What is the stalemate in book 1 of The Iliad?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the strongest elements of equal force meeting immovable object in Book I would have to be the collision of wills between Achilles and Agamemnon.  This clash between both is a stalemate because neither will acquiesce to the other, reflecting Homer's articulation of equally desirable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action.  The stalemate is reflective of Homer also sees the waging of war as something shows division between those who fight the wars and those who start the wars.  Agamemnon approaches the war and his role in it as a King, where all else are subservient to this title.  Achilles approaches the war as a soldier, a warrior who recognizes that there is little direct purpose for his own participation in anything that causes bloodshed and is directed to feed the King's glory.  This stalemate emerges as the clash of personalities between both figures and also reflects how war, itself, is not a simplistic exercise where there is easiness and ultimatums that are direct.  Rather, this vision of war is one where there is complexity and nuances, and the stalemate between Agamemnon and Achilles helps to evoke this conception.


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