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The Treatment of Heroes in Ancient Poetry and Modern Film - Essay Example

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Two men awaken by the sea, separated from each other by history and distance but united by the fact that they are the masters of everything they see, as they look out over the water. They have chosen their homes far away from the meddlesome affairs of the rest of humanity, and yet they will soon be drawn into conflicts in which they have no personal or material interest…
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The Treatment of Heroes in Ancient Poetry and Modern Film
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Download file to see previous pages However, these solutions often leave a wake of destruction behind them. At the base of each man's soul is a deep-seated sense of respect for the tenets of honor and courage.
One of these men is Odysseus, king of Ithaca. Agamemnon and Menelaus drag him away from his peaceful home, where he leaves his wife and infant son for a war that will take ten years, and a journey home that will take twice that, stories chronicled in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. The other is Detective Martin Riggs of the Los Angeles Police Department. The Lethal Weapon movie series shows how he tries to find and maintain a sense of personal peace while being pulled into chaos by criminal after criminal.
Both of these men fit the description of the hero that has transcended time to become an idea that audiences all over the world have enjoyed since performance art began. The most dominant force in the hero is "competitiveness".1 The ancient Greeks loved athletic competitions, and it is no surprise that Homer's twin epics feature them: Odysseus must watch the games at Phaeacia before he is allowed to journey home, and Odysseus sets up a deadly contest in his own castle in Ithaca, ostensibly to give away Penelope to one of the suitors, but actually to trap all the suitors in his home. These are not just set-pieces used for plot purposes, however; the suitors in Odysseus' home while away the years by having contests of strength and agility virtually every day.
In the example of Martin Riggs, the competition is somewhat different. While there are no athletic events in his story, he and his partner, Det. Murtaugh, go back and forth about the relative effects of aging on both of them, and they badger each other in a semi-humorous fashion about which one of them has better aim with a gun, can run faster to catch a criminal, and so on. Each of the movies in the series finds it climax in a hand-to-hand combat scene, using the competitiveness to build suspense within the audience. This idea of competition also appears in the 1959 classic Ben-Hur, where Judah and Messala engage in a friendly spear-tossing contest, aiming at a point where two wooden beams meet in the ceiling.2
Honor, and its attendant condition, fame, are also important to heroes across time. In Greek culture, the winner of a competition would receive "public acknowledgment of his superioritymarked by material tributes and gifts."3 This could take the form of gifts of land, sitting in honored seats, being given the best cuts of meat at feasts, among other honors. The central conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon at the beginning of Iliad is related to the king's prerogative to select the booty from a particular battle. At first, Agamemnon does not want to give back the Chryseis, the priest's daughter that he brought back from their previous war. Once Apollo's command becomes clear, however, Agamemnon gives her back, but only after taking Achilles' new prize, Briseis, from his tent. Achilles' anger over this lack of respect keeps him from fighting with the rest of the Greeks against Troy until Patroklos dons Achilles' armor and is slain in battle, and so the importance of honor and respect to the ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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