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2. 'Major' and 'Minor' Characters: Thersites and Phoenix
About this Lecture
In this module, we think about what we mean when we speak about 'major' and 'minor' characters, before looking in more detail in two characters that only appear once in the whole poem: Thersites and Phoenix. Both characters could be removed from the poem without leaving so much as a trace, so why does the poet include them at all?
In this course, Professor Richard Jenkyns (University of Oxford) explores the theme of characterisation in Homer's Iliad, focusing in particular on fourteen key characters. In the first module, we think about what we mean by the terms 'character' and 'characterisation', focusing in particular on the distinctiveness of Achilles and the ordinariness of Hector. After that, we think about the designation 'major' and 'minor' when talking about character, and consider the importance of two characters that appear just once in the poem: Thersites and Phoenix. In the third and fourth modules, we consider the different roles of several characters from both the Greek and Trojan forces, before turning in the fifth module to the figures of Thetis and Helen, two strangely anomalous characters who seem to sit somewhere between mortal and immortal. We end the fifth module by thinking of the importance of female characters more generally, focusing in particular on the very end of the poem.
Richard Jenkyns was an undergraduate at Balliol College, Oxford. He was a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, from 1972 to 1981, Lecturer in Classics, University of Bristol, 1978-81, and from 1981 to 2010 he was a Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Lady Margaret Hall.
He became Professor of the Classical Tradition in 1999 and the University’s Public Orator in 2004. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship 2007-10.
Cite this Lecture
Jenkyns, R. (2019, January 14). Homer: Iliad: Characterisation - 'Major' and 'Minor' Characters: Thersites and Phoenix [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/homer-iliad-characterisation/major-and-minor-characters-thersites-and-phoenix
Jenkyns, Richard. "Homer: Iliad: Characterisation – 'Major' and 'Minor' Characters: Thersites and Phoenix." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 14 Jan 2019, https://www.massolit.io/courses/homer-iliad-characterisation/major-and-minor-characters-thersites-and-phoenix