The Comic Hero in Aristophanes and Charlie Chaplin

The Comic Hero in Aristophanes and Charlie Chaplin

Length: 1204 words (3.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
The Comic Hero in Aristophanes and Charlie Chaplin

The comedic works of both Aristophanes, a fifth-century ancient Greek playwright, and Charlie Chaplin, an actor of the early twentieth century, center around one character. Aristophanes' play Clouds, first produced in 423 B.C.E., concerns Strepsiades and his many debts; he plans to learn from Socrates the art of the Inferior Argument so that he may convince his creditors that he does not have to pay them anything after all. In his later play Birds, first produced in 414 B.C.E., the main character is Makemedo, a man so determined to get out of Athens that he convinces a collection of birds to defy the gods, establish themselves as the rulers over the earth, and build a brick city in the sky from which they can reign and where he can also live. In each of Chaplin's films The Immigrant (1917), The Count (1916), and Easy Street (1917), he acts as a kind of "tramp" who overcomes his low status in society and achieves what he wants, even if only for a short time. Strepsiades, Makemedo, and Chaplin all shamelessly pursue their desires with little regard for the rules and standards of society around them.

In his published lecture concerning Aristophanes' plays, Cedric H. Whitman discusses what he considers as the general template of all of Aristophanes' main characters: the comic hero. Whitman defines a comic hero as possessing great individualism, a good deal of poneros, meaning wickedness, and striking a balance of eiron and alazon, which translates into being a mixture of an ironical buffoon, who makes fun of himself for his own amusement, and an imposter, who disguises his true identity or feelings. He sees the comic hero as one who is extremely self-motivated and self-centered: "whatever is heroic is individualistic, and tends toward excess, or at least extremes. It asserts its self primarily . . ." Whitman also declares that poneros is necessary in the character of the comic hero, that this person is villainous, manipulative, and very convincing. The comic hero is shameless in expressing his desires, and he has no shame in pursuing them by any means necessary, whether such acts would be considered right or wrong. Whitman also recognizes the mixture of eiron--ironical buffoonery--and alazon--being an imposter--in the comic hero of Aristophanes' plays. "The mere buffoon, says Aristotle, makes fun for the sake of getting a laugh for others; the ironical man makes fun for his own amusement, which is more worthy of a free man.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"The Comic Hero in Aristophanes and Charlie Chaplin." 15 Nov 2019

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Con : Comic Con Fair Essay

- For anyone observing The Louisiana Comic Con ad, they might become filled with confusion as to what is this event all about. Is there a revival in town, a Walking Dead convention, a Star Wars fan club meeting, or have all these actors gathered for a true Comic Con fair. Comic Con is a science fiction fantasy come true, cult following party. No matter your age or gender there seems to be something for everyone to experience. Deadheads, Trekies, Go Go Power Rangers, Cowabunga dude, which are you a fan of....   [tags: Comic book, Comics, Comic strip, Magazine]

Research Papers
1220 words (3.5 pages)

Aristophanes the Comic Writer Essay

- Aristophanes Aristophanes was a comic writer who lived between 450 and 385 BC and composed about forty plays in his lifetime. His plays were all comedies, which usually addressed very serious political and social issues in a direct and crude manner, which, like much of today's comedy, is what made them funny for the audience to watch and appreciate. Many of the comedies would even go as far as mocking members of the audience or making personal attacks upon contemporary political personalities....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
1236 words (3.5 pages)

Aristophanes' Agathon in Women at the Thesmophoria Essay

- Aristophanes' Agathon in Women at the Thesmophoria Aristophanes and Agathon were peers in Ancient Greece. Aristophanes was the master of comedy, and Agathon was the master of tragedy. They traveled in the same circles and are present in the same works. In looking through the comic lens at Agathon in Aristophanes’ Women at the Thesmophoria, the reader is presented with a portrayal of an effeminate man with a flair for the dramatic and a queenly attitude. Aristophanes’ Agathon is a comic character to be laughed at, a man that is more female than male....   [tags: Aristophanes Women Thesmophoria Essays]

Research Papers
1472 words (4.2 pages)

Essay about Characters in Comic Books

- Not many people read comic's, but the one’s that do they know in the comic book world there are many universes. A hero in one universe could have a “twin” in another, but everyone is different and has their pro’s and con’s. An example that many can relate to is the marvel and D.C. Universe. One group of characters that everyone can relate to is deathstroke (D.C.) and deadpool (Marvel). By the end of this you should see the similarities between these two mercenary/assassins and you will see the universes are alike but just with small tweaks to make them different....   [tags: hero, universes, twin]

Research Papers
990 words (2.8 pages)

Humor in Assemblywomen by Aristophanes Essay

- Humor in Assemblywomen by Aristophanes Assemblywomen, by Aristophanes, posits a system in which the institution for the transfer of wealth within a patrimonial line is subverted by a system that closely resembles the ordering of a Greek household. In Assemblywomen, the women take power and redesign the social mechanisms. Although the Assemblywomen radically change some elements of the Greek social institution, such as private property and sexual limitation, the women remain, although in an expanded form, within the structure of a household....   [tags: Assemblywomen Aristophanes Essays]

Free Essays
1150 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Aristophanes's The Clouds

- Aside from all the prodigious number of Greek tragedies in history, stands a collection of Greek comedies which serve as humorous relief from the powerful overtone of the tragedy. These comedies were meant to ease the severity and seriousness sometimes associated with the Greek society. The ideas portrayed in the comedies, compared to the tragedies, were ridiculously far-fetched; however, although abnormal, these views are certainly worthy of attention. Throughout his comedy, The Clouds, Aristophanes, along with his frequent use of toilet humor, ridicules aspects of Greek culture when he destroys tradition by denouncing the importance of the gods' influence on the actions of mortals, and he...   [tags: Greek Plays Aristophanes Clouds Essays]

Research Papers
1639 words (4.7 pages)

Female Deception in Aristophanes Essays

- Female Deception in Aristophanes The sly, deceptive nature of women in Ancient Greece is a prominent theme in the comic plays of Aristophanes. Like many other Grecian writers, his depiction of crimes committed by women slanders their reputation and reinforces the negative female stereotypes of the times. Yet when one looks at the issue through the eyes of the female characters in his plays, women’s deception appears to be not only natural, but even praiseworthy for its reliability and aide in leadership, and is relatively insubstantial compared to the crimes committed by men....   [tags: Aristophanes Women Thesmophoria Essays]

Research Papers
1559 words (4.5 pages)

Charlie Chaplin Essays

- Sir Charles Chaplin’s speech from the 1940 motion picture called The Great Dictator was extremely hard-hitting and inspirational. It did very well to get the message across. His speech was a cry for help on behalf of many civilians, demanding a much needed change in the world back in the 1940s. He briefly touched on the intensity of the problem and what it could become in the future if no action would be taken. In doing so, he maintained respect with the audience; rather than talking down to them, he put himself onto their level without being too familiar....   [tags: Charlie Chaplin Essay]

Research Papers
1373 words (3.9 pages)

Aristophanes' Views Essay

- Aristophanes' Views There have been many arguments as to Aristophanes views and politics. Some arguing that it is almost impossible to determine any serious view points Aristophanes may have being trying to say through his plays. While many others may argue, that points made in the Parabasis and through the various comic styles, are the key to what Aristophanes thought and believed. With so little evidence of Aristophanes himself, it is hard to prove a case either way. While taking into account the social climate at the time and what the main aims of the plays were, I will be looking into Thesmophoriazusae and whether Aristophanes was attempting to make any serious points through various s...   [tags: Aristophanes Greek Theatre Plays Essays]

Free Essays
1810 words (5.2 pages)

Charlie Chaplin Essay

- Charlie Chaplin “It is absolutely no exaggeration to say that for the greatest part of this century Charlie Chaplin was the most recognizable human being on the planet,” (Burr, 20). Chaplin did everything in show business; he was an actor, director, screenwriter, producer and composer, (Reader‘s Companion 157). He was the ideal rags to riches role model that every American dreamed of becoming. Charlie Chaplin revolutionized American show business and inspired Americans to follow their dreams because he was proof that even underdogs could make it to the top....   [tags: Biography Biographies Chaplin Essays]

Research Papers
1922 words (5.5 pages)

Related Searches

" Hence, the ironical buffoon is closer to heroism, and closer to freedom, than just any man because he chooses his actions due to their unfavorable consequences. "[The comic hero] does everything for his own reason, but his freedom from everything including morality is not quite what Aristotle meant. Hence this irony passes into alazoneia of a new sort, grand, excessive, and imperious." Whitman is careful to point out the various facades that Aristophanes' main characters create, such as the adoration and admiration of the birds that Makemedo suddenly proclaims to Hoopoe and the other birds--telling them that they are the sovereign rulers, not Zeus and the other immortals--when he begins convincing them to build a city in the sky. Based on a careful study of Aristophanes' comedies, Whitman builds a definition of the comic hero that very generally applies to most of Aristophanes' main characters.

In Aristophanes' Birds, for example, Makemedo fits Whitman's definition quite well. Of course, Whitman also structured his definition partly on Makemedo himself. Nevertheless, Makemedo is extremely individualistic. The premise of the play, which is exposed in the prologue, rests on Makemedo's dissatisfaction with the hustle and bustle of Athens and his desire for a calmer, gentler place to live. As he begins to convince the birds to build their own city--where he also can live--it becomes clear that Makemedo has only his best interests at heart. He encourages the birds to even wage war on the gods so that in the end he will have a more relaxed place to live. By taking advantage of the birds' trust, Makemedo also blatantly shows his poneria. His eironeia is apparent in lines 65-67, where he makes light of the fact that he has lost control of his bladder due to fright: "I'm a Yellow-streaked Dribbler, a Libyan species. . . . Hey, if you don't believe me, take a look at my feet" (Birds 65-67). Later, in lines 477-492, he begins to tell the birds his fantastic story about their sovereignty, and his alazoneia shows itself. Overall, Makemedo fits Whitman's definition of a comic hero, point by point.

Strepsiades of Clouds, on the other hand, does not so easily fit the mold of Whitman's definition. Strepsiades does possess great individualism: he has no regard for the institutions he is a part of, going so far as to seriously pursue convincing his creditors that he doesn't need to pay off his debts. He is also manipulative, in that he wants to use the Inferior Argument for purposes it was never designed for. However, Strepsiades is too straightforward to show either eironeia or alazoneia. He does act as a buffoon but only because he can't help it; he lacks the ability to be an imposter--he tells Socrates that he can't get a good grasp on any concepts, just his phallus (Clouds 732-335). Since he only possesses half of the qualities that Whitman recognizes in the comic hero, Strepsiades should not be categorized as one of Whitman's comic heroes.

Though Whitman did define the comic hero with Aristophanes' main characters as templates, Charlie Chaplin's "tramp" character also fits Whitman's definition quite well. Chaplin's character is quite individualistic and acts totally for his own desires: he always pursues the girl he wants, and he usually somehow accumulates wealth in his films. He is also rather manipulative: he lies in The Count and steals in both The Immigrant and Easy Street. Chaplin shows a bit of eironeia in some of his actions, also. In Easy Street, as he tries to use the phone to call for police backup to help with the thug standing right next to him, he acts like the phone mouthpiece is a horn so that the thug won't catch on to what he's doing. He also presents a great deal of alazoneia--throughout The Count he acts as an imposter, pretending to be Count Broko. Despite being written over two thousand years apart, both Aristophanes' plays and Chaplin's films center around very similar comic heroes.

Cedric Whitman defines the comic hero as someone who possesses much individualism, poneros, eiron, and alazon. Aristophanes' Makemedo does harbor all these traits, though Strepsiades from Clouds does not quite match Whitman's description. Charlie Chaplin's character, though created centuries later, is incredibly similar to Whitman's definition of the comic hero from the Old Comedies by Aristophanes. Whitman's perspective on the comic hero transcends the Old Comedies and can serve as a helpful guide to use in deciding whether or not today's leading characters in comedy are comic heroes or not.

Works Cited:

Aristophanes, translated by Peter Meineck. Birds. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1998.

Aristophanes, translated by Peter Meineck. Clouds. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1998.

Whitman, Cedric H. Aristophanes and the Comic Hero. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1964.
Return to