graphic of iphigenia TROY
Activities for Goethe's (and Euripides') Iphigenia in Tauris and Kleist's Penthesilea


  NOTE the chili peppers!!! One means a pretty easy Activity, two means a harder one, and three means a challenging Activity. It is up to you.

1. Read The Trojan War, Chapter 6: "Euripides' Two Iphigenia Plays: Sacrifice and Resolution," and Chapter 13: "Improving Iphigenia: Racine and Goethe Modernize Evil."

2. Explore the links on the Goethe's (and Euripides') Iphigenia in Tauris page.

3. Read through all the Activity questions on this page before selecting Activities to work with. Notice that some of the Activities are quite easy and may only require reading one play, while others are far more difficult, and may require reading more than one play or doing online research plus reading plays.

Select Activities that interest you and are appropriate to the time you have to spend on them. You will not get a higher grade because you select more difficult Activities. Some Activities that are especially complex will offer double credit; if so, that will be stated in the Activity question. If you select the double credit option, you must write "double credit" on your Activity AND you must develop your Activity in more depth, in order to qualify for the double credit. 

Select one or two of these Activities. Follow the directions in your Blackboard course site to complete the activities.

graphic of one chili pepper1. Read Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris. Consider Goethe's Iphigenia as an ideal of womankind. Describe in detail those elements of her character that make her such an ideal woman for Goethe. What do you think of her personally? Do you admire her? Do you find her unbelievable? Do you think she represents a desirable goal for a young woman to strive to emulate? Support your response with plenty of specific examples from the play.
graphic of one chili pepper2.  Read Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris. Should Goethe's Iphigenia have lied to save her brother and his friend? Why or why not? Develop your ideas in some depth and response with plenty of specific examples from the play.
3. graphic of one chili pepperIrmgard Wagner points out that Goethe's Iphigenia became a primary model of excellent literature in German schools for well over a century, and young German soldiers carried the play in their backpacks in World War I. However, after the German defeat in 1918, Iphigenia was discarded along with many other "false idols." (Critical Approaches to Goethe's Classical Dramas. Camden House, 1995, 31.) Why do you think this play was so admired? Do you admire it or even enjoy it? Why or why not? Develop and support your ideas using specific examples from the play.
4. graphic of one chili pepperIn Goethe's Iphigenia, what is the effect of Iphigenia on King Thoas? Why does she have that effect? Do you consider the relations between Iphigenia and King Thoas believable? Why or why not? Support your response with specific examples from the play.
graphic of two chili pepper5. Read Iphigenia, which is a discussion of the legend of Iphigenia from the Encyclopedia Mythica. Then review Goethe's presentation of the character of Iphigenia. How has he made use of the traditional material? Where has he changed it? And, so what? Support your ideas with specific examples from Goethe's Iphigenia and from the legend of Iphigenia.
graphic of two chili pepper6. If you are interested in philosophy, read German Idealism, which is an essay from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Then review Goethe's Iphigenia and explain the influence of German Idealism on the play, the characters, etc. Support your ideas with examples from both the German Idealism site and Goethe's play. Worth double credit if very well done.
graphic of two chili pepper7. Euhemerization is the process by which people explain away the ancient gods as merely historical human beings. Go to Dictys and Dares to read my brief account of how a two first century AD authors remove the gods from the story of Iphigenia at Aulis. Now consider Goethe's version of Iphigenia in Tauris. The gods are essentially gone. What has replaced them to provide motivation for the actions of the play? Do you think Goethe has broken away from the tradition of Troy stories, or that he is a legitimate part of the unending transformation of these ancient stories? Support your ideas with specific examples from his play and from the tradition as you have been learning about it.
graphic of two chili pepper8. In Goethe's Iphigenia, the Tantalids are the ancient, cursed race that murdered one another, sacrificed and even devoured their children, and defied the gods. Iphigenia, Orestes and Pylades are all descended from that terrible family. First, look up the history of the Tantalids in Bulfinch's Mythology. Then, examine the play for various references to the Tantalids and explain what Goethe's point was in discussing them in the play. Especially note Iphigenia's role in relation to the Tantalids. Support your ideas with specific examples from the play.
graphic of three chili pepper9. Penthesilea presents a strongly negative kind of romanticism, one more familiar in German literature than in English. In this play, love leads to disaster and death. Can you connect this vision of love with more ancient versions of the Troy story? If so, explain the connections you see, using plenty of specific details. You may do this for single credit, or if you want to make a major excursion into ancient Troy stories and their vision of the destructive power of love, you may want to do this for double credit. Be sure to let me know which you are doing.
graphic of three chili pepper10. Read both Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris and Euripides' Iphigenia in Tauris. Explain what you think are the most important differences between the two plays. Try to focus on the character of Iphigenia and the role of the gods. Which version do you find more believable? Why? Support your ideas with specific examples from both versions. Worth double credit if very well done.
graphic of three chili pepper11. Both Racine and Goethe find ways to "improve" Iphigenia and make her more acceptable to their times and cultures. Compare/contrast some of the ways each playwright has modernized and improved the character of Iphigenia. This Activity requires reading Racine's and Euripides' versions of Iphigenia at Aulis, as well as Goethe's and Euripides' versions of Iphigenia in Tauris). This is an interesting Activity for an ambitious student. Worth double credit if very well done.
graphic of three chili pepper12. Read Goethe's Iphigenia and Kleist's Penthesilea, which some have called the anti-Iphigenia play. Each presents the heroine as an extreme person, acting on extreme emotions and beliefs. While Goethe's heroine is a model of humanistic ethics, KIeist's is wildly, tragically romantic in nature. Needless to say, Goethe did NOT like Kleist's play, and it is safe to assume that Kleist did not particularly like Goethe's. Which one do you prefer and why? Support your response with plenty of specific details from BOTH texts. Worth double credit if very well done.  

Last Updated: 8/5/2017

© Thompson: 9/22/1998