael and Gabriel, come down to bring his soul to heaven.

Charlemagne and his army arrive to find the fields of the dead at Rencesvals. There is great mourning for the dead, and Charles decides to pursue the enemy. He leaves a contingent of men in charge of guarding the bodies, and then sets off in hot pursuit of the pagans. He prays to God for aid, and God performs a great miracle: he stops the sun's movement, prolonging daylight so that the French can catch up to the Saracens. They catch the Saracens in the Val Tenebro, and the slaughter begins. Many of the pagans drown in the River Ebro as they try to escape. The Christians enjoy great wealth. The Franks make camp in the Val Tenebro, exhausted. Charles remains in full armor. The poet takes a moment to describe Charlemagne's sword, Jouise: embedded in its pommel a piece of the lance that pierced Christ.
Charlemagne has strange dreams that night, sent by Angels. He sees a great battle between his army and an array of terrifying beasts; the dream does not make clear who will win. In his second dream, he sees a chained bear. Thirty bears descend from the hills, and ask to have the bear back again. From Charlemagne's palace a hunting dog comes, attacking the largest of the bears. Again, Charlemagne cannot see who wins.

Marsile returns to Saragossa, badly wounded. He has lost his right hand. The Moslems weep because of their losses; the desecrate the statues of Apollo, Tervagant, and Muhammad. They are sure they will lose the war.
But years ago, Marsile wrote to the emir of Babylon, Baligant, begging for aid. Now Baligant has finally arrived, with a vast pagan host. The force lands, and then Baligant sends his knights Clarifan and Clarien to tell Marsile that the emir will make war against Charlemagne. Bramimonde, Marsile's wife, receives them coldly. When they great her in the name of their gods, she says that their gods have abandoned them. When the messengers say the emir will hunt Charles down, she informs them that Charles is no more than seven leagues away, and that he fears no one. Because Marsile is wounded, Baligant comes to meet him. Marsile surrenders all his lands to him.
Meanwhile, the Franks are tending to their dead. Charles seeks out the body of Roland, remembering that Roland once promised that if killed on foreign soil, he would advance beyond all the men and die facing the enemy. Charlemagne finds Roland, and mourns bitterly for his nephew. He fears he will not be able to carry on without the help of his best knight. Wise Duke Naimes is by the king's side, offering comfort and advice. The bodies are buried. But Roland, the Archbishop, and Oliver receive special treatment. Their sacred hearts are removed and wrapped in silk, and the bodies are prepared specially, wrapped in silk, and put in carts so that they can be brought home.

The pagans arrive. Charlemagne puts trust in his vassals, delegating responsibility and asking Rabel and Guineman to take on the responsibilities of Roland and Oliver. Following is a lengthy description of the troops assembled on both sides: on the Frankish side, valiant knights from all over Christendom are ready to fight. Charlemagne prays to God for victory. On the pagan side, heathen knights from all kinds of exotic and strange lands prepare for battle. Malprimis, son of Baligant, requests the honor of first strike, and Baligant grants it. Malprimis will bring Torleu, King of Persia, and Dapamort, King of Lycia, to head up the front line. There is more organization of divisions, and then the battle begins.
Rabel kills Torleu. Dapamort is slain by Guineman. Malprimis makes his way toward Charles, and both Charles and Baligant call out encouraging words to their troops. Duke Naimes kills Malprimis. Canabeus, brother of the emir, wounds Naimes horribly; only divine intervention saves Naimes's life. Charles is horrified to see his good friend so hurt, and kills Canabeus. The emir himself slaughters Guineman.
The battle escalates. Gemalfin, a trusted counselor of the emir, informs him that his brother Canabeus and son Malprimis are dead. Baligant grieves. He asks his trusted friend Jangleu if they will win the day, and Jangleu tells Baligant that their gods will not help them: Charles and his Franks will kill them all. Baligant's resolve is unshaken: "Come what may, he does not wish to hide" (l. 3522). He blows his bugle, rallying his troops, and they mount a brutal assault against the Franks. Count Ogier scolds Charlemagne, reminding him that they must avenge these deaths. They fight boldly, and Count Ogier strikes down Amborre, bringing the dragon pennon to the ground. On seeing Muhammad's standard fall, Baligant "begins to realize / That he is wrong and Charlemagne right" (ll. 3553-4).
The battle continues on through the day, and evening falls. As Charles calls out "Monjoie," the Frankish battle cry, and Baligant calls out "Precieuse," the pagan battle cry, the two kings recognize each other's strong voices. They clash, shattering each other's shields and knocking each other off of their horses. They get up and fight with their swords. Each offers the other a chance to be his vassal in exchange for peace, but both offers are refused. Baligant delivers Charlemagne a powerful blow, exposing the Frankish king's skull, but the angel Gabriel speaks words of encouragement in the king's ear. Charlemagne smashes Baligant's skull. The pagans retreat and the Franks give chase, slaughtering almost all of them.
The chase goes all the way back to Saragossa. Marsile and Bramimonde are horrified by the sight; Marsile dies of grief, and the devils carry his soul to hell. The Franks take Saragossa. Bramimonde surrenders the keys to the towers. The Christians smash the holy relics of the Jews and the Moslems, and Charlemagne proclaims that those who do not convert to Christianity will be put to death. Bramimonde is the exception. She will be taken to France as captive, so that she can become a Christian by her own decision.

Charlemagne leaves a garrison and returns to his capitol, Aix, passing through many French cities along the way. He deposits the oliphant at a sacred site, and leaves the bodies of Roland, Oliver, and the Archbishop at the church of St. Romain. He arrives in Aix and summons his judges: the trial of Ganelon will begin soon. But first, Charlemagne must give Aude, Roland's wife, the news of his death. She dies of grief on the spot.
Ganelon, brutalized by the servants, faces the charge of treason. He argues that though he arranged for Roland's death, it was in reaction to Roland's nomination of him as envoy, which Ganelon thinks was an attempt to kill him. Though he betrayed Roland, he did not betray the king. Thirty of Ganelon's kinsmen speak for him. Among them is Pinabel, a mighty knight and gifted speaker. Pinabel is so persuasive that the judges, who are collected from all over Charlemagne's realm, are inclined to seek peace and let Ganelon go free. Charlemagne is grieved by their choice. Only Thierry, brother of Lord Geoffrey, is willing to fight for the case that Ganelon is guilty of treason.
Thierry argues to Charlemagne that "whatever Roland may have done to Ganelon, / The act of serving you should have protected him. / Ganelon is a traitor in that he betrayed him" (ll. 3827-9). Thierry is willing to fight against any who say otherwise, and Pinabel accepts the challenge. Pinabel is by far the stronger and larger man.
The men make confessions at church and return to fight. The combat is fierce. The audience is moved to weeping with worry and sorrow for the men: they quickly dehorse each other and destroy each other's shields, leaving the combat to the sword. Pinabel offers to be Thierry's vassal if they cease the combat, and let Ganelon live. Thierry refuses, and offers to reconcile Pinabel to the king, if Pinabel will stop fighting and let Ganelon die. Pinabel refuses, saying he will stand by his kinsman. They continue fighting, and, as Pinabel is stronger, he wounds Thierry badly. But Thierry is protected from death by God, and he rallies to deliver the killing blow. The Franks proclaim that God has worked a miracle. They decide to have Ganelon's thirty kinsmen executed along with him. Ganelon's kinsmen are all hanged, and he himself is drawn and quartered (each limb is tied to a horse; the horses run in opposing directions, ripping the victim apart).
Charlemagne announces that Bramimonde, having heard the gospels and the articles of Christian faith, wishes to be baptized. She is christened Juliana. That night, Gabriel appears to Charlemagne in a dream, telling him that he must aid King Vivien of Imphe, a Christian monarch besieged by pagans. His reaction is weary and sorrowful: "ŒGod,' said the king, Œhow wearisome my life is!' / He weeps and tugs at his white beard" (ll. 4000-1). Thus the poem ends.