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Connections Through The Ages Essay, Research Paper

Connections through the Ages The selected works by the varied authors held many different ideas. These ideas were remarkable for the time they were written and even moreincredible is the prominence in which they affect today s history andliterature. The works are linked together through four common themes;religion, the afterlife, laws of life and the character of man. Religious questions and uncertainties in culture were brought out in thestories. In The Wife of Bath prologue and tale by Geoffrey Chaucer wesee the question of whether or not it s a sin to marry again after a husbanddies. The sin itself being the perception of others. The argument Chaucerposes by using the wife s story is believable and connecting. The bible tellsus what a sin is but people sometimes chose to expand on the meaning in theirfanatical search to be right in God s eyes. The wife tells a story with manyreflections into the bible and the past history of the world. She defendsherself most eloquently with these words: Lo, there s the wise old king Dan Solomon; I understand he had more wives than one; and now would God it were permitted to me to be refreshed on as oft as he! Which gift of God he had for all his wives! page 1 No man has such that in this world now lives. God knows this noble king….Praise be to God that I have married five! (Chaucer 103-104). The wife says that she has loved all her husbands in a Christian manner andnever cheated on them and gave herself fully to the institution of marriage. In the tale of Socrates, he is being taken to court because of what he believes is his purpose God gave him. His goal was to expose the fraudulent wisemen of that time. Socrates questioned many ideas, he did this because he feltit was his mission to get man to think. Religion during this time could beused as a weapon because those who questioned the new religion wereconsidered dealers in the black arts. In his own words he denied theblasphemy by saying: I am going to explain to you why I have such an evil name. When I heard the answer, I said to myself, what can God mean? And what is the interpretation of this riddle? For I know that I have no wisdom, small or great. What name can he mean when he says that I am the wisest of men? page 2 And yet he is God, and cannot lie; that would be against his nature. After long consideration, I at last thought of a method of trying the question. (Plato 22) The evolution of religion can be seen in the many texts. The Epic ofGilgamesh and the tale of Priam and Achilles were written during a timewhen the belief of many gods were prevalent. The gods seemed to be activein the affairs of mortal men during these times. The gods were even known tomate with mortals in their desire to change and mold the world as they sawfit. The movement to the single God and free choice is found in the HolyBible and many of the other texts. Some differences about the one Godtheory do arise but all seem to match each other in some way. Some of thebooks appear to search for the meaning to the question of what is God. Onesuch book is Saint Augustine s Confessions. Saint Augustine also deals withwhether or not he is worthy to be forgiven for his sins in the eyes of God. Healso looks for what the Bible is trying to convey. The Bible tells of thecreation of life and other stories that give a picture as to what type of entityGod is, yet he still has questions that make him ponder about his soul. In hissimple words he shows the uncertainty of a follower: page 3 So I thought of you too, O Life of my life, as a great being with dimensions extending everywhere, throughout infinite space, permeating the whole mass of the world and reaching in all directions beyond it without limits….This was the theory to which I held, because I could imagine you in no other way. (Augustine 134) Religion seemed to be a topic of much discussion and foundation for thestories throughout the readings. Some with a slight hint of the omnipotentand others with vast amounts of religion in wording and flow. The second theme and perhaps the hardest to spot in some of the readingsis the view or belief in the after life. In The Epic of Gilgamesh death andafterlife are not things to be looked forward too. Gilgamesh does notrecognize his own immortality until his best friend Enkidu dies. This sendshim on a quest to search for immortality. What he finds is a plant from thebottom of a pool. In his desire for immortality and home, he loses the plant toa serpent, then feels he has lost everything in his search for everlasting life. In Gilgamesh s eyes when you die you become dust and are buried within theearth but the gods who are immortal get to sit in the sunlight and enjoy the lifeof a hero forever. He may have not been able to become a god but he wouldbe remembered: In nether-earth the darkness will show him a light: of mankind, all that are known, none will leave a monument for generations to come to compare with his. page 4 The heroes, the wise men, like the new moon have their waxing and waning. Men will say, Who has ever ruled with and with power like him? As in a dark month, the month of shadows, so without him there is no light. O Gilgamesh this was the meaning of your dream. You were given the kingship, such was your destiny, everlasting life was not your destiny. (Sandars 118) Gilgamesh was searching for immortality because the afterlife was toouncertain. The fear of the unknown and the fear of no longer being of worthto the people frightened him. The Bible promotes a good feeling towardsdeath as being the ultimate reward for a properly led life. The bible leads thereader to believe that when they chose to be good it was freedom of choicethat they exercised. The Qu ran touches on the afterlife very seldom but likethe Bible, the followers are rewarded when their time comes. The Qu ranalso has the uncertainty of death like Gilgamesh. If a follower in Allah fallsin battle his peers may say he died because he was not a true believer. Sofollowers of Allah may be rewarded, or not, depending on how they die. Dante s idea of afterlife for those who had certain vices involved hell havinglevels. Each level was for a specific sin. In Dante s realm of hell each levelwas a perversion of love. He chose to capitalize on the negative aspect of

hell. page 5 Chaucer on the other hand used the wife s tale about the knight to hide amessage that if we let God guide us and do as he wills us, we will berewarded in the after life. Even the wife mentioned that all her husbands werecertainly in heaven for each was a good man in his own way. In theConfessions, Saint Augustine told his story of sin. Later deliverance fromthis sin through God and how he experienced such joy at knowing that hewould one day be in the Lords halls made his aspect of the after life one ofcheer and glorious faith in the unseen. Socrates, right before his death conviction, told his friend Crito that he did not fear dying for he felt he hadlived many years and lived the way God wished it. He knew God was goingto reward him for the life he had lead. God had already told those whofollowed his words that they would be rewarded. Socrates looked forward tothe afterlife as a rest from the physical world and a place to talk to the othergreat minds who had passed before him. He even wished to talk to Godhimself upon his entrance to heaven. Each author and each character in thestories had a certain view of after life. Some sought it, others avoided it sapproach. Whether it was nothingness, a reward, or a hell, was what set thepeople and the tales apart. The third factor that connects all the stories is the idea of laws or rules onhow to live life. The Bible sets forth the Commandments as the guidelines tolead a morally and Godly way of life. Moses was given the tenCommandments by God himself. God says that if any of these rules arebroken that one will be sentenced to hell unless they repent the sin in Godsname. page 6 These rules were to guide one s soul. In The Prince, Niccolo Machiavelliwrites a step by step account on how to become a good ruler of the peopleand how to keep the power. This angle on the how to rule is along the samelines as the Bible s Commandments. Both are guides to action that, if taken,will bring about a desired result. On the fanatic extreme is the work ofBenedict of Nursia. He wrote rules for how a monk should live in the serviceof the Lord and within the monastery. Instead of rules, the Benedict ofNursia referred to them as degrees. The degrees of Humility and Obediencewere at the root of his beliefs on the life in a monastery. Alucin s work isalmost exactly like Nursia s except he covers the rules on how a bishopshould carry himself and live in the eyes of the people. The Qu ran is anamendment to the Bible s rules which God made. God realized that menwould war, so He made a new rule that involved when war would besanctioned as not going against the Commandment thou shalt not kill . Thework Utopia shadows the Qu ran almost perfectly. It gives the guide linesthat Utopians follow when in a military situation. They both involve takingbelongings from the enemy, the welfare of its people and winning, if a conflictis inevitable. They detest war as a very brutal thing; and which, to the roach of human nature, is more practiced by men than by sort of beast. They, in opposition to the sentiments of almost all other nations, think there is nothing more inglorious than the glory that is gained by war. (More 170)page 7 Thomas More s introduction to the laws of war were vastly dissimilar to thatin the Qu ran for there is some shred of civilization in its actions than thebarbaric rules of the followers of Allah. Rules and guide lines of conducthave been a prominent subject of the history and literature of the differenttimes. They influence the people who read them to either follow it word forword or take from it knowledge to use as they see fit. Rules are made andsome are broken but people normally do not stray too far from the path setforth. The character of man has always affected the outcome of stories orpolitics. In the Bible, Jesus was a devout follower of the word of God, aswere his disciples. Many men were jealous of Jesus because he seemed to beperfect and made them see their own flaws. Another character similar toJesus would be Enkidu from the Epic of Gilgamesh. …Noble Enkidu was created. There was virtue in him of he god of war, of Ninurta himself. His body was rough, he had long hair like a woman s; it waved like the hair of Nisaba, the goddess of corn. His body was covered with matted hair Like Samuquan s, the god of cattle. He was innocent of mankind.. (Sanders 63) He was a man of nature and blind to the world s corruption. His arrival intosociety and learning the ways of people; he slowly lost that which made himmore human than the civilized man. page 8 He was created by the gods and with their perfection yet the culture he movedto erased the characteristics that made him innocent and noble. MarcusAurelius and Marcus Cato were two different people but they wrote about thesame thing. One wrote about virtues through those that had raised him, theother had a story written about him and his great deeds. In the readingMeditations , Marcus Aurelius is searching for the greatness that people heknows possess. Plutarch writes about a person with high moral standards andideals. Saint Augustine was a man of the people he set an example byshowing people that an undesirable or unholy behavior could be over come. He had flaws that people could recognize, but he also had the ability tochange. His character was characterized by strong willpower and humility. Through out Greek tales the writers speak of the great character of the heroesand kings. The strong characteristics are seen in their actions. This does notsay that they were not flawed, but rather that they held a high standard in avirtue the possessed. These writers capitalize on what the society considers agood characteristics to have. These have changed from time to time but allseemed rooted in the desire to be a good and lawful person. In the readings many different themes where seen. Some leapt fromthe pages and others where subtly hidden within the text. All could not be putinto such a small work as this. Even one theme was enough to cover a widerange of ideas through the times and works presented. The themes ofreligion, the afterlife, the laws of life and the character of man are inherent inall the works and were paramount to the telling . page 9These themes combine to give us a look into the ideals and beliefs of thepeople and maybe a why to the questions we may have concerning theirculture. page 10 Bibliography Augustine. Confessions. Book VII. Trans. R.S Pine-Coffine. London. Penguin, 1961. Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. The Wife of Bath s Prologue. Ed. Stanley Applebaum and Candence Ward. Canada. Dover, 1994. More, Thomas. Utopia. Their Military Discipline. pg 169-176 of selected works. Plato. The Trial and death of Socrates. Apology. Ed Stanley Applebaum and Shane Weller. Canada. Dover, 1992. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Trans. N.K. Sanders. London, Penguin, 1972.


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