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Convention character the tragic hero

scene 1
Slave collection – fall from authority, he is below the animals in the chain of being. He used to be higher up

  • long shot showing all the people around the cart and Maximus under the animals
  • “dont die, they will feed you to the lions. They are worth more than us”

Scene 2
fall from authority, he is forced to do what the emperor commands him to do whereas he used to do the commanding.

Talk about Maximus’ role as a tragic hero in a tragedy.. what is a tragedy. 
Melody and spectacle Aristotle not thinking that they are the most important aspect of it but they help out understanding.

The film Gladiator by Ridley Scott is an action film that is set in the Roman times about powerful general, Maximus that falls from his authority due to an event that leaves him forced to be a common gladiator. This film is an obvious tragedy. As defined by Aristotle a tragedy as it contains a series of incidents that arouse pity and fear to accomplish the catharsis of such emotions. To do so the film must have a change in a characters fortune from happiness to misery which must be bought on by their own actions. This allows the audience to feel as though the character had it coming to them and that they bought it upon themselves but when the character meets the fate larger than what they deserved then the audience starts to feel pity and sorry for them which brings about the catharsis of emotions Aristotle spoke about in his poetics.

Throughout this film it is apparent that the main character, Maximus is defined as a tragic hero.  According to Aristotle, a tragic hero is a character that falls from his or hers authority due to a judgment error made by themselves which eventually leads to them facing a fate which is far more than what they deserve. Aristotle wrote about how a tragic hero must uphold 5 different characteristics, these characteristics are the character must have a hamartia (a flaw) in this case Maximus’ flaw is that he is very strong headed and will not go against his morals even when it means that he is putting his family in danger. The second characteristic is the character must have an excessive amount of pride. Maximus takes pride in how he is a ‘good’ person as he will never go against his morals. The third one is a reversal of fate that the character experiences, this is bought about because of their own actions in this case the mistake that Maximus made was having to much pride in his morals even when it puts his family in danger. The reversal of fortune then happened when his family was killed and he was then forced to become a slave for the emperors and forced to fight to their death for the entertainment of the Roman Empire.   In this scene where Maximus has come back to see that his family has been killed it shows the 5th characteristic which is a fate worse than what he deserves. At this moment the audience feels pity and is scared for Maximus because he did not deserve this fate as he is a good man that sticks to his morals but made the mistake of being too strong headed which ultimately lead to this fate. The fourth trait is when the character discovers his fate that he is having to live with has been bought about because of his own actions.

One of the scenes that shows Maximus as a tragic hero is just after his reversal of fortune when he is taken by the slave collectors from his families grave with the intentions that he will become a common gladiator. Slave collectors have strapped Maximus down onto a cart so he cannot move, there is a cage of animals above him as well as animals roaming on and around him, he is covered in blood from his wound.

The first time you see this is when Maximus is waking up seeing a range of flashes in his mind as he wakes. When he comes to, a medium, level-eyed shot is used to show a monkey that is chained to the side of the cart, on top of Maximus’ lap. Diagetic screeching sounds can be heard coming from the monkey. This shot shows the audience that Maximus has been stripped of all his rights and sense of belonging and he is being treated like the animals. He, like the monkey is also chained up to the cart, stopping him from getting away and he is placed on the cart with the animals cages above him. The slave collectors have more respect for these animals than what they have for him. The director has purposely placed the animals on top of Maximus to symbolize the chain of being and how Maximus has now fallen to the lowest point in his life. The chain of being was used in this time of life to form a hierarchical structure of all living things. Before this point in the movie, Maximus was quite high up in the chain of being as he was a general and the emperor had asked Maximus to replace him when he dies. This scene shows the audience that Maximus has fallen from his authority and is now treated less than an animal. This is evidence is supported by some shots that are from Maximus’ perspective. Maximus is looking around while he is still strapped to the cart. These perspective shots show men walking beside him carrying large sticks. A diegetic roar can be heard in the background which is when the camera pans slightly to the right which is where a lion can be seen in a cage beside him. At this point the director has used a medium shot from bird’s eye view of Maximus’ face looking up, this then flicks to an eye-level shot of a man also sitting on the cart. This man the says “don’t die, they will feed you to the lions. They are worth more than we are.”  The director used this quote to ensure that the audience knows that Maximus has really fallen from his authority and is now worth less than the animals in the chain of being. This quote brings a catharsis of emotion to the audience as they feel sorry for Maximus, as he came from having a good life, a family and being a highly respected general to being abducted and stripped off his rights. Although the audience may believe Maximus had this coming to him some people may feel that this fate is more than what he deserved as he made a simple mistake due to his excessive pride. Ridley Scott, the director of the gladiator has given Maximus a fate more than what he deserved to illustrate to the audience that Maximus is a perfect example of a tragic hero and he matches the 5 characteristics in Aristotle’s definition of one.

The next time we see this theme of Maximus falling from authority and being treated less than an animal is in one of the fight scenes. During this scene, there is a close shot that shows Maximus waiting for the guards to open the gates for him into the arena. This close up shot shows Maximus standing in the dark with light shining through onto his face and he is looking concerned as he is about to go into battle. Later on in the scene, a medium shot is used to show Maximus get knocked down onto the ground by his opponent when he hits the ground, it opens up and a tiger can be seen arising from this hole in the ground. This tiger symbolizes how Maximus has fallen from his authority and is treated the same or less than the animals. The tiger is chained up just like how Maximus was chained to the cart in the first scene when he was taken from his family and he is kept under the Colosseum in a cage. Maximus was also kept under the Colosseum in the dark waiting for his fights and he was also kept under the animals, meaning the people respect the animals more than Maximus.  This scene is very different from what we do for entertainment today. It has gone from people being forced to fight for their lives for entertainment now to people forcing animals to do so for entertainment. This is because in our day and age there isn’t as such a chain of being that people rule their lives by but people now view the animals as being lower ranked than all humans. Many people today frown upon using people and animals for battle for the entertainment of humans as when this happens you are completely stripping the being of all of their rights and sense of belonging and it is also seen as unethical. This practice is becoming less and less common.

These techniques have been used throughout the scene of the film Gladiator to portray Maximus as a tragic hero. One of the 5 characteristics that aresotole mentions to be a tragic hero is the character must meet a fate more than what they deserved. This happen to Maximus when his family was killed and he was abducted to be a slave gladiator.

One Reply to “Close viewing”

  1. Hey Reanna,

    You are making some good observations here. Don’t forget to be really explicit when you discuss the directors intentions and the positioning of the audience.

    Also read your work out loud to yourself. You need to fix some grammar and punctuation errors.

    Mrs. P

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