When constructing a life, biographers carefully select a specific focus area and use a unique style to add emphasis on the area in which they choose to call attention to. Although ancient biographers and modern biographers display information about lives in different ways, they have very similar fundamental ideas. In the Life of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the author, Plutarch, emphasizes the idea of a tragic ending. The very same characteristics that made Cicero popular amongst the people eventually led to his demise. Present day media stars, such as Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi from MTV’s hit reality television show, Jersey Shore, thrive on publicity. Like the story of Cicero, as told by Plutarch, Snooki’s life unfolds in front of an audience, allowing viewers to see her best moments slowly transition into her worst, questioning the effect of life in the public eye.
During his journey to Rome, Cicero questioned how he might go about winning his fame and popularity among the people. Turning to the god Apollo Delphain, an oracle told him, “he would rather follow the disposition of his own nature, than the opinion of the common people (Plutarch 567).” In making this claim, Plutarch foreshadowed a character trait of Cicero, that is, his desire to please himself and do what he thinks is just, rather than fall pray to the influences of others. Timid and shy, Cicero remained uninvolved in the public eye when he first entered Rome. However, his ambitious nature and desire to be honored drove his skills as an orator to eventually shine through. It is in his description of Cicero’s orations that the audience first sees one of Cicero’s faults; although a good orator occasionally insults the audience, Cicero used insults so much that it was taken offensively, giving his audience the idea that he was “malicious” and “spiteful.” Given this burden, it took time for Cicero to gain in popularity within the common people.
Upon the evaluation of the Lentulus conspiracy, Cicero had a chance to share with the city his authoritative voice. Having some of the most influential individuals in Rome behind the plot to set the city ablaze, Cicero failed to demonstrate his absolute power for fear of upsetting the “noblest houses of the city, and that had besides many friends (Plutarch 581).” With this statement, Plutarch is showing that public opinion did matter to Cicero when it came to upsetting the monetarily influential individuals in Rome. On the other hand, Cicero battled an internal conflict with what he felt was perhaps the better career choice, and what he felt was the better choice morally speaking. If the conspirators weren’t punished properly, it would not only make him look as if he was weak, but it wouldn’t teach them right from wrong. Also, they would continue to act out in a more severe manner. This internal battle formed within Cicero by Plutarch, created more of a three-dimensional character, allowing readers to relate to his struggle between his developing personality and his growing popularity.
Following Plutarch’s tragic story line, Cicero’s gift of words led to his demise. Antonius and Cicero held duel reigns over the city of Rome, and often disagreed upon the way matters of the state were handled. Cicero began attacking Antonius in several speeches. Caesar agreed with Antonius that Cicero should be banned from the state of Rome. Upon the order given by Antonius, Cicero was murdered by his very own slave, Herennius. Antonius cut off Cicero’s head and hand’s, representing the two most important body parts for oration, taking away what meant most to Cicero during life. (Plutarch 610).
Similar to Cicero, reality television star, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, leads a life driven by the support of her fans. Born in Santiago, Chile, Snooki was adopted by Italian-American parents when she was six months old. Snooki made her first television appearance on MTV’s show Is She Really Going Out With Him?, but was later sought out by a producer to be the crazy, outgoing party girl on the MTV hit series, Jersey Shore. Snooki is well known for her crazy antics on her reality show living in a house with seven other people – which start out as strangers. The producer was hoping to film the reality of these individuals with different personalities and values trying to live together. With such diversity amongst personalities, it creates multiple conflicts, which is what the producers are actually looking for.
In July, 2010, Snooki was arrested for disturbing others on a beach, disorderly conduct and criminal conduct on the beach. The Judge (Judge Damian Murray) was unsure whether Snooki’s public rudeness was a stunt to get publicity or whether she just acted uncontrollably as she stumbled over people at the beach and used loud inappropriate language. Snooki assured the Judge that it was not for publicity and that she had too much to drink. She admitted to wrongdoing and publically apologized to police and any others she may have hurt. This incident’s punishment was 2 days of community service and a fine of $500.00. Snooki realized that she was very lucky to have received the punishment that she had and was very thankful to the Judge for being understanding.
One complication with applying the Plutarchan lens is that she is still alive, and therefore it is impossible to talk about her death. However, to a reality television star, something such as bad tabloids can be enough to cause their demise in the public eye. For Snooki, her party-hard way of life will continue to get her into trouble with the law enforcement and her reputation with viewers. Her actual personality is shielded by the tremendous amount of drama built up around what the producers think is going to make the television show more fresh and exciting, instead of what is best for her individually.
If Plutarch were to tell the life of Snooki, he would most certainly give us more information on who Snooki was as a person, instead of selectively editing for the drama shown on television. For instance, in Plutarch, the reader knows a little bit about each parent, such as Cicero’s mother was always honest. To find this information out about Snooki, a lot of further research would need to be done other than just watching the show, which is the main source people have to come to their conclusions about Snooki. Also, Plutarch creates characters that are almost unimaginable because of the amount of specific details he uses, almost as if he were there with Cicero in every situation he went through.
In conclusion, the life of Snooki would be much more descriptive, and less selective if told through the eyes of Plutarch. Although the forms in which they are written largely influence the type and amount of information projected at the audience, the general uniting story theme still exists, that is, the struggle between popularity and portraying an individual personality. Following Plutarch’s tragic story line, Snooki’s desire for media attention will be the very thing that leads to her downfall.
Plutarch, and Thomas North. Plutarch Selected Lives. Great Britain: Wordsworth Classics, 1998. Print