in Dr. Wortle's School

Chapter 01 – Dr. Wortle

Jupiter and his nod

“As his wife worshipped him, and regarded him as a Jupiter on earth from whose nod there could be and should be no appeal, but little harm came from this.”  With this reference to the king of the Roman gods in the second paragraph of the novel, Trollope can immediately attach to Dr. Wortle associations of power and authority that revolve around Jupiter and thus more quickly establish Dr. Wortle’s character.  Both Jupiter and Dr. Wortle are the masters of their domains, and they both can dole out judgment with supreme authority.  Yet, just as Jupiter’s supreme authority does not necessarily equal supreme good for humans, neither do Dr. Wortle’s decisions automatically lead to the best outcomes for those around him.

The comparison between Jupiter and Dr. Wortle becomes uncomfortable when Trollope describes how Dr. Wortle’s wife “worships” him, elevating him to a divine status.  Not even Jupiter could effect this level of spousal obedience.  Furthermore, by holding his own opinion in such high esteem and allowing others to elevate him to a position of absolute authority, Dr. Wortle is arguably acting hubristically.

However, Trollope softens Dr. Wortle’s potential hubris, claiming with a pardoning conditional statement that “if a tyrant, he was an affectionate tyrant.”  Trollope also describes how “little harm came” from Dr. Wortle’s playing god in his household.  Yet the idea remains that Dr. Wortle has overstepped his human boundaries and is in some way too high-handed.  Through the simile likening Dr. Wortle to Jupiter we are introduced to a flawed man who is accustomed to his power and is accustomed to considering himself right yet who still manages to be likeable with this foible.  [JE 2014]

Within the simile depicting Dr. Wortle as an earthly Jupiter, Trollope mentions the force of Dr. Wortle’s nod.  Given that Trollope is making a reference to Roman mythology, his use of the English “nod” may call to some readers’ minds the various meanings of the Latin noun numen:  “a nod of the head,” “divine power,” and “divinity.”  [RR 2014]


Latin and Greek

During Trollope’s introduction of Dr. Wortle we learn that Dr. Wortle had previously had a minor confrontation with a bishop who had been concerned that Dr. Wortle was favoring his work as an educator over his duty as a clergyman.  While Latin and Greek are sometimes closely tied to the church, in this instance Classics is presented in some opposition to the church.  [BL 2013]



When the bishop who questioned Dr. Wortle’s divided attention is moved to a different diocese, Trollope calls the move a “translation” and relies on the literal meaning of the word’s Latin components:  trans “across” and lat “having been carried.”  Trollope’s recourse to Latinate etymology is perhaps especially fitting here since Trollope has been discussing Dr. Wortle’s school in which Latin is a core subject.  [RR 2014]


senior or Classical assistant-master

Dr. Wortle sets aside a special residence specifically for a senior or Classical assistant-master.  The fact that the position of Classical assistant-master is equated with a senior assistant-master shows how highly Classics is regarded.  [BL 2013]