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Greek and Roman Heroes
Creating the Monomyth and Paving the Way for the Modern Hero
By: Chris Bresnahan, Dylan Clark, Samantha Davis, Kirsten Holland, Zach Lightman, Kyle Webb
(By: Kirsten Holland)
The term "hero" is an incredibly broad term. It can refer to so many different types of characters in different genres of both film and literature. Heroes of ancient Greece and Rome have, however, been essential in shaping the modern hero, whether he or she is considered an epic hero, a tragic hero, an anti-hero, a folk hero, a reluctant hero, a cultural hero or some combination of those categories. Greek and Roman writers established the monomyth--the path a hero follows--making the idea of a hero in a story quite formulaic even as each hero differs in certain ways as well. This fact that Greek and Roman heroes served as the basis for most future heroes is illustrated quite clearly in the fact that many heroes that were created later possessed characteristics and acted in a similar way to the ancient heroes, and yet, they heroes have evolved over time as well. This page examines how the heroes and gods of Greek and Roman myths and other ancient texts paved the way for more current heroes and also looks at the ways in which these ancient heroes have evolved and been portrayed in more modern settings.
The films that are discussed on this page are as follows:
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
O Brother, Where Art Thou
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief
Clash of the Titans
The main works of literature that is discussed on this page is as follows:
NOTE: Other journal articles and literary commentaries have been
used but are not included in the list below
The Love Story of Pyramus and Thisbe
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night's Dream
THE BASIC STRUCTURE OF THE HERO'S MONOMYTH
(By: Kirsten Holland)
Heroes in Greek mythology followed a very specific path. The first step of the monomyth is the birth of the hero. In Greek mythology and literature, the heroes were virtually always ordinary individuals born under extraordinary circumstances which, in turn, made them act in extraordinary ways. The next key aspect of a monomyth is the idea of destiny. A hero's fate is tied to a destiny that he or she cannot escape and this destiny makes the hero embark on a quest in order to accomplish some big goal. Along that journey, the hero is virtually always advised by a wise old soothsayer or an oracle of some kind. This character is meant to aid the hero in some way along his quest to achieve his ultimate goal. The next increment of a monomyth is the existence of foes or some sort of enemy that the hero must vanquish in order to achieve his or her goal. Romance, too, between the hero and some lover can play an essential role in the monomyth as well. The lover can help the hero achieve his goal (as the fair lady did with Gawain by giving him the green girdle when he went to face the Green Knight) or the lover can serve as an obstacle that stands in the way of the final goal. All of this has been building up to the final battle, the climax of the drama, in which the hero fights his enemy and the goal of the journey or quest is achieved. Often at this point, the hero discovers something new about himself and other characters begin to view him differently as well, indicating what is called a paradigm shift. Following the final battle, there begins the decrescendo, or the falling action, in which the character ventures home and is celebrated with awards and honors.
ANALYSIS AND COMPARISONS OF ANCIENT GREEK AND ROMAN HEROES WITH MORE MODERN ONES
GREEK GODS & HEROES, TERMINATOR & THE MATRIX
(By: Samantha Davis)
In the article �Predestination in ancient Greek literature and the Terminator Films� by Hanna M. Roisman, she asks the question �is our future predetermined, or can we change it if we know what it is supposed to be?� (99). The idea of one having a predetermined future and also the ability to alter his/her fate is a theme that has been explored and used repeatedly throughout both Greek literature and modern films.
While Greek literature tends to depict fate as unalterable, there are a few exceptions, particularly in the stories of Achilles and Admetus. As Roisman points out, a heroes� fate can only be changed with the help of the Gods; �divine intervention seems to enable individuals to alter fate somewhat or to exercise some limited choice in the matter� (99). Achilles� story is an example of a hero who was granted the power of choice by the Gods; �Achilles, son of the goddess Thetis, is permitted to choose between a short and glorious life as a hero in the Trojan War or a long, inglorious life at home in Phthia and moreover, to change his mind midway� (Roisman, 99). In the story of Admetus, Apollo intervenes and convinces the Gods to take �a substitute� instead, giving Admetus a way to escape the fate of certain death. However, in the story of Oedipus Rex, we see that the Gods are clearly in control of human destiny; especially when Oedipus falls? into his own fate whilst trying to avoid it. What is really interesting is that in the last few lines, Oedipus makes it clear that he, and he alone, chose to blind himself. It represents Oedipus� �determination to use the very little freedom that has been left to him�the rebellion against his fate by a hero who has been almost totally subdued by it� (Roisman, 102). All of these stories demonstrate the struggle that the Greeks wrestled with in accepting that the Gods were the ones in complete control over of their lives.
In today�s modern society, particularly in American culture, we believe that we have the freedom and control to be the conductors of our lives. However, there have been many modern films, mainly sci-fi, that have challenged this notion and we can trace their storylines back to Ancient Greek�s theory of fate. In particular, the Terminator and The Matrix series are prime examples. Both these films deal with the same idea that is found in Greek literature, which is the theme of predestination and whether or not a higher being or force is in control of humans� fate. In Roisman�s article, the example of the Terminator movies is discussed and the plot these movies are based on which is that a superhuman computer has taken control and is trying to destroy humanity.
The movie begins with Arnold Schwarzenegger�s character �the Terminator� who has been sent back to the past to kill Sarah Connor, who will become pregnant with the world�s future leader or �hero.� This hero is destined to lead the rebellion of man vs. machines in the future and the Terminator�s goal is to try to prevent his birth. Soon after the Terminator�s arrival, Kyle Reese appears, a human who has been sent by the adult John Connor, the leader of the future rebellion, to protect his mother Sarah so that his birth can occur. In the film, Reese acts as the Greek oracle who comes to inform and warn Sarah about the future. However, Reese�s message is different from the message the Greek Oracles delivered. Reese tells Sarah �what can happen� whereas the Greek Oracle always told �what will happen.� Even though Reese�s message implies that �the human ability to shape the future� (Roisman, 104) is possible, the end of the first Terminator film does not actually confirm this. While the movie ends with the destruction of the Terminator and Sarah Connor still alive with her newborn son John Connor, we don�t know if the nuclear disaster that is predicted to destroy the world will be averted. In Terminator 2, a second Terminator is sent to kill John Connor, who is in this film ten years old. To contrast, grown John has sent another humanoid (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) to protect the younger version of himself. The same issues, uncertainty regarding the future and predetermination continue in this sequel, where in this movie, the humanoid computer T-800 not only acts as the Oracle but is also the hero of the film, as he is sent to protect the defenseless, which in this case, is ten year old John Conner and his mother. Like the first film, this one again ends with the possibility of human capacity to change the future, with Sarah and the T-800 successfully destroying the chips which the superhuman computer Skynet was made from, however, there is still the uncertainty over whether a new chip will be made (Roisman, 106).
Like the Gods from ancient Greek literature, the �the masters and manipulators of human destiny� in the Terminator films are played by the superhuman computers of the future. And much like the Greek Gods of ancient times, the self aware computers �� not only know the future but can also help to alter it by revealing to humans what might happen� (Roisman, 107).
Another film series that asks a similar question in relation to the concept of predetermination, but which is put into more broad terms, is the world renowned Sci-Fi film series the Matrix, which was written and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski.The Matrix films (particularly the first one) asks not only who is it who determines our fate, it also asks the philosophical question of �what is real?� Although the Matrix may be construed as a bit of a stretch of the imagination, one can definitely relate to the theme of this ultimate force in control of human destiny or fate. The Matrix takes place in the future, where what humans perceive as their reality is nothing more than a �simulated reality� created by sentient machines to control the human population in order to use their body heat to be used as an energy source to run their world. The character �Neo� who is a computer programmer, discovers this �truth� of the Matrix and much like the Terminator, forms a rebellion against the machines. The crew that Neo forms learns how the Matrix works and are able to �bend the simulation�s laws of physics� which can be seen in many of the famous scenes where Neo�s character is able to avoid and stop bullets in mid air. However, destiny is not the only monomyth that can be seen in this modern film. The character Morpheus, who belongs to the group �unplug� represents �the wise old man� in this film as he believes that Neo is �the one,� a man who is destined to end the war between man and machine. When the group enters the Matrix and takes Neo to meet �the Oracle� informs Neo of his superhuman abilities to manipulate the Matrix, but says that he is waiting for something more, giving Neo the impression that maybe he is not �the One.� Towards the end of the movie, Neo is being chased by the Agents, who are a part of the Matrix and are there to keep the humans in line and has corned Neo shooting him dead
However in the real world, we learn that the Oracle has also predicted a romance and that the character Trinity is destined to fall in love with �the One.� Refusing to accept Neo�s death, she kisses him and Neo�s heart begins to beat again. Flipping back to the Matrix world, we see that Neo has survived and as the Agents begin to shoot at him, we see the famous scene in which Neo raises his hand causing the bullets to stop in front of him in mid air.
Below is a clip of when Neo learns the truth of the Matrix, which is a fabulous example of the theme discussed above of the idea of a God/higher being/Superhuman Computer/Force that is in control of our life.
THE ILIAD & TROY
(By: Chis Bresnahan)
The Iliad is a long epic poem written by Homer that transcribes the accounts of the Trojan War, a war between Greeks and the Trojans. Troy is a movie that is based off of the Iliad. Many people think that Troy did Homer an injustice in the way that the epic was transformed into the big screen. The movie does have some distinct differences from the original epic, but there are also very important parts that stay the same. Achilles is the main character of both The Iliad and of Troy, he is the best warrior anyone has ever seen and he fights for the Greeks. He does not get along with the ruler of Greece, Agamemnon, so Achilles is trying to decide whether he will go and fight in the war. Achilles consults his mother who is a nymph. In both the epic and in the movie she tells Achilles that if he goes to war he will die, but his name will live on forever. Having considered this prophecy told to him by his mother, Achilles still decides that he wants to go to war. This is a very important scene in both the Iliad and Troy because this is when Achilles makes the decision to go to war. It may seem like he is choosing his own destiny, but in reality he is just fulfilling the prophecy that his mother had told to him. Achilles could stay back home and live on forever but no one will remember who he was or what he had done, which was not his destiny. His destiny was to become the greatest warrior of all time and he fulfilled this destiny when he went to fight in the Trojan War.
Another similarity that was very important in understanding the hero aspect of Achilles is when Priam, the king of the Trojans, sneaks into the Greek camp in order to ask Achilles for Hector�s body back. Hector is Priam�s son who Achilles had killed earlier that day and dragged behind his chariot. In this encounter Priam kisses the hand of Achilles and proclaims he has done what no other man has ever done before, kissed the hands of the man who killed his son. When Priam asks to get Hector�s body back Achilles tells him that he will let him take his body and that he will give him 12 days in order to honor his dead son�s life. This shows that Achilles isn�t just a ruthless killer; he actually is a human being with a heart and cares for others, not just himself.
There are also major differences from the movie and the epic. The one that I think stands out the most is that in the Iliad there is a lot of mention of Gods and how they affect the people�s decisions and actions. In Troy there is little mentioning of the Gods, which caused great controversy as many people thought this was an injustice to Homer and his epic. In fact the only God seen in the movie is Thetis, who is only a nymph. Gods played a huge role in the time period in which this story had taken place and it is thought that omitting the Gods was the wrong thing to do. It is thought that the directors of Troy did this in order to make the characters more believable so that they weren�t influenced as much by Gods. However by omitting the Gods the viewers of the movie do not get the full background of the characters.
Clearly there is a big argument on what should and shouldn�t have been in the movie from the Iliad, but in all honesty how could you expect the whole Iliad to be portrayed into a movie without it being four hours long. In order to make a movie that is suitable for Hollywood and to become a money making film the directors had to pick and choose the parts of the epic that should be included in the movie. They did leave in very important details that had direct impact on how the story played out, including the scene where Achilles goes to his mother for guidance. Omitting some parts, such as leaving the God�s role in the characters life may not seem right to many people but it made the characters more believable. This helps viewers of the film relate easier to the characters and modernized it more so that it could become a great film.
THE ILIAD, 300, & HARRY POTTER COMPARISON
(By: Dylan Clark)
Two Important Scenes:
Athena stops Achilles (Achaean) and Agamemnon�s (Trojan) duel (book 1)
- she talks Achilles out of it
- she loves the Achaeans; like Hera (her mother) and hates the Trojans
Athena gives Diomedes (Achaean) superhuman strength (book 5)
- to take revenge on Pandarus (Trojan)
These specific scenes have one central theme in common. The commonplace in them is that there are �higher powers� at work and they are affecting the outcome of these heroes� lives and destinies (monomyth). This is how storytelling/writing about heroes began. In Greek literature for example, such as the Iliad and the Aeneid (and almost all of Greek mythology), there were gods and goddesses choosing what would happen. These gods used the heroes as pawns to make happen what they wanted.
So this poses a few questions: why did the depiction of heroes and how they control their own destinies (Braveheart, V for Vendetta, The Dark Knight, etc�) transition from being these so-called �pawns�? Why did it happen? Was it more interesting/exciting for people to think that their heroes were saving lives, fighting crime, and taking down villains completely on their own? When looking at these scenes from the Iliad, we get to know and learn about the gods and goddesses that are doing the deeds to effect the heroes.
When Athena stops the brewing battle between Achilles and Agamemnon, she is directly affecting Achilles� journey/destiny or monomyth. She is intervening and stopping something that would happen if it were not for her godly ability to make it not happen. Achilles is a true hero and is portrayed as strong and brave, but he has �other people� telling him what to do and how to do it. Unlike the heroes of our modern cinema, the Greek heroes were always controlled and used to meet the wants and needs of the Olympians gods and goddesses (Homer).
Athena again intervenes when she give Diomedes, an Achaean, super human strength in Book 5. He is wounded by Pandarus, a Trojan, and prays to Athena to give him the ability to avenge his wound. Athena gets in the middle and gives him powers that he would never have if not for her. This is a perfect example of the gods and goddesses becoming involved in the lives of others. Athena wants the Achaeans to win the war against the Trojans and she will stop at nothing to get her way (Homer).
This movie can be related to both sides of the spectrum we have talked about. 300 is a movie based on a Greek hero, King Leonidas, and his 300 Spartans that are vastly outnumbered in a battle against the Persians at Thermopylae. It is interesting because although he is a great Greek hero, he does not use the help from �higher powers�. He consults the oracle on whether or not Sparta should fight in the battle. He is advised not to, but he decides that they should fight anyway. His hubris causes him to not sit back and be taken over by the Persians. He and his Spartans would rather die than be ruled by another culture (300).
In comparison, it is interesting because this is based on a Greek hero, but he goes against the wisdom and advice of god-like people. King Leonidas does the opposite of what he is told. Why does this happen? Modern filmmakers mot likely felt that it would be more dramatic if it were this way. They could have used it to emphasize King Leonidas� hubris. Although there is probably no way that a Greek king would go against the advice of an oracle, they writers had King Leonidas do it to add more drama. This is an example of the modern thought (independent heroes) mixing with a hero from the ancient Greek times (the assisted hero). It is interesting to see the hybrid that was made and to compare it to old Greek heroes in the Iliad and the modern day assisted hero like Harry Potter.
Harry Potter Series: The Chamber of Secrets and The Goblet of Fire
In comparison to the way that modern film has moved away from the idea that heroes need help (higher power/gods), the Harry Potter books and films how our culture moved back towards the hero needing some �guidance�. Popular culture loves the strong, traditional heroes that can solve any problem instantly and can take on the villains without even breaking a sweat. The change back to the �underdog hero� or reluctant hero, who gets a lot of help along the way, is an interesting topic. Why now? After all of the films like Spiderman, The Dark Knight, Braveheart, and many others that were made, why does our culture love Harry Potter?
Harry Potter is an ordinary person who was born into extraordinary circumstances. His parents were part of the resistance against Lord Voldemort. Because Voldemort wanted his parents to suffer, Harry became a target for death. When his mother sacrificed her life, she essentially gave all of her power to Harry, which allowed him to defeat Voldemort for the first time. As it is easily seen, since the time Harry was a baby his destiny was laid out in front of him. He defeated the most powerful wizard in the world without doing anything (ordinary boy in extraordinary circumstances). Why is Harry Potter such a great hero even though he�s not big and strong? Why is he beloved and famous when he does his best work with the help of his two best friends, Ron and Hermione, as well as the wise guidance of Albus Dumbledore. Albus Dumbledore serves as Harry�s �higher power� that allows him to succeed. Like the Greek heroes in the Iliad have their gods and goddesses, Harry has his headmaster at Hogwarts.
Harry is proof that a hero doesn�t need to be big, strong, and completely independent. People love him because he�s ordinary and is willing uses the help he is offered. �Men, women, and children are drawn to Harry Potter because, despite the magic, the characters are ordinary people and today�s children are overcoming many of the same challenges faced by the main characters in the movie� (Bailey, 4). Harry is easy to relate to. He is an ordinary boy born in England. He loses his parents and grows up with his terrible aunt and uncle. Right from the beginning of the stories we sympathize with him because he is without parents. All he wants in life is the family he never had and this causes us to relate to him After all, that is what everybody wants. In the mirror of Erised, a wizard sees what they desire the most. Harry sees his mother and his father. �The Mirror of Erised is unreal, but the fact that a child longs to be loved and protected by her family is true� (Black, 240). His journey or quest is a long and arduous one that takes place over the course of his seven years at Hogwarts. The journey takes him many places and puts him in many dangerous situations, but the theme remains the same. Harry, his friends, and a select group of other witches and wizards are responsible for saving their world of wizardry. Voldemort leads the �Deatheaters�, who want to take over the wizarding world for evil purposes. Voldemort becomes the obstacle that Harry must ultimately overcome before his journey is complete.
Although Ron and Hermione help Harry throughout all seven of the books, the most telling way others can be seen interfering with his journey by helping him is in the fourth book: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In this book/movie, there is a Tri-Wizard Tournament. Student wizards from all around the globe come to Hogwarts to compete in the tournament. Harry is not old enough to participate, but somehow he is entered into the tournament. It is decided that he must participate, and he receives help along the way. The help was given to him so that he could later be killed, but he was still being guided towards a certain place that was wanted by someone else. In this case, that person happened to be Barty Crouch (Deatheater), who was in disguise the entire movie and wanted Harry dead (Goblet of Fire). The assistance in the tournament that Harry received caused him much danger and almost got him killed. That is why it is an example of him receiving outside guidance to meet the needs of someone else.
Overall, the shift from higher power guidance in heroes to independence (modern films) back to the guidance aspect of the hero needing some guidance in Harry Potter, is evident when looking at these films and literature. We see Greek heroes getting assistance from the gods in The Iliad and then we see a Greek hero being influenced by modern fim making in 300, when Kin
g Leonidas is very independent and doesn�t rely on the gods to make his decisions at all. This is clearly modern filmmaking a hero more �independent� to make them more heroic. Lastly, we see the shift back to the true �Greek� ways with the Harry Potter movies and films. Harry uses the advice and guidance he is offered and truly needs it in order to fulfill his journey (monomyth). Both types of heroes receive much credit and criticism.
The love for the �Harry Potter� characters (heroes who are guided in their monomyth) comes from the ability to relate to him in ways that the other types of heroes cannot be. Batman, William Wallace, and V are tough to relate to because they possess traits and characteristics we cannot. Heroes that don�t do it all on their own are admirable because they seem more human and less like a superhero.
THE ODYSSEY & O BROTHER WHERE ART THOU
(By: Samantha Davis)
There have been a variety of classic heroic myths written in the era of ancient Greece that have become a model for literature and then films in modern times. The story of the classic hero, Odysseus, from Homer�s book,
, is an excellent example of an ancient story that has been told and retold throughout time. It is an archetypal journey with universal and enduring meaning and it�s not difficult to find parallels between Odysseus's adventures and modern ones. In the movie,
O�Brother Where Art Tho
, Everett Ulysses McGill and his traveling companions Delmar and Pete, recreate a miniature version of
in Depression-era Mississippi. The main character Everett, a prison escapee, was clearly modeled after the ancient hero Odysseus, in both personality and the storyline. Everett and
Odysseus both possess some heroic traits, in particular with their wit and trickery, which enables them to overcome many of their obstacles (Smith, blog entry). One of the most striking commonalities between the stories is both that the characters have the same ultimate goal, which is to return home to their wives, and through their journey they also come upon some strikingly similar adventures. Everett encounters an old blind man who provides Everett and the boys with a prophecy about their travels, which ultimately comes true. This parallels the story of the blind prophet, Tiresias, from Odysseus�s visit to Hades in book 11. In one scene from
O�Brother Where Art
, there are three mesmerizingly beautiful sirens who sing to them and lure them into the river in order to rob Everett�s companion Pete and turn him into a toad. This scene loosely echoes two incidents from
and had similar outcomes. In the Odyssey, sailors are transfixed by Sirens who sing to them in order to lure them to their deaths (book 12). Then there is the enchantress Circe, from books 10 and 11, who sleeps with Odysseus� men and turns them into pigs. The Cyclops that Odysseus comes across in his adventures from book 9 is transformed in the film, O Brother Where Art Thou, into the �travelling bible salesman� with an eye patch, who attacks Everett and his friends in the film. Throughout all their adventures, both men, Odysseus and Everett, are also in a constant battle with the cynicism and defiance of their own men and they struggle with the faithlessness of their wives.
The important symbols and dramatic themes of a heroes' journey home, as told in
, set the standard and has inspired storytellers for centuries to keep inventing and exploring the human character of a hero. The movie, O Brother Where Art Thou, is a modern portrayal of an ancient myth and is another example of a heroic tale that in the end, teaches the characters a little more about themselves and the world around them on their quest to return home. However, there is one monomyth �step� that both the Odyssey and O�Brother Where Art Thou stray away from a little bit, and that is that instead of �the romance� of the story hindering the heroes� abilities to overcome their obstacles, it acts as the motivation behind their ultimate quest to return home. In fact, the love that both characters feel for their wives is the force driving them through their journeys to make sure they return home to them.
PYRAMUS AND THISBE AND SHAKESPEARE
(By: Kirsten Holland)
Thisbe, c.1909, oil on canvas By John William Waterhouse (Naso)
The love story of Pyramus and Thisbe originated in Roman mythology. It was written by a Roman named Ovid who lived from 43
and was exiled for reasons unknown (Petroff). In essence, this story by Ovid tells of a man, Pyramus, and a woman, Thisbe, who fall deeply in love but prevented from marrying because their parents have forbade it. They find a crack in the wall between their houses and talk each night through that crack, and before they part, they kiss the wall because it is as close as they can get. One night, they decide, through the wall, to meet at the Tomb of Ninus under the cover of darkness next to a white mulberry tree. Thisbe, getting to the meeting spot first, sees a vicous, bloody-mouthed lion and runs away, dropping the veil she was wearing next to the mulberry tree. The lion proceeds to pick up the veil and tear it apart in its bloody teeth before running off. When Pyramus finally arrives, he sees only the bloody, torn veil lying on the ground. Assuming it is hi
Pyramus and Thisbe Under Mulberry Tree (Naso)
s lover's and that she is now dead, he blames himself for her death because he convinced her to come out and meet him and he kills himself with his own sword. His blood makes all the mulberries turn red. When Thisbe returns cautiously to the scene, she first sees the red mulberries on the tree and then she stumbles upon her lover dying on the ground and rushes to him. She laments his death and, believing that the only way they can truly be together is in death, she too kills herself. They are buried together and thus it is true that, only in death, could the lovers be together (Naso).
Pyramus and Thisbe can both be considered heroes as they more or less follow the monomyth of a hero. However, they are not "perfect heroes" as certain parts of the monomyth are omitted in their story. First of all, they are born into families that will not let them marry and thus they are born under special circumstances. However, there is no clear allusion to fate or destiny in Ovid's original story. They do embark on a journey to meet in person and they face obstacles and foes in the form of their parents and the lion, further following the monomyth. In this case, the aspect of romance in the story acts as both a motivator and also leads to their ultimate downfall. Their true love for each other makes them run away to meet in person and it is what makes Pyramus kill himself and Thisbe then do the same. Thus, love serves both as the goal of the heroes and their hamartia, or tragic flaw, as well seeing as it ends in their death. While Pyramus and Thisbe are not the quintessential heroes, they follow most aspects of the monomyth and possess certain characteristics common to heroes, and therefore, they can be considered heroes.
Shakespeare, who wrote centuries after Ovid, took this story of ill-fated lovers and both modernized it (
Romeo and Juliet
) and mocked it (
A Midsummer Night's Dream
). The famous play,
Romeo and Juliet
, is in essence, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe told in greater detail and set in Shakespeare's time in Verona, Italy. At the time, it was a modern retelling of the famous story of the ill-fated lovers. Shakespeare actually inserts a key step of the monomyth into the story of Romeo and Juliet that was largely missing in Ovid's story of Pyramus and Thisbe. In the opening lines of the play, Shakespeare calls Romeo and Juliet "a pair of star-crossed lovers" (Shakespeare, "Romeo," I.i.6). The use of the term "star-crossed" implies astrological interference and thus, Shakespeare is saying that the events that occur in the play have been guided by fate or destiny. Here, Shakespeare is implying that the ensuing actions of the main characters have been predetermined by the stars. In saying that Romeo's and Juliet's fates are predestined, Shakespeare has injected the idea of destiny, a major step in the monomyth of a hero, into the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. Interestingly, Shakespeare made the characters of Pyramus and Thisbe more heroic (they follow more closely the monomyth of a hero) in his retelling of the story through
Romeo and Juliet
In his play
A Midsummer Night's Dream
, however, Shakespeare uses the story of Pyramus and Thisbe in much the opposite way. Rather than portraying the characters as heroes as he did in
Romeo and Juliet
, he makes them look like bumbling fools. The fact that the same basic story line can be used in such a way to mock the characters and the idea of ill-fated love is quite interesting. In
A Midsummer Night's Dream
, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe is acted out as a play within a play. The characters, Pyramus and Thisbe, are made to look like fools and thus they seem much less heroic (Shakespeare, "Midsummer"). However, they still seem to follow the monomyth of a hero--they are born under special circumstances (warring families), they leave on a sort of quest to meet each other in person, their romance serves as both their motivator and their hamartia, leading to the climax (their deaths) and the conclusion of the play. Based solely on their actions and the events of their story, Pyramus and Thisbe in
A Midsummer Night's Dream
can be considered heroes. However, when their demeanor and personalities are portrayed as foolish and shallow, they seem less heroic to the audience because it is harder to take them seriously. This juxtaposition created by Shakespeare between Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus and Thisbe illustrates clearly that, while the monomyth of a hero is essential in defining a hero, their own personal attributes and personalities must be considered as well.
The following are clips from the 1981 television production of a Midsummer Night's Dream. They show the reenactment of the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe. (NOTE: The play within a play is slit up. Watch the first video first and then watch the second.) (Shakespeare, Britten).
(By: Zack Lightman)
There are many misconceptions about Hades. Hollywood has turned him into this villainous character, the epitome of evil. According t
o Greek mythology, he is simply the ruler of the underworld. It was movies like Hercules, Percy Jackson, and the new Clash of the Titans that have given him this bad reputation. In Hercules he is shown as this evil being hell bent on getting rid of the other gods and ruling the human population. Clash of the Titans is slightly different in that he is shown as being very violent. The Percy Jackson movie in my opinion is the closest to the actual myth. Each movie portrays Hades in a different way. In Hercules he is shown as a god who will do anything to become the supreme ruler of the gods and the humans. In Clash of the Titans he is a little closer to the myth in that he only wants revenge on Zeus for trapping him in the underworld, and he doesn�t care who gets hurt on his way to Olympus. Finally I believe that Percy Jackson is the closest because he is just shown as a resentful brother who wants to get out of the underworld, but he doesn�t want to create a lot of destruction for it. Even though they are close the actual myth of Hades, none are true to the story of Hades. Each one wants to portray him as an evil god bent on destruction, whether it is the destruction of man or the gods. For the stories he is shown as the antagonist, which is not true, especially for Hercules.
CLASH OF THE TITANS, NEW VS. OLD
(By: Zack Lightman)
The story of Perseus has evolved through the years. As those years have passed, so the story has evolved and changed. There are some major differences between the 1981 and 2010 films. They both show that Perseus is thrown into the sea as a baby with his mother, but then the story differs. In the original he is raised by his mother, while in the new movie he is raised by a fisherman after his mother dies while in the box at sea. The motive for the quest of Perseus has been altered as well; he goes on his quest to get revenge against the gods, rather than for his love of Andromeda. This turns him into an even more larger than life hero for defying the gods and championing man. While the new film does make references back to the original, such as having a quick cameo for Bubo in the beginning. The new movie also introduced a new main character, Io, who becomes Perseus�s main love interest in place of Andromeda, which is completely veering off the original story from ancient times. They also changed the main antagonist from Thetis to Hades, who was not even mentioned in the original film. Also in the original film Perseus is the favored son of Zeus, while in the new movie, he is just another insolent human. He doesn�t change his attitude until Hades� treachery is revealed. In the new clash of the titans, it could be said that Zeus is a reluctant hero, since he does end up helping Perseus defeat the Kraken and send Hades back to the underworld.
COMPARING MODERN AND GREEK HEROES, BRAVEHEART, PERSEUS/CLASH OF THE TITANS, ROBIN HOOD
(By: Kyle Webb)
In all of fictional literature there are two common factors that always appose each other. The good guy is always going to fight the evil being. The evil being is trying to stop whatever task it is that the hero is trying to accomplish. These apposing ideas give way to epic stories and allow for plots to be formed around them. In mythology the evil being that is always fighting the hero, and constantly trying to deny his attempts to complete the tasks that the �good� gods have bestowed upon him, is Hades or a minion of his. Often times the hero is poor and must work his way up to greatness. Today we have stories derived from the same views, in Robin Hood the poor man fights against the evil ruthless king and again we see the factor that these people are coming from nothing and picking themselves up from their boot straps to achieve greatness. Whether we still use this format for story telling because our society has been brainwashed into believing that everything we do is right, or the simple fact that the format worked so well for the Greeks there is no reason to change it, the correlation is evident. Either way it is evident that myths and ancient texts set a basis of heroes and their monomyths have been retold and portrayed differently through subsequent literature and through films.
Throughout Greek mythology we come to have a blurred vision of Hades and his role in greek literature. We portray him as an evil god that is out to destroy the attempts for the worldly heroes to succeed. In almost every modern movie Hades is the bad guy, he is always opposing the Hero. This is interesting because in the very beginning of Greek mythology Hades is nothing but the brother of Zeus and was tricked into overseeing the underworld. Most would say that he was the victim but the fear of death led humans to believing that he was evil. We have always had the same view of Hades since. This gave birth to the good versus evil drama that we still see today. In �Clash of the Titans� Hades is trying to thwart Perseus�s attempts to save Earth from the wrath of the Titan Cracken. Hades pleads with Zeus to let him release the Cracken onto the humans to teach them a lesson because they have become disobedient. Unknown to Zeus Hades has a plan to overthrow him. The fear of dying that the humans will express will give Hades power, enough power to overthrow Zeus. Eventually after fighting many of Hades� creatures Perseus is victorious and stops the Cracken. The evil plan of Hades is revealed and he is sent back to the underworld. Although this movie is a modern day portrayal of Perseus, it is based on the ancient facts from the myth.
We see this depiction of Hades as the evil character in the story still today. We substitute his character for someone else but use the same format the Greeks developed longago. In modern day films like Robin Hood, Braveheart, Harry Potter, etc. evil is always apposing the hero. The hero is facing an evil that is bigger than him, an evil that would seem almost impossible to defeat. This problem is the same that the Greek heroes face in trying to defeat Hades and his monsters. Hades is a god and the heroes are just men, or a demigod in some cases. In either case there chances for success are always slim and their chances for death are high. The consistencies between heroes in Greek literature and Heroes in our modern day literature are easily noticed.
These hero characters we create were all born into impoverished or broken homes. They are people that no one would ever think would rise to be a hero one day. In Clash of the Titans Perseus is just the son of a poor fisherman, until we find later that he is the son of Zeus. Much like Perseus, William Wallace is the son of a farmer. We love to hear these stories of men that were greater than their birthright should allow. These stories are the basis of the American motto, that anyone can be great and have a successful life if they work hard and defeat that evil that is trying to hold them back. In the real world this evil is often times a broken home or a bad neighborhood that a young man is working hard to escape. In Greek mythology the problem is more dramatic but the core problem remains the same. Not only will they have to defeat the physical evil that they must face in Hades, an evil King, or cultural hurdles, every hero must face their own personal evil in their societal status, and rise above those to defeat their physical evil.
With these commonalities it is easy to see that myths and ancient texts set a basis of heroes and their monomyths have been retold and portrayed differently through subsequent literature and through films. All the heroes that we created are good and must face their evil counterpart. The hero always has more to fight than just the evil being but must rise above their social status to earn greatness. Robin Hood, Braveheart, even the new age idea of Harry Potter share these common problems with the Greek Myths and legends.
(By: Kirsten Holland)
As illustrated by the numerous connections between ancient Greek and Roman heroes (i.e.
The Iliad, The Odyssey, and The Love Story of Pyramus and Thisbe
) and more modern ones, Greek and Roman writers were instrumental in creating the foundation for heroes of all types to come. The formation of heroes who follow the monomyth was essential in standardizing a formula for heroes in so many stories that followed. While all heroes are unique characters, they follow a similar pattern (monomyth) which makes them interesting and familiar at once, and thus more appealing to the audience.
. Dir. Zack Snyder.
Gerard Butler. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2006.
Bailey, Ronda. "Harry Potter: A Modern Day Hero." Thesis. Webster University, 2006. Print.
Black, Sharon. "The Magic of Harry Potter: Symbols and Heroes of Fantasy." Rpt. in
Children's Literature in Education
. 3rd ed. Vol. 34. Provo, UT: Springer Science & Business Media B.V., 2003. 237-46.
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Dir. Desmond Davis. Perf. Laurence Olivier, Clair Bloom. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1981. DVD.
Clash of the Titans
. Dir. Louis Leterrier. Perf. Sam Worthington, Alexa Davalos, Liam Neeson. Warner Bros., 2010. DVD.
"File:Hades Altemps Inv8584.jpg."
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Hand, Randall. "MPC on the VFX Percy Jackson and the Olympian: VizWorld.com." VizWorld.com -- Visualization, Computer Graphics, and Animation. 16 Feb. 2010. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
. Dir. Christopher Columbus. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2002. DVD.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
. Dir. Mike Newell. Warner Bros. Pictures, 2005. DVD.
. Dir. Ron Clements and John Musker. Perf. Tate Donovan, Susan Egan and James Woods. Walt Disney Pictures, 1997. DVD.
Homer and Knox, Bernard.
Books 1 and 5
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. Trans. Thomas Bullfinch. Web. 24 Jan. 2011. <
O'Brother Where Art Thou
. Dir. Ethan Coen and Joel Coen. Perf. George Clooney and John Goodman. Touchstone, 2001. DVD.
Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief
. Dir. Chris Columbus. Perf. Logan Lerman, Brandon T. Jackson, Alexandra Daddario. Fox 2000 Pictures, 2010. DVD.
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Classical and Modern Literature
21.2 (2001): 99-107
Shakespeare, William, and Benjamin Britten.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
. Dir. Dave Heather. Television South. TVS, United Kingdom, 1981. Television.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Washington Square, 2009. Print.
The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.
Smith, Jason, �The Odyssey of O�Brother, Where Art Thou?� Weblog entry. The Educated Imagination: insight, information, and inspiration for educators. February 25, 2010. January 23, 2011 (
. Dir. Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski. Perf. Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne. Warner Home Video, 1999. DVD.
Dir. Wolfgang Peterson. Perf. Eric Bana, and Orlando Bloom Brad Pitt. 2004.
Group 4: Greek and Roman Heroes
Good clear thesis & structure: the creation of the monomyth that paved the way for modern heroes
nice introduction to both group members and their topic � clear thesis * ideas
good integration of research � �is our future predetermined?�
� nice Greek lit connections the cultural acceptance of gos controlling our lives � freedom of choice/action manipulated
nice modern connection to sci-fi narratives that uses god or god-like entities that guide or control our fate - the blurred lines of past and present and the idea that these can be altered
very interesting connection to the end result being unavoidable � like
nice connection/analogy of the Oracle role
Nice transitions (oracle) to the Matrix
(referenced quite a bit in our textbook � did you use our textbook as an additional source for your research wiki?)
A little less summary of the texts/films and a little more application/connection to your thesis
omniscient being � god � gods VERSUS free will
Compare and contrast of
Iliad and Troy (film)
idea that heroes are not just glory-hounds, but also have a sense of honor/respect for even their woes
� motivations for being a hero whose name lasts forever - nice clip integration
Greek�s value fame and longevity of their narratives more than they value their life � is this idea seen in modern narratives? Modernizing the story means removing the GODS from the narratives � very interesting!
as seen in modern narratives/films
Not seeing a clear connection hterte � how is Agammenon stealing a girl an �outside� force in the life of a hero?
Modern heroes have to fit their CULTURE � this seems to be more of your thesis (in �higher powers� segment) What Greeks (ancient) value or Spartans (Leonitus was NOT a Greek) are not the same as modern western values � freedom to think and act
Interesting connection of modern literature = to
in the modern epic, becomes a more relatable hero (Harry too) because he makes mistakes and needs help from his friends (although some of them are magical, which is an important connection)
Odyssey and O Brother
� great addition
good explanation of the narratives
AWK connection to the religion in the film and the gods of the Greek origins � this needed to be better rehearsed � a bit less summary and bit more connection to the monomyth � seem to lose your thread (consistency)
Pyamus and Thisbe (Shaks clip/lit addition is nice) � roots of narrative that become famed �star-crossed lovers� - very nice
Nice explanation of how these heroes follow the path of the monomyth (tragic heroes are still heroes!) � Shakespeare adds FATE as an important hero element
Good discussion � maintained clear connection to your group�s thesis
HADES � this segment began at 32 minutes into the prez!! I realize that we are being loose with time, but this shows that your group has not rehearsed as a group to judge your time or share equally in the time limit � Whew!
Zach (notecards) as well as PPT- good clear compare and contrast � but how does this relate to the monomyth thesis of the group? I like the compare and contrast of these films/interpretations of the text, but there seems to be some miscommunication as to the central theme you are all pursuing�
Overcoming Social Status AWK segment� no need to read these slides to us (we are literate) instead you should elaborate on these bullets points.
Less summary and more analysis! Perseus has ZEUS as a dad (this is an important detail you�ve omitted�oops)
Overall your group struggled with a lack of cohesion and
Did each segment show a clear connection to the monomyth? Lots of discussion about the connections to religion, gods, the role of Fate/destiny, etc. but needed clear connections to the thesis
Several slides are crowded � OBrother could have been several slides (show for instance what the Sirens in ancient literature looked like (paintings, renderings) versus the washwomen in the river (in O Brother)
Also � TOO MUCH � the challenge here is to take the �best bits� of the wiki and put them into a presentation not ALL of the wiki elements�
Body language � very nice overall , but clear lack of cohesion � audience lost focus as a result
Uh/um � awful lots of these
Some Class Notes:
Midsummer was best segment/clip � X6
everyone looked involved and interested
midsummer section was most concise- made a good point
most were monotone and even though they are well informed, peoples attention was lost
Need more graphics to keep the attention/grab the eye
I really liked the Hades comparison
overall good info, but not very engaging
I got super bored
one girl said �um� so many times I couldn�t listen to her anymore
got bored with droning information � too much Unimportant info
good body language, but some looked bored when not speaking (distracting)
dragged on way too long to keep my attention
could have been presented more concisely
Try part was very good � clip supported his idea well
Should�ve had a Harry Potter clip!
I think your purpose was clear, the concept is well known though � you didn�t explore anything we didn�t already know. This is why it was so hard to keep the attention of your audience. First speaker seemed to have too much responsibility.
Odyssey V. OBrother was cool, but breakdown of every character not necessary � EDIT
Troy was best � X3
Terminator, Matrixc examples were best/cool � X3
Very long/Too long � X12
Zach did a good job engaging the audience
Shakespeare/Pyramus & Thisbe connection was best
cut some details people!
too many likes, uhs, ums,�
overall nice, but be sure to separate historical lit from Hollywood versions
they seemed bored with themselves
they obviously did a lot of research but how are these the most engaging bits?
help on how to format text
Turn off "Getting Started"