• William Shakespeare: five lessons
    • Cost: $12.50

    A Midsummer Night's Dream is perhaps the most popular of the Shakespearean comedies. Hippolyta probably says it best: "This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard." A Midsummer Night's Dream is deceptive, because it appears to be merely a hodge-podge of comical situations. While the play is a compilation of several stories from many different sources, Shakespeare interwove the material into a complex study on the limits of love and hate. The play centers on the imagination; therefore, the script includes dreams, notions of love, songs, poetry, and a play within a play. Therefore, we see the fancy pitted against the reasonable.

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    • Vergil: twelve lessons
    • Cost: $16.00

    The reader of the Aeneid (written during the period of 29-19 BC) must understand the work to be an eulogy for the death of the Roman republic. Vergil attempts to give a "legitimacy" to the leadership of Caesar Augustus; yet, while Vergil applies his work to the present, he skillfully frames Augustus’ legitimacy in legends of the past. Augustus is to be the mirror image of Aeneas. And like Aeneas who had a divine mission to come to Italy, Caesar Augustus now had a divine mission to take the "blessings" of Roman civilization throughout the known world. Also, the reader will see a bit of Moses in Aeneas, a leader who is taking his people to the promised land. Both men had to endure dangers, temptations, internal strife, and warfare. As you read the Aeneid, you may wish to note those similarities between Moses and Aeneas, and thus understand why Vergil will appeal to Christian poets in later centuries.


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    • Sophocles: three lessons
    • Cost $12.00

    Antigone is the third play of the Oedipus trilogy. This play confronts the recurring conflict between a citizen’s obedience to the State and his exercising his religious duties and obligations to God. After Oedipus leaves Thebes, Creon becomes the king. Later, one of the sons of Oedipus, Polyneices leads a revolt against Creon. However, the defender of Thebes is the other son of Oedipus, Eteocles. Polyneices and Eteocles meet each other on the battlefield and both kill each other. Eteocles is buried with honours; by Creon’s command, Polyneices is to be left on the battlefield unburied. When faced with obeying King Creon’s unreasonable command or following her religious conscience, Antigone, sister to Polyneices, has no struggle as to what to do--she does her religious duty.

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    • Thomas Bulfinch: seventeen lessons
    • Cost: $18.50

    We are fortunate that a banker, and not a professor, has written arguably the best book on mythology. Bulfinch has a simple style of writing that allows everyone to enjoy the timeless tales of the heros and myths of Greece and Rome. Bulfinch includes in his work the allusions to the myths in English literature, while represents a great work of research. This book covers the most important myths connected with the ancient heroes as well as the stories surrounding the Greek and Roman religions. Justifying the study of mythology is not difficult. To understand and appreciate much of British and American literature, the student must be familiar with mythology. Otherwise, the allusions will make little sense. Also, the tales are just fun to read. The myths spark the imagination like little else can. But most importantly, the study of mythology offers an opportunity to see how that any god created in the image of man generally represents the worst traits of mankind. This is a lesson that we need to learn as modern society idolizes the worst and not the best in this world.

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    • Homer: twenty-four lessons
    • Cost: $22.00

    This is the standard for all epic poetry. On the surface, the Iliad appears to be a straightforward tale relating the events during a few days in the tenth year of a war that the Greeks waged with Troy. Yet, the reader will realize that something deeper is happening in the work. This is not a work that glorifies war, but it does magnify the heroism of men who endure great sufferings beyond the capacity of normal humanness. One can make a good argument that the Iliad is a statement against war. The long lists of men who are killed, and the way they die, are not used for poetic effect. The reader will sense this carnage with its bloodshed is meaningless and unnecessary, in spite of any perceived "glory." The reading of the Iliad should cause all sensitive people to become revolted with the conduct of war, particularly ones of conquest and of unjust causes.

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    • Sophocles: four lessons
    • Cost: $12.00

    Oedipus Rex (the King) is the first of a trilogy of plays about Oedipus and his children. The other two plays are Oedipus at Colonus, which continues the sufferings of Oedipus, and Antigone, which is about the daughter of Oedipus, who violates a decree of the king in order to fulfill her religious obligations. The central rhetorical issue in Oedipus Rex is whether Oedipus and Jocasta are innocent victims of a terrible fate, or whether both son and mother are fully aware of their actions. If the former position is true, then there is no moral or religious lesson that we can learn. If the latter position is correct, then Oedipus is perhaps deserving of any punishment and misery that comes his way.

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    • Aeschylus: seven lessons
    • Cost: $13.50

    Included in the trilogy (also called "The House of Atreus") are Agamemnon, The Libation-Bearers, and The Furies. The plays recount the curse on the lineage of Atreus. This unfortunate family had a history of committing horrible acts of violence, and the atrocities were always countered by revenge. Even though Agamemnon returns to his home victorious after the defeat of Troy, the commander-in-chief is murdured by his wife, Clytemnestra. The remainder of the trilogy centers on Orestes, who avenges his father's death and is pursued by the Furies, who punish those who commit parricide. This trilogy represents some of the best examples of Greek drama.

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    • Aristotle: five lessons
    • Cost: $12.50

    Aristotle's Poetics centers on the genres of tragedy and epic poetry. The work is short, but the information and observations are timeless. Indeed, the discussion about the "tragic flaw" is accepted today almost like religious doctrine. No one after all of these years has been able to improve upon the insight given by Aristotle. Nevertheless, read anything by Aristotle with a critical eye, always filtering his views with the Bible.

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    • Euripides: six lessons
    • Cost: $13.00

    As the two plays in this study will show, Euripides does not have a lot of love for the so-called heroes in Greek society. Indeed, in his Trojan Women, the Greeks are made to appear barbaric, cruel, and brutish. Athens during Euripides’ lifetime was creating an empire, and The Trojan Women reflects the playwright’s disgust with empire-builders. Indeed, The Trojan Women questions why the only result after ten years of war was a burned city, a group of miserable and destitute women, and a murdered baby. In Hippolytus, Euripides is calling into question the inordinate denial of normal passions and temptations. Phaedra and Hippolytus overreact to their situations, and the result is only misery and death. The lesson to be learned in this play is reason should prevail above passions; but when passions exceed reason, then even lofty morality cannot stop, and indeed may help lead to, horrible conclusions.

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    • King James Bible: ten lessons
    • Cost: $15.00

    Undoubtedly, the greatest work of literature ever written is the Authorized Version of the English Bible. This single work standardized English spelling and grammar, and marked the beginning of modern English. However, within the Bible, the Book of Job is not only one of the oldest single examples of literature, but this book is the most profound work from a literary point of view. Indeed, Job is the standard by which all other works of literature must be judged. The Book of Job has it all: prose, poetry, and drama. The book is for the person who thinks deeply about life, and it offers a rare look at the unseen world as the spiritual forces take an active role in the lives of human beings. The central question that is answered in Job is "why do the righteous suffer?" This work is much more than mere philosophical reflections, though it excels all human philosophies, since man’s wisdom fails during the trials of life. The Book of Job offers superior knowledge through revelation by which human beings must guide their lives.

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    • Unknown author: four lessons
    • Cost: $15.00

    Gilgamesh is the earliest-known literature. King Gilgamesh is a tyrant who rules the people with an iron hand. However, one day this king is challenged by a beast-like man who is as strong as Gilgamesh. Yet, after their battle with each other, these two men become very close friends. Gilgamesh and Enkidu have many adventures, which include the killing of Humbaba and the Bull of heaven. However, when Enkidu dies, Gilgamesh begins a journey in order to find the answer to eternal life. With this knowledge, Gilgamesh hopes to bring his friend back from the dead. Gilgamesh meets some very interesting people during his travels, including Utnapishtim, who is the "Noah" of the Bible. Does Gilgamesh find the secret to eternal life? Read this tale to find out.

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    • William Shakespeare: five lessons
    • Cost: $12.50

    Julius Caesar is one of those great figures in history who was not only a brilliant military leader, but also a first class politician. The Tragedy of Julius Caesar is Shakespeare's interpretation of the assassination of Caesar on the ides of March. Was Caesar a tyrant who had overreached his power and therefore had to be eliminated? Brutus, Cassius, and others thought so. At first, Brutus convinces the common folks that the murder was merely a purging of a disease. However, very few orations can surpass Antony's famous speech as the crowd is now incited against the conspirators. Shakespeare seems to center on the fickleness of mankind in this excellent work. The final acts of the play describe the civil war between Brutus and the Second Triumvirate.

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