How is wisdom depicted in The Epic of Gilgamesh?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The revelation of wisdom in The Epic of Gilgamesh is tied to the complementary themes of change and transformation and mortality and immortality. Gilgamesh's quest in the second part of the epic is for immortality so that he will be spared the frightening experience of death, such as Enkidu suffered. Yet what he discovers is not immortality--unending unchangeability--but rather continuance through transformation. The lesson of wisdom Gilgamesh learns is that just as the dragonfly nymph and snake are transformed into new beings who nonetheless retain their essence, so does mortal death transform the human form though the essence continues. Individual immortality is gained through continuance while social immortality is gained through writing down the epic of life and living (a theme oft repeated by sonnet writers such as Petrarch, Spenser and Shakespeare).