Category Archives: Western Literature^1&2

Western Literature^2 lesson 20

“Is the language of Foxe still compelling today?”

Foxe’s Martyrs was written in 1563 soon after the reign of Queen Mary I, nicknamed “Bloody Mary” for her merciless persecution and slaughter of tens of thousands of Protestants. She was the daughter of King Henry VIII, himself an egotistical pig and tyrant, ambitious beyond belief, and a live and die Catholic. This was the time of change, the time of Queen Elizabeth I, Protestant and Head of the Church of England. The book was received enthusiastically because its author, John Foxe, filled it with the rhetoric of the last breath of tortured and dying Protestants. Foxe, an educated man and English historian, was also a devout Protestant convert. His main goal in writing Foxe’s Martyrs was to contrast the satanic Catholic Church with the angelic Protestant martyrs. Intended for the upper crust, the book set the standard for the English language of that time and the following 200 years, and still compels readers today. Continue reading

Western Literature 2 lesson 15

Was More risking persecution by the church because of his book Utopia?

The socialist ideas that decorate Utopia’s pages offend every educated person who reads it; and the ideas contained in this book certainly offended the Catholic Church of the 1500s. This was during a time when the Church persecuted anyone considered to be a heretic: any person who openly disagreed with Catholic religious policies. Therefore, More was indeed risking persecution by the Church because of his book “Utopia.”

Religion in the fictional land of Utopia differed from the religion of the Catholic Church in some key areas. Firstly, in Utopia people could believe whatever they wanted without being persecuted. Some citizens worshipped idols and everybody was OK with that because the “powers that be” were confident that all people would hearken eventually to the idea of the Supreme Being if they were simply left alone. Secondly, none of the temples in Utopia contained depictions of God so as to not influence worshipers’ concepts of God. Perhaps God liked variety. Thirdly, the priests of these temples were not pushy in their doctrine and never preached hellfire and brimstone to non-believers. Finally, religious ceremonies took place rarely (at the end and beginning of every month and the end and beginning of every year); were fairly simple with quiet meditation, singing, and a homily by the priest; and sacraments were absent (most notably, the Eucharist). How unusual that Utopians were accepting of religious variety while the concept of peaceful coexistence of different Christian religious beliefs did not exist in Western Civilization. Continue reading

Western Literature 2 lesson 5

“Do you think that Luther really believed that Pope Leo X did not know what the indulgence salesmen were saying?”

In Wittenberg, a sleepy little university town in eastern Germany on the river Elbe, the monk Martin Luther gradually became displeased with the practices of the Catholic Church. It began to dawn on Luther that the Church was corrupt—and the corruption went deep. But surely the Pope could not believe in these immoral values and teachings. Could he?

Luther did in fact believe that Pope Leo X knew what the indulgence salesmen were saying. When he was publicly proclaiming that he disagreed with the practice of selling indulgences, he did not want to offend one of the most influential people in his day, so he claimed that the Pope must not be guilty—even though Luther acknowledged that he was not perfect. However, judging from his doctor of theology from the University of Wittenburg, Luther was no dimwit and must have known that if all of the Church’s underlings practiced selling indulgences, the ruler must know and approve as well. Before delving further into this theory, the reader should know what Indulgences are. The selling of indulgences was the practice where a member of the Clergy forgave the eternal sins of any soul in purgatory using the excess of good works that the saints performed in their lives in exchange for exorbitant sums of money. Luther refers to the Pope many times over in his 95 Theses. The Pope’s title and position were very conspicuous as well and made people stop and take notice of what Luther was saying. Perhaps when Luther was still forming his 95 theses he truly believed in the Pope’s innocence, but after he thought about it for a while and wrote more of them, he realized the Pope’s true guilt. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 115

“How important was the doctrine of hell to the martyrs?”

The doctrine of hell is described as a definite place where souls receive God’s punitive retribution.” Jesus has described Hell as unimaginable tortures endured in full consciousness for eternity. However no one need be afraid of ending up unjustly in this eternal torment, for God is never cruel. The martyrs knew this and believed in God so strongly that they were willing to undergo terrible pain and humiliation so that their immortal souls could escape the eternal punishment. Anyone with a lesser belief would have caved when faced with earthly tortures but the martyrs knew that simply their belief and true love in God would save them in the end. If they had simply revoked their beliefs to the Romans, the Emperor would have spared them, but that would have been denying themselves. The doctrine of hell was the very drive of so many Christians to become martyrs.

Western Literature lesson 140

“Do you think the typical listener to a recitation of this poem would have spotted the discrepancies?”

The Song of Roland is an epic poem written in the 11th century that transformed the defeat of Charlemagne in the late 8th century, on his quest to reclaim Spanish territory from the Muslims, into a glorious victory. The 11th century was not a time of learning, so it makes sense that many of the common folk would completely miss most—if not all—of the discrepancies in the poem. There were many to choose from. Armies of only a few thousand emerged from battle hundreds of thousands of soldiers stronger and half dead soldiers rose up to defeat a newly arrived army…and won! Perhaps the most noticeable discrepancy was when Charlemagne’s army neglected to notice the blaring of 1000 horns but managed to hear the horn of a single dying soldier. It seems impossible to us nowadays to reason that the typical listeners to this poem would not have noticed all of these facts but a couple of defenses on their side can be made nonetheless. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 91

According to Mark’s gospel, what was main issue dividing Jesus from the leaders of Israel?

The Pharisees followed traditional rules without exception, even forgetting about God in the process. But Jesus chastised them by questioning, “Why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” Besides rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus also went around performing miracles and forgiving everyone’s sins; and the religious leaders could not accept this because they were the supposed supreme rulers. Also, this indicated that Jesus truly was what he called himself, the Son of God, and they found themselves unable to believe his claims. Jesus was about love, mercy, and including all, even Gentiles. Because this was a message for the people, they ecstatically flocked to him, and the Pharisees grew to hate him. Being the self-avowed and disdainful wise guys that they were, they challenged him on everything he preached and often taunted him with seemingly unanswerable questions. They tried to make him slip up. For instance, in Mark 12:17, the Pharisees argue with Jesus. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 45

What was Aeschylus’s view of the Trojan war?

War is glory. Or so thought the ancient Greeks. Most of the Greek playwrights, especially Homer, portrayed their characters as godlike heroes. However war didn’t always end as perfectly as described in the old tales and Aeschylus realized this. He expressed antipathy concerning the Trojan War because the war brought shame, misery, and envy to everyone involved not just during the war but for a long time after.

In the Orestes Trilogy, Agamemnon, a significant big cheese from the T.W. was admired by the masses but portrayed as a cold husband and an arrogant king to the audience. His heroic career began with the egomaniacal sacrifice of his daughter to a goddess in order to fulfill his wish of fighting in glory with his men at Troy. He selfishly ignored his daughter’s pleas to live and his wife’s (Clytemnestra’s) motherly emotions. This left Clytemnestra to stew in her agonizing sorrow, anger, and hatred of the man for the decade following his departure. When at long last Agamemnon returned, a concubine arrived with him almost in mockery of his wife. But little did he know that in his absence Clytemnestra had been fooling around with his brother while plotting the ultimate revenge against her king. Aeschylus portrayed Clytemnestra as an innocent until her role as a shameful swinger and a miserable murderer could no longer be ignored. Agamemnon and Clytemnestra inadvertently worked together to bring dolor to their son Orestes throughout the entirety of the trilogy because he inherited the duty to right their wrongs. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 55

How does the view of ethical cause and effect in history in Works and Days compare with the furies’ view in The Eumenides?

In Works and Days, Hesiod took an opposite standpoint from the Furies in Aeschylus’ The Eumenides. In Hesiod’s book there was a lot of forgiveness going on. Even when he felt cheated, he offered advice, whereas the Furies had no mercy. They were Vengeance, embodied.  For instance, the Furies pursues Orestes for his crimes, despite the fact that he had been ordered to commit it by a higher being than himself. Hesiod enjoyed heaps of justice and sanctions every morning with his breakfast, served by his grand immortal waiters far, far upstairs, the Olympians. But the Furies doled out their particular brand of justice themselves. Though Hesiod and the Furies differed on who served the justice, on this topic of justice we find a rare case of the two sides agreeing. Neither were fond of the mortal law courts because both believed there existed another group who could divvy up a pile of justice better. Hesiod: the gods; the Furies: themselves. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 85

How important were the miracles in the book’s account of Jesus’ early ministry? Read on and find out.

Uber isn’t just a taxi service anymore! (It’s actually the German word for super.) The Miracles in Jesus’s early ministry were uber important! When Jesus stepped forward claiming he was the son of God, many people might have written him off as “another one of those crazies” until he proved that he was indeed divine. When he turned the water into wine at the request of his mother, Mary, during the wedding in Canaan, people were astounded. By his actions, he showed both that he was powerful and loving.  Because he was the son of God made flesh and imbibed with the Holy Spirit, He used his incredible powers to work miracles for no other reasons than to teach us about God and his awesome forgiveness, to show us how to behave toward each other,  and  to show that he loved all of us humans down here.  Even though we sinned like toasters burn toast, he healed incurable conditions, cast out demons, and even died for the forgiveness of the sins of mankind.  Just as a magician has pizazz and sparkle to draw in a crowd, Jesus had to perform grandiose spectacles to capture his own audience’s attention. That made people stop and really listen to what he had to say. Continue reading

Western Literature lesson 40

Write 500 words on this topic: What was Hesiod’s view of the mankind’s past and future? Okey doke, so this is waaaay late and now I have 6 more because I can’t do them fast enough! Joy…

Hesiod, the author of Works and Days, told tales of the five races of men created by the gods to serve the gods in whatever capacity the gods wished. Named after various metals, each race was different from the last and ever increasing in tarnish and corrosion. Zeus kept twiddling his fingers long after each race died out, always hoping for something better than what had previously been created, but to no avail.

Golden was the first stage of man and the only one not created by the gods of Mt. Olympus. Instead, the people lived under the reign of Cronos, the king Titan. Un-tainted by sorrow, misery, pain, or hunger, their lives were considered perfect in every way. They honored their rulers constantly in return for their wonderful, content lives. Though still mortal, their deaths came after a lifespan of hundreds of years and were like a peaceful sleep. From then on they roamed the earth as pure spirits. But how did such a perfect race ever come to an end? Alas, when Zeus struck his father Titan from his throne, the resulting carnage destroyed all mortals below. Continue reading