The Epic of Gilgamesh
Life, Consciousness, and Existence Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Two-thirds of him is god, one-third of him is human.
The Great Goddess [Aruru] designed(?) the model for his body,
she prepared his form …
… beautiful, handsomest of men,
… perfect … (1.46-50)
When it comes to his life and existence, Gilgamesh is different from other human beings. The difference is that other human beings are … human beings, while Gilgamesh is part god: 2/3 god, in fact. This divine aspect mainly seems to do with his body: he may be the "beautiful, handsomest of men," but his consciousness seems basically like that of your average human—or maybe worse. What do you think are the divine and human aspects of Gilgamesh's life and existence? And how do these relate to his consciousness, which develops over the course of the story?
"Look about, Enkidu, inside Uruk-Haven,
where the people show off in skirted finery,
where every day is a day for some festival,
where the lyre(?) and drum play continually,
where harlots stand about prettily,
exuding voluptuousness, full of laughter,
and on the couch of night the sheets are spread (?)." (1.205-213)
Here, Shamhat is trying to convince Enkidu to come with her to Uruk by dangling all the awesome nightlife in his face. So, we get to see what Shamhat considers to be the best things in life: nice clothes, parties, listening to music, having fun, and having sex. But just because Shamhat thinks this is the good life doesn't mean it's what the poem as a whole wants us to think. (It could be, of course, but it doesn't have to be.) Based on the poem as a whole, what do you think the Epic of Gilgamesh wants us to think about Shamhat's words here?
"Enkidu, you who do not know how to live,
I will show you Gilgamesh, a man of extreme feelings (?).
Look at him, gaze at his face—
he is a handsome youth, with freshness(?),
his entire body exudes voluptuousness.
He has mightier strength than you,
without sleeping day or night!" (1.214-220)
Here, we get even more opportunity to figure out what Shamhat thinks life is all about; she even tells us that's what she's talking about, when she tells Enkidu that he "do[es] not know how to live." But does the poem as a whole encourage us to adopt that view? Does it want us to think that life "without sleeping day or night"—what Shamhat tells us Gilgamesh does (or doesn't do)—is really the way to go?