Eng 108–Study questions for common texts (Renaissance through 17th century)

Ariosto, Orlando Furioso [selections]

1.  Compare Roland (Orlando) as he is in the earlier Song of Roland with his character here; how has he changed, and how do the changes reflect the change in the audience for the text?
2. How does the character of Ruggiero evolve over the course of events?
3. Define “knighthood” and “chivalry” as they are represented in this text.
4. How is Angelica like/unlike a typical Petrarchan heroine?
5. Discuss how Ariosto describes landscape in the text; is it realistic? how or how not?

Marguerite de Navarre (selections from Heptameron)

1.  Discuss which you think presents a stronger moral position — Boccaccio or Marguerite — and how (give evidence) the authors develop that position.
2.  Pick one of Marguerite’s stories and explain how the discussion between stories adds to your understanding of the story’s purpose.
3.  What different attitudes towards love are present in the selections here?   Which do you think is the one favored by the author?
4.  Discuss how attitudes towards women’s position in society are presented, both in the stories and in the intervening discussions.

Cervantes, Don Quixote (selections)

1.  The narrator’s voice is very prevalent in this work; describe the narrator’s attitude toward his subject, giving some examples from the text to support your characterization.
2.  The tradition of picaresque (from the Spanish picaro, or rogue) narrative is evident here, especially in the elements of realism found in the story, as well as with Sancho’s character.  Discuss how Cervantes makes Sancho and his reactions to situations believable.
3.  The character of Don Quixote is a mixture of satire, realism, and idealism.   Pick one example from the text of each of these elements and describe how DQ illustrates these ideas.
4.  Discuss how the last chapter affects your interpretation of Don Quixote’s character in the other parts of the story.
5.  Choose one episode which on the surface seems comic (or pathetic), but underneath deals with serious concepts; discuss how Cervantes uses the apparently comic to comment on a serious idea.

Lope de Vega, Fuente Ovejuna

1.  After reading the play, consider the importance of the title — discuss why the author did not name the play after the “hero” of the play, as was so often done.  What ideas does Lope de Vega emphasize through his choice of title and how are these supported through the play?
2.  In light of the horrible events which happen in this play, explore why it is still classified as a comedy.  Consider the broadest interpretation of comedy as passed on from the Middle Ages, not simply the production of laughter.
3.  Consider what effect production (rather than just reading) the play would have — think especially of the songs and the flags.  How would hearing and seeing these affect the audience during those scenes?
4.  Sum up the heroic ideals presented in this play, then choose one other work from this term to contrast ideals (i.e., Roland or Don Quixote).  Discuss specific examples from the play to illustrate your ideas.

Madame de Lafayette, Princess of Cleves

1.  If the novel can be defined as a prose work which develops character(s) in a realistic manner, set in a very real, well drawn society, and deals with serious social/moral issues, evaluate how well this work fits that category.
2.  Pick one set of oppositions used in this work — romance vs. love, appearance vs. reality, virtue vs. morality (among others) — and discuss how Mme. de Lafayette presents these ideas.  Does she come down hard on one side or the other?  How do you know — what clues from the text lead you to think she is either opinionated or carefully neutral?
3.  Compare the story told of Anne Boleyn with that of Diane de Poitiers — what is the “message” implied in the telling of these two women’s fates?
4.  Pick one of the major characters — the Princess or Prince of Cleves, the Vidame, or Duc de Nemours — and explain how Mme. de Lafayette develops that character’s traits.  What actions and thoughts give us important clues to the character?
5.  Discuss the Princess’s decision to “confess” — do you agree or disagree with her action?  why?
6.  This work, like several others this term, explores some of the gender-based prejudices of early modern European society.  Discuss this and one other work with regard to the position of women and how it affects the outcome of each.

Racine, Phaedra

1. Which character is the tragic hero:  Phaedra, Theseus, or Hippolytus?   Present evidence for/against each.
2. Racine adapts this play from a Greek tragedy; what technique does he use to replace the function of the Greek chorus?
3. One critic states that “love itself, and not its aberrations or abuses, is the villain” in Phaedra.  Do you agree?  Explain.
4. Note how Racine does/does not use scenery, props, stage directions.  How do you imagine his play appearing on stage?
5. How are we meant to feel about “the passions” by the end of the play?

Molière, Tartuffe

1. Why does Tartuffe appear on stage late?  Is he what you expect?
2. Name some of the stock comic character types Molière uses here.
3. Who is the paramount “Voice of Reason”?  Which other characters seem to contend for that role?
4. Look at the uses of verbal and dramatic irony. Pick out several places each is found.
5. Name two themes for the play; how does Molière develop each?
6. In which scenes are stage directions most important?
7. Where do you see satire overwhelming “fun” comedy?
8. Orgon’s weaknesses are easy to see; what are his positive traits?