Powerplay in Texts ‘Gladiator` and ‘The Statue of Liberty`

Power is conditional; it’s a measure of one individual’s ability to control the environment around itself, including the behaviour of other entities through manipulation and exploitation. The application of power, whether this be physical or sexual, individual or political, private or public, replicates one’s ability to control, command and influence others. Ultimately, an entity with power is permitted to employ this for the benefit of others, or unfortunately to their detriment.
Power is transient therefore, gains or losses in power can significantly impact on an individual’s human experience. Three texts permeated by power struggles include Shakespeare’s catastrophic play Antony and Cleopatra, Ridley Scott’s film ‘Gladiator’ (2000), and Warren Brown’s political cartoon ‘The Statue of Liberty’. Each composer employs a variety of literary and visual techniques including dialogue, symbolism, sound (both diegetic and non-diegetic), mise-en-scene, irony, soliloquy and emotive language, to explore the transformative effect of power on the human experience.
These powerplays are extremely persuasive, and thus we are convinced to embrace the perspectives offered in these texts. The major powers examined in the three texts are political, militaristic and sexual. Antony and Cleopatra is a disastrous play that illustrates a chronicle of two leaders from two very different worlds who fall profoundly in love with each other and their endeavor to sustain their relationship against the Roman Empire, however, it ends tragically with their suicides.

Antony grapples with the conflict between his love for Cleopatra and his duties to the Roman Empire; the geographical poles that draw him in opposite directions represent deep-seated conflicts between his reason and emotion, his sense of duty and his desire, his obligations to the state and his private needs. Soliloquies are used throughout the play as a means of aiding the audience to understand the subconscious thoughts of the characters. In Act IV, scene 12, Antony states to himself “O sun, thy uprise shall I see no more”, foreshadowing his own death.
Various persuasive forms of power are displayed in this play convincing us to embrace perspectives offered in this text; those forms of power being political, sexual and militaristic. Before Antony met Cleopatra, he held military and political power so great, even his lieutenants were afraid to out preform him, “But ‘twould offend him, and his offence…Should my performance perish. ” Antony’s affair with Cleopatra makes him disregard his responsibilities where the sexual power present allows for passion to overtake his reasonable judgement.
Antony knew this in his use of fertility and sexual imagery in the metaphor “These strong Egyptian fetters I must break, or lose myself in dotage. ” Sympathy for Antony was formed through his personal conflict between love and duty, thus weakening Antony’s control over himself and his known loss of power. Antony blames himself for the wrong decision “My very hairs do mutiny, for the white…reprove the brown for rashness” Here hair is used as a metaphor for age, and Antony hasn’t acted as a man with “white” hair should which is with maturity, instead acting on impulse, brown hair symbolising a younger man.
We see the enchanting sexual power of Cleopatra when Enobarbus’ explains to Agrippa “From the barge, a strange invisible perfume hits the senses”, personifying the sexual power held by Cleopatra, not only over Antony, but the radiating power she holds over all who cross paths with her. “Mardian, go tell him I have slain myself. ” This order delivered by Cleopatra herself is the order, which ultimately, brings Antony to kill himself illustrating Cleopatra’s manipulative power over him.
When she learns that she’s being taken to Rome, it produces a fear of humiliation for her; accordingly, she ends her life. Caesars’ use of Antony’s own surrendered men in the front battle line creates a psychological advantage over Antony by bringing emotion onto the field, “Plant those who have revolted in the van…that Antony may seem to spend his fury…upon himself”. The emotive language manipulates the situation by making Antony feel he is fighting himself when fighting his deserted soldiers through metaphrasing them as himself.
The suicide of both Antony and Cleopatra takes away from Octavius because they become tragic lovers who would always be remembered, “Our army shall…in solemn show attend this funeral…and then to Rome…see…high order in this great solemnity. ” Irony is used when Caesar parades both Antony and Cleopatra to maximise his gain in power but instead makes the best political move giving them a great ceremony. The varied force of power is extremely persuasive. Throughout the entire play the effects of Powerplay direct the vents of the characters lives and create and destroy relationships between all characters involved, persuading us to embrace these perspectives concerning the significance of power in the human experience. Similarly, Scott’s film Gladiator, Maximus (Russell Crowe), the Roman general turned Gladiator and Commodus, the son of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius manipulates others to gain power in order to fulfill their desires. The dominant powerplays in this text and political and militaristic, and due to the perspectives offered on the significance of power in the human experience, we are persuaded to embrace these perspectives.
Maximus is portrayed as a powerful character by Scott through the use of mise-en-scene, in particular Maximus’ costumes, that being of an Upper Class Roman General and props (ie – his Imperial Sword), and the fact that when we see Maximus fighting, whether it be at the beginning of the film with the Barbarians or near to the end in the arena, we see him through a low-angled camera shot, exemplifying his fighting power and knowledge over his enemies. Maximus’ image of power is gained, lost, and then later re-gained through the duration of the film, despite the capturing of this power ultimately leads to his death.
Correspondingly, we are persuaded to embrace these perspectives about the significance of power in the human experience in Warren Brown’s political cartoon ‘The Statue of Liberty’. This text uses a number of techniques to convey its political power play perspective including contrast of size between the two personas. It is a widely shared notion that power is associated with size; the greater the size the greater the level of power. Yet, this cartoon chooses to test this and illustrate the idea that Osama holds power over the Statue of Liberty.
This is both ironic and a contrast of size. Although America, represented as the Statue, has been damaged to various terrorist attacks, it still aims to protect itself, just as Maximus aimed to protect Rome at all costs, even after he had been captured and sold as a slave and gladiator. The fact that Osama is not present within this frame suggests that he holds power of the statue. The political perspectives offered in this text are persuasive, thus convincing us of the significance of power in the human experience.

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