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The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Agony and the Ecstasy The past is always forgotten, left alone in the dark, a reminiscence among hundreds, until it finally erodes from living memory…But before it vanishes, the past always fights back, in an effort to reclaim its throne.In 15th century Europe, the Church and its preachings of the past were swept away in a tide of change; the clash of these two ideas is shown in The Agony and the Ecstasy.Throughout the movie, Pope Julius II illustrates the values of the Middle Ages through his speech and actions, both of which reflect the ideologies of that time period.

The twin values of obedience and punishment lie at the core of the Middle Ages, entwined and inseparable; both are exemplified in Pope Julius II’s actions and words.

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The Pope demonstrates the concept of obedience, treasured so deeply by the Church, through his actions following the noncompliance of subjects. One example of this is the Pope’s reaction to Michelangelo’s blasphemous sonnet; he immediately rebukes him for his lapse in deference.

The Pope’s demand of complete and utter submission to the Church demonstrate the emphasis on unquestioned obedience to the Pope (and likewise to the Church). Another instance is the Pope’s encounter with the French ambassador; the Pope angrily tells him that he will stand no interference from the French king in Church matters. The Pope’s harsh reprimand once again points to the importance of undisputed conformity to the Church’s words; it was a vital segment of their society .

The Middle Ages was a time of fear and uncertainty, of conflict in discord; the Church was the backbone of Middle Ages’ society, and kept daily life running as smoothly as possible—but was successful only because the people obeyed. Without obedience, their lives would have come to sudden and abrupt halt. As a Greek playwright put it, “Obedience is the mother of success and is wedded to safety”. The Church thought the same way, and for all the right reasons—it just held on to these beliefs too long. An equally important value Pope Julius II exhibits is that of punishment, often a result of disobedience, mostly in his speech.

An illustration of this value is shown in the same encounter previously mentioned with the French ambassador; the Pope, angry at the French king’s hypocrisy and lack of respect for the Church, thundered, “Let him learn that I too carry a stick. Let him learn that I am the Pope! ” Through his angry threat to the king, the Pope reveals to the ambassador and the viewer that he is not afraid to use force to establish his authority as pope. Furthermore, the Pope, when he hears that Michelangelo has disappeared, he is outraged, and maintains his ground: “He will paint it or he will hang! the Pope exclaims. Through his threats to Michelangelo, the Pope reinforces the Middle Ages’ belief in the power of punishment; a disorderly society such as theirs could not have existed very long without some form of law and order. The Church used punishments to enforce discipline in an uncertain world; It was the only method that prevented the spread of immorality. Even a highly-acclaimed Renaissance man agreed with the concept, reasoning, “He who does not punish evil commands it to be done. ”

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