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Quiz about Eponymous Literary Characters
Quiz about Eponymous Literary Characters

Eponymous Literary Characters Trivia Quiz


Are you Pickwickian or Pecksniffian? This quiz features certain characters from classic literature and drama whose names have found their way into the English language. Enjoy!

A multiple-choice quiz by jouen58. Estimated time: 6 mins.
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Author
jouen58
Time
6 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
166,087
Updated
Feb 02 23
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Average
Avg Score
6 / 10
Plays
8762
Awards
Editor's Choice
Last 3 plays: jogreen (6/10), Guest 212 (8/10), pollucci19 (8/10).
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Question 1 of 10
1. These four characters from Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" had earlier appeared in Greek mythology as well as Homer's "Odyssey" and Virgil's "Aeneid". Each has achieved an eponymous immortality of some kind or other. In Shakespeare's play, one of them acts as a go-between for the ill-starred lovers with the result that his name has become infamous as a rather seedy procurer or pimp. Who is he? Hint


Question 2 of 10
2. This name for a wanton seducer of women originated as a character in Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play "The Fair Penitent". Hint


Question 3 of 10
3. A comical female character in R.B. Sheridan's 1775 play "The Rivals" is the origin of this word, which describes the use of a word or words in a phrase which are comically inappropriate, although they sound approximately like the correct words. Hint


Question 4 of 10
4. All but one of the following literary characters has become synonymous with an individual who hypocritically conceals an unscrupulous and corrupt nature behind a facade of false humility and/or piety. The fourth is a rather nice fellow who conceals a hyperactive fantasy life behind a meek facade; which one is he? Hint


Question 5 of 10
5. Jonathan Swift's immortal novel "Gulliver's Travels" is the source of a number of eponymous terms. Which of these is NOT derived from characters (actually races of people) in Swift's novel, but from a legendary character who features in a work by the 16th century French author Francois Rabelais? Hint


Question 6 of 10
6. The word "Svengali", which describes an exacting and rather sadistic taskmaster who transforms someone with raw talent into a great artist, is derived from the name of the title character of an 1894 George du Maurier novel.


Question 7 of 10
7. These two characters were featured in Victorian-era author Pierce Egan's 1821 book "Life in London", the first in what would become an extremely popular series. Their adventures were eventually adapted into a play by William T. Moncrieff. An eggnog-like drink laced with rum, usually served around the Christmas holidays, bears their name(s). More recently, their names were appropriated for an American children's cartoon duo. Who are they? Hint


Question 8 of 10
8. American author Eleanor Porter's hugely popular 1914 novel "Pollyanna" featured, as its title heroine, an indefatigably (some might say insufferably) cheerful and optimistic young orphan girl, whose "find the silver lining" philosophy eventually transforms virtually everyone she encounters. The term "Pollyanna" has since become synonymous with any incurable optimist. Miss Porter's heroine, however, has a much earlier male counterpart in this character from 18th century French literature, whose eponymous philosophy holds that "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Who is he? Hint


Question 9 of 10
9. The name of the title character of this Sinclair Lewis novel has entered the vocabulary as a self-satisfied hypocrite and mediocrity who, nonetheless, enjoys material success and respectability. This type was as well-known in Lewis' day as it is today. What is the novel? Hint


Question 10 of 10
10. The novels of Charles Dickens are notable for their proliferation of vividly drawn characters, many of whose names have passed into usage in the English language (Scrooge being a classic example). One of the most striking examples is this character from one of Dickens' earliest novels, who is the head of an adventurous and benevolent club which bears his name. He typifies a type of well-meaning, if somewhat bumbling, benevolence; also, a type of disclaimer once popular with lawyers and politicians also bears his name. Who is he? Hint



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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. These four characters from Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida" had earlier appeared in Greek mythology as well as Homer's "Odyssey" and Virgil's "Aeneid". Each has achieved an eponymous immortality of some kind or other. In Shakespeare's play, one of them acts as a go-between for the ill-starred lovers with the result that his name has become infamous as a rather seedy procurer or pimp. Who is he?

Answer: Pandarus

At the end of Shakespeare's play Troilus, embittered by the unhappy denouement of his romance with the ultimately false Cressida, turns angrily on Pandarus with the words "Hence, broker, lackey! Ignomy and shame pursue thy life and live aye with thy name" (hence the pejorative terms "pander" and "panderer").

Troilus' bitterness is compounded by the slaying of Hector, the brave but rather overbearing Trojan hero whose name has become synonymous with bullying or blustering intimidation. Hector is slain by Achilles, the mortal son of the goddess Thetis, who had thought to render her infant son invulnerable by dipping him into the Styx, the river of immortality. Unfortunately, she held onto him by the heel which remained his one vulnerable spot and where he was eventually fatally struck by a poisoned arrow. An "Achilles heel" has subsequently come to mean any weak or vulnerable point; also, in anatomy, the tendon joining the calf muscles to the bone of the heel is known as the Achilles tendon.

After Achilles' death both Ajax and Odysseus vied with each other over his armor. The goddess Athena eventually ended the dispute by awarding the armor to Odysseus, whereupon Ajax went mad with despair and shame and fell upon his sword. Ajax's tragic story was the subject of a play by Sophocles; his depression might have been deepened by the foreknowledge that his name would eventually be given to a bathroom cleanser.
2. This name for a wanton seducer of women originated as a character in Nicholas Rowe's 1703 play "The Fair Penitent".

Answer: lothario

Rowe (1674-1718) was a poet laureate of England (he succeeded Nahum Tate in 1715) and the leading tragic dramatist of his era (his one comedy, "The Biter", was a failure). His 6 volume edition of "The Works of Mr. William Shakespear; Revis'd and Corrected" (1709) was the first critical edition of Shakespeare's works; it was expanded to 9 volumes in 1714 to include the poems. Rowe's tragedies include "Tamurlane", "Lady Jane Grey", and "The Ambitious Stepmother", as well as "The Fair Penitent".

The plot of "The Fair Penitent" is motivated by the seduction of the heroine, Calista, by her lover Lothario. Calista, the daughter of a Genoese nobleman, was in love with Lothario; after surrendering her virtue to him, she begs him to marry her, to no avail. Her father, meanwhile, has arranged for her marriage to the noble Altamont. Altamont is presented with evidence of his wife's infidelity, but refuses to believe the truth until he catches the lovers together. He kills Lothario in a fit of passion, which touches off a vendetta by the latter's faction in which Calista's father is killed. Distraught over the deaths of her father and lover, Calista commits suicide. The name "Lothario" has entered the lexicon, along with Don Juan, as the prototype of a heartless and uncaring seducer.
3. A comical female character in R.B. Sheridan's 1775 play "The Rivals" is the origin of this word, which describes the use of a word or words in a phrase which are comically inappropriate, although they sound approximately like the correct words.

Answer: malaprop

Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816) was born in Dublin. His mother Frances was also a novelist; Mrs. Malaprop was actually based on a character named Mrs. Tryfort from an unpublished play of Frances' entitled "A Journey to Bath". Sheridan's father Thomas was a renowned actor and theatrical manager. Sheridan is credited with having revitalized English drama in the late 18th century; his other plays include "The Critic" and "School for Scandal". "The Rivals", a comedy of romantic misadventure which poked fun of the sentimentality of the times, premiered in 1775 and featured the meddling, muddling character Mrs. Malaprop.

Among Mrs. Malaprop's more spectacular blunders are the lines "As headstrong as an allegory [alligator] on the banks of the Nile", "He is the very pineapple [pinnacle] of politeness", and the remarkable phrase "Sure, if I reprehend [comprehend] anything if [of] the world, it is the use of my oracular [oral] tongue and a nice derangement [arrangement] of epitaphs." Paradoxically, Mrs. Malaprop's name is unusually apt, being derived from the French "mal apropos", meaning ill-appropriate. Sheridan's career was an uneven one and he died in poverty, though he is interred in Westminster Abbey.
4. All but one of the following literary characters has become synonymous with an individual who hypocritically conceals an unscrupulous and corrupt nature behind a facade of false humility and/or piety. The fourth is a rather nice fellow who conceals a hyperactive fantasy life behind a meek facade; which one is he?

Answer: Walter Mitty (from James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty")

Walter Mitty, the rather unlikely hero of American author James Thurber's 1941 novel, is a timid, unadventurous fellow dominated by his wife and pretty much everyone else (rather like another eponymous character "Caspar Milquetoast", the subject of H.T. Webster's popular 1930's cartoon "The Timid Soul"). Beneath this meek exterior, he conceals a vivid fantasy life in which he is, alternately, a daredevil pilot, a heroic naval commander, and a brilliant surgeon. A "Walter Mitty dream" refers to any type of wild fantasy the average person dreams up to enliven their daily grind.

Seth Pecksniff, from Dickens' "Martin Chuzzlewit", is a more comical version of the better-known Uriah Heep from the same author's "David Copperfield". This "architect, artist, and man" adopts an unctuously moralistic facade to mask his true nature as an unscrupulous con artist, bent on swindling Chuzzlewit out of his inheritance, quite apart from being deeply involved in a fraudulent insurance company which bilks its working class clients. The term "Pecksniffian" refers to any such moralizing hypocrite.

A "Tartuffe" describes one who conceals a self-serving and conniving nature beneath the mask of religion. The title character of Moliere's 1664 comedy is discovered praying fervently in church by the wealthy official Orgon. Duped by Tartuffe's seeming piety, the naive Orgon introduces the impecunious scoundrel into his previously happy and idyllic household, where the "holy man" proceeds to wreak havoc. During the course of the play, Tartuffe gets himself engaged to Orgon's daughter, convinces the official to sign over his estate to him, and makes advances towards Orgon's wife Elmire. The latter eventually unmasks Tartuffe, but not before he has gotten his hands on a casket containing state secrets which he uses to blackmail his benefactor. Only a chance recognition of Tartuffe by the king as a known criminal keeps the naive Orgon from ending up in prison and his family from being evicted from their home.

The term "Simon Pure" actually has two contrasting meanings; the character from Centlivre's 1718 play is a Quaker gentleman who, unlike Pecksniff and Tartuffe, is as virtuous as he appears to be. Simon is impersonated, however, by the aptly named Colonel Feignwell, who wins the heart of the heroine, the (presumably) equally aptly named Miss Lovely, and convinces her guardian to give his consent to their marriage. At the eleventh hour, however, the real Simon Pure appears and the scoundrel Feignwell is unmasked. The term "Simon Pure", according to Webster, means both "of untainted purity or integrity" and "pretentiously or hypocritically pure. The phrase "The real Simon Pure", on the other hand, means "the genuine article"; in recent years, it has largely been replaced by the term "the real Mc Coy", which is another story entirely.
5. Jonathan Swift's immortal novel "Gulliver's Travels" is the source of a number of eponymous terms. Which of these is NOT derived from characters (actually races of people) in Swift's novel, but from a legendary character who features in a work by the 16th century French author Francois Rabelais?

Answer: Gargantuan

Rabelais was a Benedictine monk with a degree in medicine. His five-volume satirical masterpiece "Gargantua and Pantagruel", written over the course of about thirty years, contains much brilliant religious, political, and philosophical dialogue along with a good deal of uproariously obscene and scatological humor (Rabelais narrowly escaped a trial for heresy). The epicurean and gigantic king Gargantua had been a legendary figure since before Shakespeare's time (the name appears in "As You Like It") before Rabelais appropriated him as the hero (anti-hero?) of his magnum opus. The name has long existed as an adjective (gargantuan) describing anything collossal or huge.

The other three terms are from Jonathan Swift's equally classic 18th century satire "Gulliver's Travels". "Lilliputian" is derived from the name of the fictional, miniature island nation in the South Pacific in which Gulliver finds himself lashed to the ground in Book 1. The term generally refers to anything miniature or small, or it can have a pejorative sense, referring to small-mindedness or pettiness. The contrasting term Brobdignabian, whose definition is similar to Gargantuan, is derived from the land of giants off the coast of North America visited by Gulliver on his second voyage. The Yahoos are a degraded and uncouth race of people encountered by Gulliver on the island of Houyhnhnm land in Part IV. Gulliver actually has some difficulty identifying the Yahoos as human beings; they are so backward that a race of intelligent horses (the Houyhnhnms) have dominated them and use them as beasts of burden. The term now refers to any brutish, ignorant, and/or uncouth person or persons, though it is also used (in America at any rate) as a loud exclamation of excitement or happiness. More recently, it has become the name of a popular internet service.
6. The word "Svengali", which describes an exacting and rather sadistic taskmaster who transforms someone with raw talent into a great artist, is derived from the name of the title character of an 1894 George du Maurier novel.

Answer: False

Well, not quite; the character did originate in an 1894 novel by George du Maurier, but the title of the novel is "Trilby". Trilby is a lovely, impecunious artist's model who wanders in on a group of English art and music students living in the Latin Quarter of Paris.

They are living as the guests of the Hungarian musician Svengali, who happens to hear Trilby sing a simple song for the students. Although she has no training and is quite comically off-key, Svengali recognizes her raw talent and takes her as a student. Like a sinister version of Professor Higgins, Svengali transforms Trilby into an internationally acclaimed singer; the one catch is that she can only perform up to par while under his (literally) hypnotic direction. Eventually, Svengali's mistreatment of Trilby drives one of the Englishmen, who is in love with her, to attack him physically, as a result of which he becomes an invalid. Before one of Trilby's concerts, Svengali suffers a fatal heart attack and slumps forward in his seat. No longer under the spell of Svengali's hypnotic dominance, Trilby sings badly and out of tune and is laughed off the stage; she falls ill and dies in the lodgings of one of the English students.

A 1931 film version of the du Maurier story was entitled "Svengali", after the novel's most memorable character who was played in the film by Lionel Barrymore.
7. These two characters were featured in Victorian-era author Pierce Egan's 1821 book "Life in London", the first in what would become an extremely popular series. Their adventures were eventually adapted into a play by William T. Moncrieff. An eggnog-like drink laced with rum, usually served around the Christmas holidays, bears their name(s). More recently, their names were appropriated for an American children's cartoon duo. Who are they?

Answer: Tom and Jerry

"Life in London" was subtitled "The Day and Night scenes of Jerry Hawthorn Esq. and his elegant friend Corinthian Tom, accompanied by Bob Logic the Oxonian in their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis". As the subtitle indicates, Tom and Jerry's (and Bob's) metropolitan adventures were of a rather freewheeling and rambunctious nature, so much so that the series was regarded with great disapproval by Victorian society (though, interestingly, this did not adversely affect its popularity). Enlivened by the celebrated acquatint illustrations by the Cruikshank brothers, the series came to an end in 1828 with a rather toned-down conclusion to the pair's London escapades (significantly, this "morally acceptable" final installment was the least successful of the series). Apart from the "Tom and Jerry" series, Egan was principally known for his writings on sports, particularly pugilism which he referred to as "the sweet science of bruising".

The cartoon cat-and-mouse duo known as Tom & Jerry were created by William Hannah and Joseph Barbera; the pair made their film debut in the 1939 animated feature "Puss Gets the Boot". In the 1940s, they 'teamed' with Gene Kelly in "Anchors Away" and "Invitation to the Dance" and with Esther Williams in "Dangerous When Wet" (Kelly's original 'partner' was to have been Mickey Mouse until copyright difficulties arose). Their subsequent popularity on television and in comic books continues today.

The drink known as a "Tom and Jerry" (actually a boozier version of egg-nog and, for that reason, probably best served at New Years rather than Christmas) is alternately believed to have been christened by Egan himself in the 19th century or to have been invented in 1933 by a New York bartender named Jerry Thomas (get it?).
8. American author Eleanor Porter's hugely popular 1914 novel "Pollyanna" featured, as its title heroine, an indefatigably (some might say insufferably) cheerful and optimistic young orphan girl, whose "find the silver lining" philosophy eventually transforms virtually everyone she encounters. The term "Pollyanna" has since become synonymous with any incurable optimist. Miss Porter's heroine, however, has a much earlier male counterpart in this character from 18th century French literature, whose eponymous philosophy holds that "All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds." Who is he?

Answer: Dr. Pangloss (from Voltaire's "Candide")

Dr. Pangloss, described in Voltaire's fantastic, picaresque novel as "the most profound metaphysician in Germany", is the tutor of the two children of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckh of Westphalia and of the Baron's ward Candide, whose relation to the Thunder-ten-tronckhs is rather obscure (he is rumored to be the Baron's illegitimate nephew). Pangloss indoctrinates all three of his students, particularly the honest, trusting Candide, with the philosophy that everything that happens, no matter how calamitous or tragic, is for the best, since this is the best of all possible worlds.

The Panglossian philosophy differs but little from that of Pollyanna, who believes that any situation, however bleak, has its good side and that sadness can be easily dispelled by playing "glad games". Porter's sentimental novel was enormously successful, appearing as it did, just after the outbreak of WWI when the country sorely needed a dose of enthusiasm, and was dramatized for the stage (starring a young Helen Hayes) and screen (starring a somewhat less young, but cleverly photographed Mary Pickford; a Disney version from the 1960s starred Hayley Mills, who made the character almost likeable). Over time, however, the term "Pollyanna" took on a rather pejorative sense and is now generally used to refer to anyone who is foolishly or annoyingly optimistic.
In the novel, Pollyanna undergoes a "dark night of the soul" at one point and momentarily rejects her own philosophy when she is temporarly crippled following an accident, whereas one should note that Pangloss is not the least bit shaken in his convictions even after being, by his own account, hanged, dissected, stunned with blows, and made to row in the galleys (Lemony Snicket has nothing on Voltaire). Pangloss continues his canting up until the end of the novel, even after his star pupil, the astoundingly obtuse Candide has decided, after undergoing countless misfortunes and torments, that it is best simply to "cultivate one's garden".

An irreverent side note: Porter wrote a sequel to "Pollyanna" in 1915 entitled "Pollyanna Grows Up"; given the good Doctor's predilection for nubile young lovelies (as recounted in Voltaire's novel) one wonders what might have happened had he actually met his 20th century counterpart in some bizarre, fictional time warp...
9. The name of the title character of this Sinclair Lewis novel has entered the vocabulary as a self-satisfied hypocrite and mediocrity who, nonetheless, enjoys material success and respectability. This type was as well-known in Lewis' day as it is today. What is the novel?

Answer: Babbitt

George Follansbee Babbitt is a successful and respectable middle-aged real estate broker. His principal quality is his unfailingly good opinion of himself, even though he is a dishonest businessman, a hypocrite who supports Prohibition (the story takes place in the 1920s) while serving bootleg gin at his home, an upholder of the sanctity of family life who ignores his wife and is a veritable stranger to his children.

At several points during the novel, it seems as if Babbitt is on the verge of a personal breakthrough; when he takes his henpecked friend Paul on a fishing and hiking expedition to get him away from his wife, he begins to crave a simpler, more honest life. Once back at home, however, his sense of self-importance once again asserts itself and he returns to business as usual. Later, Paul reaches the breaking point and shoots his shrewish wife; she survives, but Paul is imprisoned for attempted murder. Deprived of his one true bosom companion, Babbitt becomes deeply dissatisfied with his life once again and begins an affair with an attractive widow named Mrs. Judique. He becomes enmeshed in her Bohemian lifestyle and begins to espouse more liberal views, soon finding himself snubbed by his erstwhile acquaintances. When his long-suffering wife becomes seriously ill, Babbitt realizes how much she means to him (which, at least in part, is her vital importance to his comfortable, bourgeois way of life), breaks off his affair, and becomes a "model citizen" once again. The Babbit we see at the end of the novel is, essentially, the same one we met at the beginning.

Lewis' sharply critical portrait of self-satisfied middle-class hypocrisy (a.k.a Babbitry) remains as apt today as when the novel was first written more than eighty years ago. (One of our members, Catamount, informs me that Tolkein had the name "Babbitt" in mind when he came up with the name "Hobbit" for the smug, self-satisfied Shire folk.)
10. The novels of Charles Dickens are notable for their proliferation of vividly drawn characters, many of whose names have passed into usage in the English language (Scrooge being a classic example). One of the most striking examples is this character from one of Dickens' earliest novels, who is the head of an adventurous and benevolent club which bears his name. He typifies a type of well-meaning, if somewhat bumbling, benevolence; also, a type of disclaimer once popular with lawyers and politicians also bears his name. Who is he?

Answer: Mr. Pickwick (from "Pickwick Papers")

In Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Dickens created one of his most enduring and endearing characters. Head of the London-based Pickwick club, he and a group of his associates travel to various parts of England (including Rochester and Bath) to study life's peculiarities and phenomena and to try to do some good for some of those they meet. Along the way, Pickwick and his friends inadvertently become enmeshed with some shady characters, such as the scoundrel Mr. Jingle, and a number of difficult predicaments. Pickwick himself is imprisoned at one point when he stubbornly refuses to pay damages in a baseless breach of promise suit. The novel ends happily, however, as Pickwick successfully arbitrates a family crisis and heals the breach between a young married couple and their relatives.

To be Pickwickian is to be generous and well-meaning (it helps also to be somewhat stout, as Mr. Pickwick is, which is rather a comfort to me). There is also the "Pickwickian sense", a rather disingenuous disclaimer which derives from the incident in the novel in which Mr. Pickwick and Mr. Blotton roundly abuse each other, only to establish later that they meant their insults "in the Pickwickian sense" and that they actually hold each other in very high regard. Webster defines this sense as "Intended or taken in a sense other than the obvious or literal one." Essentially, then, you can insult anyone or make any statement and subsequently claim to have meant it "in the Pickwickian sense". And now, if you'll excuse me, my quiz is completed and I must go and clean my garage (in the Pickwickian sense, of course).
Source: Author jouen58

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