Epic of gilgamish
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Choose ONE of the topics below and write an analytical and interpretive essay of about 800 words or three typed, double-spaced pages. Do not forget to quote from the text and include a works cited entry!
Topic A: Consider The Epic of Gilgamesh in terms of characterization. Both the title character and Enkidu are “round” characters, that is, characters whose characterization changes or evolves as the text proceeds. At first, for instance, the text describes Gilgamesh as being guilty of tyranny: “By day and by night his tyranny grows harsher, / Gilgamesh, [the guide of the teeming people!]” (3). What kind of king is Gilgamesh at the end of the text? How does he come about his altered characterization? Enkidu, moreover, is initially described as beast-like: “Coated in hair like the god of the animals, / with the gazelles he grazes on grasses, / joining the throng with the game at the water-hole, / his heart delighting with the beasts in the water” (5). What changes occur in Enkidu, and how are those changes brought about?
In short, choose one of these characters and analyze his characterization at three different stages. In other words, analyze Gilgamesh’s characterization at the beginning of the text, in the middle of the text, and at the end of the text. Quote the text to support your reading of his characterization at each stage, making sure quotes have adequate context. (Do something similar for Enkidu if you choose to write on him.)
Topic B: Do a close reading of a particular tablet of The Epic of Gilgamesh. For instance, Tablet XI, “Immortality Denied,” describes the Deluge, which Uta-napishti has survived. Why does Uta-napishti recount the story of the Deluge for Gilgamesh? Does the reason have anything to do with Gilgamesh’s opening words to Uta-napishti: “your form is no different, you are just like me, / you are not any different, you are just like me”? (88). How does the tablet end? What archetypes does the tablet contain? (See the handout “Terms for The Epic of Gilgamesh” for a definition of “archetype.”) In Tablet V, “The Combat with Humbaba,” Gilgamesh slays Humbaba at the urging of Enkidu. How have the roles of Gilgamesh and Enkidu changed from earlier tablets vis-à-vis the quest to kill Humbaba? Why did the roles change?
No matter which tablet you choose, make sure to provide a brief general summary of the tablet and its place in the overall text before delving into a few important particulars. Also, don’t hesitate to reference important events or passages of text from other tablets that will bolster your reading of your chosen tablet.
NOTE ON QUOTING FROM THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH:
As you will have noted, our chosen translation of Gilgamesh contains many bracketed, italicized and ellipted passages. When you quote from this text, you must maintain its original form in terms of brackets, italicization, etc. Consider the following example:
Gilgamesh explains to Enkidu why the two of them must accomplish a great deed: “As for man, [his days] are numbered, / whatever he may do, it is but wind, / …exists not for me……” (Gilgamesh19).
To avoid confusion, DO NOT insert ellipsis points of your own into this text. For quoting, choose passages that you can quote in full. Summarize longer passages. In short, do not alter quotes save for inserting slashes between lines of quoted poetic text, as highlighted above. This text is already missing a significant amount of material! For block quoting, see the handout mentioned below.
FOR MORE GUIDANCE ON THE PROPER FORMAT FOR QUOTING FROM THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH, SEE THE HANDOUT “QUOTING FROM POETIC TEXTS” ON THE “WRITING” PAGE ON CANVAS.
The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. Andrew George. London: Penguin, 2003.
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