Don Quixote--The First of the Wannabes
Episode 10 of Heroes and Legends

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Sherlock Holmes--The First Great Detective
Episode 16 of Heroes and Legends
We are familiar with Sherlock Holmes's methodology--using clues, facts, evidence, and reason to solve the case. Here, go inside the world of the 19th century and see what circumstances paved the way for such a hero. Then, turn to some of Sherlock's most exciting cases.
Guinevere--A Heroine with Many Faces
Episode 4 of Heroes and Legends
Trace Guinevere's adulterous affair with Lancelot and consider what effects it had on cultural values and Western history. As a powerful woman in the heart of King Arthur's court, Guinevere is an intriguing heroine--passionate, strong-willed, and complex in a way that still captures our imagination today.
The Wife of Bath--An Independent Woman
Episode 5 of Heroes and Legends
Chaucer worked harder on the Wife of Bath than on any other character in The Canterbury Tales, leaving us not one but four separate perspectives on one of literature's most memorable female characters. Discover what Chaucer reveals about her, the time she lives in, and the surprising complexity of her…
Cressida--A Love Betrayed
Episode 6 of Heroes and Legends
Cressida is an archetypal femme fatale, embroiled in a love triangle between her true love, Troilus, and the bad boy, Diomedes. Through the lens of Chaucer, Shakespeare, and the Scottish poet Robert Henryson, discover what makes Cressida tick--why does she send Troilus a "Dear John" letter? What doesn't she understand…
Beowulf--A Hero with Hidden Depths
Episode 7 of Heroes and Legends
Beowulf is not an easy poem to understand, but Beowulf is not an easy character to understand. Here, analyze how this classic male hero--a big, strong, monster killer--may have a hidden vulnerability. Then, look at what insights Beowulf's story offers about life and death, the limits of self-reliance, and the…
Thor--A Very Human God
Episode 8 of Heroes and Legends
Thor may seem like another classic male hero--the god of thunder in Norse mythology and a superhero today--yet the Icelandic poems and stories from the 13th century undercut the image of Thor as a straightforward hero. These amusing tales will give you a new window into a character you thought…
Robin Hood--The Outlaw Hero
Episode 9 of Heroes and Legends
Who was Robin Hood? He's an anomaly in this course because his story cannot be traced to a single work or figure. Perhaps because of these gaps in the story, he seems to be a bundle of contradictions. Delve into the politics, religion, and society of Robin Hood's origins to…
The Titans in Greek Mythology
Welcome to the ancient Greek myths: some of the most popular, well-known stories in Western civilization. When did these tales emerge, and what are our earliest sources for them? Find out in this lecture on father-son conflicts between Uranus, Kronos, Zeus, and the other first-generation gods known as the Titans.
Complex Goddesses: Athena, Aphrodite, Hera
Meet three iconic goddesses whose personalities and stories reflect how the ancient Greeks viewed women. They are: Athena, who emerged fully-formed from Zeus's head and is linked to legal courts; Aphrodite, best known for her wild love affair with Adonis; and Hera, Zeus's wife-sister, who presides over marriage and childbirth.
Gods and Humanity in Greek Thought
Discover fresh insights into several Greek myths that teach us about the relationship between gods and humans. Is Prometheus a troublemaker (according to Hesiod) or a liberator (according to Aeschylus)? What happened after Pandora's box of evil spirits was opened? How did Persephone's kidnapping inspire the Eleusinian Mysteries?
Herakles and the Greek Hero
Investigate the mythological roots and legacies of the powerful--but flawed--Greek hero, Herakles. Explore common threads that run through some of his twelve labors, including the slaying of the Hydra and the cleaning of the Augean stables. Also, ponder Herakles's role in ancient Greek society as both mortal and god.
Odysseus, Master of Schemes
Turn now to the hero of Homer's celebrated Odyssey: Odysseus. From his plans for the Trojan horse to his tricking of a murderous cyclops to his final arrival back in Ithaca, learn how Odysseus's scheming and lying led to heroic triumphs that made his story relatable to everyday ancient Greeks--and…