Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Homer's Use of Humor and Comic Elements in 'The Iliad'

Homer's humors in The Iliad are related with his treatments of gods, men and war. Homer is a realist and finds his humors in the very texture of reality. Whenever he introduces a humorous scene he introduces it to reflect the reality. Most of the times he introduces humors to point out the foibles and weaknesses of gods and men and his humorous become savage. But the most noticeable thing in his treatment of humors is that he has portrayed two distinct worlds- the world of gods and the world of men and he introduces humorous in these two worlds separately. When he makes the gods laughable, the humans are not concerned and when the humors are related with men, the gods are not concerned. So the humorous elements are introduced solely when gods are shown together in sympathetic or in hostile action, but when dealing with mankind they are for from being amusing.

Homer's sense of humour is seen in his treatment of Olympus in the Book I. He introduces us to the Olympian court and household. There is a patriarchal family, which consists of father all seeing Zeus, mother Ox-eyed Here and their daughters and sons. The head of the family Zeus is not care free as he has many obligations to fulfill. Thetis of the silver feet comes to Zeus and implores him to help her son Achilles by giving a victory to the Trojans. At first he does not answer and she appeals again. The pathetic appeals move Zeus but he is afraid of his wife Here.

“This is a sorry business, you will make me fall foul of here.. Trave me now, or she may notice us. ”

It is absolutely humorous that Zeus- the father of men and gods is constantly bothered by the thought of his prying and nagging wife here. And soon we see that the husband and wife are quarreling each other and Zeus- the authoritative husband threatens to beat his wife. But Hepaestus, their lame son comes between them and tries to console his mother Here.

Homer's sense of humor is also seen in his portrayal of Hepaestus- the great artificer. He limps, but he is active on his slender legs. He serves in the banquet of the gods with nectar which he drew from the mixing bowl, and a fit of helpless laughter seizes the happy gods as they watch him bustling up and down the hall. That the gods laugh at the deformity of another god is humorous, though if becomes savage.

Homer also introduces the humorous seen in his portrayal of the battlefield. In the book II, Thersites the ugliest man that had come to Ilium becomes the source of humors. Through him Homer satirizes men's attitude to war. Thersites throws insults at Agamemnon, and he is stopped savagely by Odysseus. It is supposed that Therisites is half witted but we see that his words contain the very truth. And when he is struck by Odysseus on the back and shoulders everybody laughs at him. This kind of humors may distress us, as Thersites is laughed by all for his physical deformity, but this kind of physical deformity has always been an object of humor and the gods were constantly laughing at lame Hephaestus.

In the Book V Aphrodie and Ares also become the source of amusement. In this book, Diomedes, encouraged by Here attacks Aphrodite and Ares violently. Aphrodite reaches Olympus and implores Zeus that she has been injured by mortal. Zeus instead of punishing the offender smiles at her and says that fighting is not her business. She is in charge of wedlock and the tender passions. Again, Ares the war god, injured by Diomedes travels rapidly and reaches the high Olympus. He shows Zeus the immortal blood pouring from his wound and tells his story in a doleful vice. He accuses Zeus saying that he is indulging Here to do such havoc. But Zeus enraged by such accusation rebukes Ares severely. Zeus tells Ares that he hates him more than any god on Olympus. In a counter attack Zeus tells Ares that it is not Zeus but Ares and his mother Here are coursing all the troubles. So in this attack and counter attack among gods we find the touch of comic relief before the ultimate tragedy.

In the Book XIV Here's seducing of her husband Zeus also provides helpless laughter. Poseidon is helping the Greeks and Here wants to prolong this help. She dressing in her first garments and borrowing the magic girdle of Aphrodite flies of to Mount Ida to seduce her husband so that his attention is diverted. Zeus ,the father of men and gods is coaxed by the feminine charm and forgets his duty. And when he wakes up and takes Here to task, she lies. These scenes on the Olympus really add comicality to the story.

Home's another humorous treatment of war is seen is the Book XXI, where the immortals engage in combats on the human issue. Apollo and his sister Artemis put up a ludicrous show when they are at war with their uncle Poseidon and their father's consort Here. Apollo avoids fighting with his uncle on the ground that it will be improper thing to come to blows with his uncle. Artremis is also boxed on the ears by Here. And this scene is the final comic relief; we get before the tragic death of Hector.

So considering all the humorous scenes we can rightly conclude that Homer's sense of humor is very acute and realistic. He blends humor in his characterization of Heaven and earth. He uses humor sometimes to contrast between these two worlds and sometimes just to provide comic relief.