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The Iliad: Achilles' Rage Essay

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`Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles'

The first line of the Iliad describes a human emotion that leads to doom and destruction in Homer's poetic tale of the Trojan War. Achilles' rage is a major catalyst in the action in the Iliad. It is his rage that makes him both withdraw from and, later, rejoin the war with a fury. Why is Achilles enraged? Is his rage ignited solely by his human adversaries or do the gods destine him to the experience? Achilles' rage has many facets. His rage is a personal choice and, at times, is created by the gods.

The Iliad begins with the clash between Achilles and Agamemnon. Agamemnon has little, if any, respect for the gods. This is displayed by his irreverent behavior towards the priest, Chryses. Agamemnon refuses to release the princess even when the Achaean soldiers suggested "`Respect the priest, accept the shining ransom!' But it brought no joy to the heart of Agamemnon" (104). Achilles is, unlike Agamemnon, respectful of and revered by the gods. In order to expose the cause of Apollo's wrath against the Argive army, Achilles uses the prophet, Calchas. Achilles already knows why Apollo is angry, but decides the fact should be stated by someone other than himself. He knows that Agamemnon will become angry once the truth is revealed. I believe that in this instance he is trying to keep his rage in check by avoiding a direct confrontation with Agamemnon. Calchas also fears for his life because he also knows Agamemnon's fury is unyielding at times. However, with a great deal of encouragement from Achilles, Calchas "spoke out, bravely: `Beware-The god's enraged because Agamemnon spurned his priest'" (106). When the truth is exposed, Agamemnon be...


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...Achilles enraged? His rage is a personal choice. He decides to confront Agamemnon. He decides to withdraw from the war. He decides to join the war after Patroclus' death. However, the gods do their parts in making sure that his destiny is carried out. Thetis has new armor made for him and encourages him to fight. Apollo taunts him. Athena intervenes, first to make sure he does not kill Agamemnon and then later to make sure that he does kill Hector. Zeus weighs his fate. Rage is the spawn of many emotions. Injustice, jealousy, un-holiness, revenge, and heartbreak are emotions that sparked Achilles' rage. Homer's tale, the Iliad, shows how Achilles' rage is his destiny.

Works Cited

Homer. "The Iliad." The Norton Anthology World Masterpieces. Ed. Sarah Lawall.

7th ed. Vol.1. W.W.Norton & Company. New York, London, 1999. 104-209.


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