History of Heroes

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In studying different types of heroes this semester, we have come across several examples of heroes and heroines. From the Trojan War to the Italian renaissance, tragic heroes have been consistently present in the stories we have read this semester. In this essay I will expose the similarities and differences between tragic heroes that we have encountered in The Iliad (as recorded by Homer), The Aeneid (by Virgil), Oedipus the King (written by Sophocles), and in The Prince (written by Niccolo Machiavelli). Achilles is a great warrior and the central character of The Iliad. His traits were highly lauded by the Ancient Greeks. Achilles most apparent heroic traits are his courage, glory, wealth, lineage, and his camaraderie. Achilles’ largest tragic flaw is his pride. His pride causes him to turn his back on his allies in the midst of war after Agamemnon has dishonored him. (Iliad Book I) After being begged to return and as things become grim, Achilles’ close friend Patroclus decides to go in his stead. Killed by Hector, the death of Patroclus causes a change in the stubborn Achilles. His indignation at being dishonored is gone; he has lost a friend because of this pride. “Despite my anguish I will beat it down, the fury mounting inside me, down by force. But now I’ll go and meet that murderer head-on, that Hector who destroyed the dearest life I know. For my own death, I’ll meet it freely.” (Iliad Book XVIII 133-8) Despite a prophecy that he will die if he avenges his friend, Achilles returns to the front enraged and ready for battle. His downfall of losing his closest friend due to his stubbornness has wrought a change in Achilles and he now returns to the battle to avenge and honor his friend’s death. The cunnin... ... middle of paper ... ...ruth of what he had done. After discovering the truth, he sees what he has done, but no longer has physical sight. Cesare Borgia, a highly skillful strategist and sovereign, does not prepare for the damage that can befall him with the sudden loss of his father, the pope. Through the heroes we have covered this semester, we have had several tragic heroes. Achilles, Odysseus, and Oedipus fit a similar mold in their character traits, embodying classical virtues that were regarded as heroic in Classical Antiquity as well as today. Machiavelli finds Cesare Borgia to fit his own, but considerably different definition for hero. Achilles and Odysseus are strong warriors. Odysseus, Oedipus, and Cesare Borgia have their cleverness and cunning explicitly on display. Achilles, Oedipus, and Cesare Borgia all have some level of irony that comes out of their downfall.
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