1b (a) The situation here is that Apollo, Euphorbus and Hektor have killed Patroklus. He stepped too far over the mark that Achilles set for him. Achilles told him not to go past a certain point because
(a) he would steal his glory and
(b) he would get himself killed, which is what happened. Here, Achilles has just found out that Patroklus has been killed and is very distraught, he says that he doesn’t mind if Zeus organises for him to die now.
Achilles is speaking to Thetis, his mother, about what he feels about Patroklus’ death. At this point in the poem, Patroklus’ body is still being fought over by the Trojans, so eventually Achilles goes and brings it back to the Greek camp.
1b (b) Achilles, in this passage, is displaying many distressing emotions. He is saying that he wants to die, because he wasn’t there to stop Patroklus from getting killed. He feels that his life isn’t worth living, if his best friend Patroklus isn’t there to share it with him. He hates the fact that Patroklus died so far away from where he comes from. Achilles feels that if you are going to die, then it should be in your native land, where you can be recognised as a hero.
Achilles starts realising that many of his friends and fellow Greeks have been killed due to him sitting out of the fighting. He appears to blame every Greek’s death on Hektor, because he is angry with him for killing his best friend. Achilles actually refers to Hektor as being “god-like”, which he shouldn’t really be saying if he is angry with him. Being referred to as “god-like” usually means you are a hero. Achilles is nearly always referred to as “god-like”. This could well be a flaw in the text, where Homer has made a mistake in the telling of the story.
Achilles is saying that he isn’t equal to the “bronze-clad Achaians”, no, he is better than they are because he is “gold-clad”. But he does say that there are others who are better at speaking than him. He hates the fact that he fell out with Agamemnon over something so trivial, he wishes that no men would quarrel and resent eachother. He wishes, for the first time ever, that his quarrel with Agamemnon were in the past. All this time Achilles has been sat out of the fighting, he has been so angry with Agamemnon, but now he wants to forget it. This shows, how Achilles’ anger has changed focus and is now centred on fighting Hektor and killing him for what he did to Patroklus.
Achilles appears to have some suicidal thoughts at the moment, because he says that he wants to take his own life, whenever Zeus and the other gods wish to bring it on him. But then he quickly changes his mind and decides that he wants to become a hero again, to have “aristeia”. He wants to kill and slaughter lots of Trojans and Danaans, because the leader of them, Hektor killed his beloved friend. Achilles is going to go back into the fighting angrier than he has ever been, and he will show this by slaughtering many people including Priam’s young son Polydorus.
Achilles knows his mother will try to prevent him from going back into battle, but he won’t let her and tells her not to persuade him.
The first half of the speech shows Achilles with deep anger in his heart, he can’t accept the death of his friend and he blames it on himself. In the second half though, he starts saying that he is going back into the fighting to do Patroklus’ body some justice, and he does when he finally kills Hektor.
1b (c) When Achilles says “others better skilled at speaking”, he has in mind Odysseus. Odysseus is always handing out advice to Achilles; especially he tells him that he can only fight on a full stomach. Also Nestor is another one who gives out advice. Both these men are fairly old in the Iliad and are thought of as wise.
The gift of “oratory” to a hero is very important. Firstly, if you are faced with someone in a duel, then you need to be able to talk to them to see if either (a) you are related to them or they are a family guest or (b) if they are worthy of fighting you. If this is the case then the fight doesn’t go ahead.
Heroes, who have the “oratory” skill, tend to get further on in the fighting.