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The Green Hornet 2


Some notes on the need for comedy in republics

Our story is an attempt to repair the problem created by the distinction between good & evil. Immediately, this means for us the legal & the illegal. Since not all laws are good laws, & sometimes lawmakers are unjust, it is important to distinguish them from the laws, or else destroying them would mean war on the city. Laws are always necessary, but the laws cannot promise to give men what they want, so criminals would seem to have a serious point.

Fear seems to emerge as the cause of lawfulness: Who would obey the laws without fear of punishment? Then the criminals emerge as the fearless few: Nobody pursues the good more courageously than they. This more broadly distinguishes the many & the few, because whoever would punish criminals must also overcome fear of death, including fear of legal punishment. The laws can only restrain the many. The few have to be satisfied, if at all possible, not merely restrained.

The few are all ambitious, so they must be restrained by their love of glory, which causes them to forget about their own good. Obviously, the few will fight among themselves, so the fight must be publicly arbitrated. Republics especially need to humiliate publicly criminals, so that heroes win approval, in order to avoid partisan civil war.

This new hero is the comic version of the anti-hero. They bear more than a passing resemblance to the relation between comedy & tragedy. Comedy builds on tragedy & corrects it. The great seriousness of tragedy dooms tragic heroes, whereas the comic poet offers solutions grounded in the same understanding of the human problem. These we call happy ends.

Prince Hal is the template for our comic hero. Shakespeare showed in him the original of a new species. Hal said he would appear a great king because the people would compare his achievements to his vulgar origins. Our young man likewise lived a debauched life before he decided to champion the people’s justice against criminals. Happily, they inherit incredibly wealthy fathers…

The new insight of the prince seems to be that he must incorporate many evil things into his rule. So also our hero realizes that he’s best served to do justice by committing injustice on those rare occasions it becomes necessary. Specifically, the hero’s origins are nasty. Criminals constantly challenge the hero, so the hero returns toward these origins constantly. It is just as well all this is done comically, because it would be quite terrifying otherwise. Tragic heroes are destroyed by their necessary conflict with the laws of the city. Comic heroes do not attempt to embody those laws, preferring rather an endangered individuality, whence the debauched, but private life…