Our final exam is to be taken in class on Wednesday, May 2. In answer to any two (2) of the following prompts, you are to hand in two (2) short essays (of 3-4 double-spaced pages in length) at the beginning of test time. This means that you’ll have to plan ahead. Don’t get caught waiting in a line for the printer on the morning of the exam!

1. One major theme that we have barely discussed this semester is that of relations between masters and servants. Compare the representation of master-servant relations in the Arabian Nights, The Tempest, and Don Quixote and/or Don Giovanni. What aspects seem to remain constant, and in what aspects may changes be observed from period to period, region to region, or from text to text?
2. Shakespeare and Cervantes (who share a death-date of April 23, 1616) both create representations of their art within their art. The Tempest gives us the supernatural stagecraft of Prospero, which seems to mirror the playwright’s own. Cervantes, meanwhile, fictionalizes the authorship of his own fictions, not only through the figure of Cide Hamete Benengeli but various sub-narrators (as in the Captive’s Tale of I.38-41). How well do these allegorizations parallel each other? Are Shakespeare and Cervantes up to the same selfreferential tricks, or are there differences in the way they go about it?
3. A similar set of questions may be asked of storytelling in the Arabian Nights. Shahrazad’s tales are told for the purpose of calming a ruler driven berserk by hatred and mistrust of women. If hers is the figure of the heroic storyteller, then what of Shahrayar? For that matter, what of the demon in the story of “The Merchant and the Demon,” or Harun al-Rashid at the end of “The Porter and the Three Ladies,” or the three ladies themselves at the beginning?
What do the many scenes of storytelling in the Nights say about the storyteller’s audience? What is the value of a tale told under duress?
4. Of the many sub-narratives in Don Quixote, the main theme is romantic love and the complications befalling those affected by it; no one, as Leonela says in I.34, is capable of resisting it. Is this true of Don Quixote himself? Is his attachment to Dulcinea of Toboso strictly in imitation of chivalric models (as laid out in I.13, I.25 and elsewhere), or do you find evidence that Don Quixote is subject to unfeigned erotic longings? Does Don Quixote give any evidence for a love that arises wholly independent of imitated models?
5. Male anxiety about the faithfulness of wives and the chastity of girls is a hallmark of the greater Mediterranean region in the pre-modern period (and after). Where have we seen this anxiety expressed in our reading, and in what sorts of controls over women’s bodies does it result? What methods do have female characters have at their disposal for evading those controls?
6. In his 1580 essay “Of Cannibals” (which was of course known to Shakespeare), Michel de Montaigne claims that the traditional societies of the Americas “have been fashioned very little by the human mind, and are still very close to their original naturalness.” Is the character of Caliban endowed with any such natural, primeval qualities? Explain your answer using evidence from the text.

Insturction: Feel free to choose two prompts you find confident to write two short essays (each 3-4 pages). Like the first one, I think it looks easier to handle since it is a comparison. Please clarify the prompts you are writing. You might use the required texts in our class if the prompt points out, which you can find through the syllabus I attach below. And please be careful that do not disgress from the subject.

Sample Solution

Sample solution

Dante Alighieri played a critical role in the literature world through his poem Divine Comedy that was written in the 14th century. The poem contains Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. The Inferno is a description of the nine circles of torment that are found on the earth. It depicts the realms of the people that have gone against the spiritual values and who, instead, have chosen bestial appetite, violence, or fraud and malice. The nine circles of hell are limbo, lust, gluttony, greed and wrath. Others are heresy, violence, fraud, and treachery. The purpose of this paper is to examine the Dante’s Inferno in the perspective of its portrayal of God’s image and the justification of hell. 

In this epic poem, God is portrayed as a super being guilty of multiple weaknesses including being egotistic, unjust, and hypocritical. Dante, in this poem, depicts God as being more human than divine by challenging God’s omnipotence. Additionally, the manner in which Dante describes Hell is in full contradiction to the morals of God as written in the Bible. When god arranges Hell to flatter Himself, He commits egotism, a sin that is common among human beings (Cheney, 2016). The weakness is depicted in Limbo and on the Gate of Hell where, for instance, God sends those who do not worship Him to Hell. This implies that failure to worship Him is a sin.

God is also depicted as lacking justice in His actions thus removing the godly image. The injustice is portrayed by the manner in which the sodomites and opportunists are treated. The opportunists are subjected to banner chasing in their lives after death followed by being stung by insects and maggots. They are known to having done neither good nor bad during their lifetimes and, therefore, justice could have demanded that they be granted a neutral punishment having lived a neutral life. The sodomites are also punished unfairly by God when Brunetto Lattini is condemned to hell despite being a good leader (Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). While he commited sodomy, God chooses to ignore all the other good deeds that Brunetto did.

Finally, God is also portrayed as being hypocritical in His actions, a sin that further diminishes His godliness and makes Him more human. A case in point is when God condemns the sin of egotism and goes ahead to commit it repeatedly. Proverbs 29:23 states that “arrogance will bring your downfall, but if you are humble, you will be respected.” When Slattery condemns Dante’s human state as being weak, doubtful, and limited, he is proving God’s hypocrisy because He is also human (Verdicchio, 2015). The actions of God in Hell as portrayed by Dante are inconsistent with the Biblical literature. Both Dante and God are prone to making mistakes, something common among human beings thus making God more human.

To wrap it up, Dante portrays God is more human since He commits the same sins that humans commit: egotism, hypocrisy, and injustice. Hell is justified as being a destination for victims of the mistakes committed by God. The Hell is presented as being a totally different place as compared to what is written about it in the Bible. As a result, reading through the text gives an image of God who is prone to the very mistakes common to humans thus ripping Him off His lofty status of divine and, instead, making Him a mere human. Whether or not Dante did it intentionally is subject to debate but one thing is clear in the poem: the misconstrued notion of God is revealed to future generations.

 

References

Babor, T. F., McGovern, T., & Robaina, K. (2017). Dante’s inferno: Seven deadly sins in scientific publishing and how to avoid them. Addiction Science: A Guide for the Perplexed, 267.

Cheney, L. D. G. (2016). Illustrations for Dante’s Inferno: A Comparative Study of Sandro Botticelli, Giovanni Stradano, and Federico Zuccaro. Cultural and Religious Studies4(8), 487.

Verdicchio, M. (2015). Irony and Desire in Dante’s” Inferno” 27. Italica, 285-297.