Below you will find four outstanding thesis statements for “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “The Agony and the Ecstasy” in terms of different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot of “The Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “The Agony and the Ecstasy” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1 : The Artist versus Society in The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone
Renaissance humanism, as a movement, is at the center of this biographical novel and the conflicts between this vision pioneered, at least in part, by Michelangelo, and the dominant social structures of the day, most notably the Catholic Church and its strict moral codes in terms of art are a huge hurdle for Michelangelo. The main conflicts or antagonists in “The Agony and the Ecstasy" include all of the rigid aspects of Renaissance society and Michelangelo’s family, the Pope, and the Church affiliated politicians of the day represented significant barriers to artistic genius. For this essay on society and the artist in “The Agony and the Ecstasy" reflect on a few of the forces that hinder Michelangelo and how these concerns were reflected in his art and what he chose as subjects. Good places to start would be by examining his family life, the role of the Church in governing art, and the influence of Renaissance-era politics. To further complicate this topic, consider as well as how the business of art as a societal practice proves to be a challenging societal roadblock and how it often appears to interfere with, rather than aid the artist on his quest.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2 : Truth, Biography, and Fiction in “The Agony and the Ecstasy"
Aside from being the product of copious research from third-party scholars regarding the personal details and artistic achievements of the life of Michelangelo, this novel and biography is also the result of the careful scrutiny of a large number of letters that had not yet been translated or studied at any length and that offered more insights into the person Michelangelo was and what his personal life might have been like. While “The Agony and the Ecstasy" is the attempt by Irving Stone to offer a very honest and accurate biography of Michelangelo, to compel readers and to bring the man alive, he had to rely on fiction to tell the story. As it stood, when the book was published, there were already numerous biographies of Michelangelo in existence, but by putting a biography in novel format and creating the character of Michelangelo, it can be argued that this combination of historical accuracy and fiction presents readers with what becomes, ultimately, a more readable and understandable account of a very complex man and sheds light on historical and social circumstances in a first-person manner rather than the cold or distant perspective of a historian. For a more focused commentary on this thesis statement for “The Agony and the Ecstasy" consider why Clarissa, who is a fictional, not a historical character, might have been added and what purpose she serves within the larger context of the question of historical truth and fiction.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3 : Jealousy in “The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone
Jealousy plays an important role in “The Agony and the Ecstasy" and the presence of it contributes to a number of significant events and relationships throughout the biographical novel by Irving Stone. Jealousy appears as a consistent theme in the leaders Michelangelo meets and in his quest for Contessina when Torrigiani breaks his nose. The jealousy of other artists such as Vincenzo, Bandinelli, and Perugino also seek to destroy Michelangelo. While jealousy persists in the political and religious leadership in many overt ways, thus influencing power structures, the reader should notice that Michelangelo too is a rather jealous person and is spurred to jealousy rather easily when competition appears. Michelangelo’s jealous nature extends beyond his love life and deep into his professional life. His competition and jealousy over his rivals da Vinci and, to a greater degree, Raphael is both inspiring to him as it pushes him to exceed his limits and thrive, but is personally devastating as he experiences great frustration from rivalry as well. For this essay on jealousy in “The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone, reflect on the conflicting role jealousy plays. While it is at once a motivator, it is also a great detractor and is responsible for a great deal of hardship and is part of the agony within the ecstasy of Michelangelo’s life and art. To complicate this essay topic for “The Agony and the Ecstasy" also consider how, if he were more competitive and jealousy drove him harder, he might have been more rewarded by his art and less prone to the demands of his family and outside influences.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4 : The Problem of Patronage in “The Agony and the Ecstasy"
Very much aligned with some of the aspects regarding society as detrimental to the artist, especially in terms of the business side of art is the question of the role of patronage on Michelangelo’s career and legacy. There is constant tension between Michelangelo’s desire for artistic expression and experimentation and the comparative tame desires of his patrons, most of whom have a very narrow set of images they wish to see depicted. While artists such as Raphael and da Vinci are able to make a very comfortable living and work within the system of patronage, Michelangelo is often frustrated and is not good at negotiating this business side of art, thus suffers the consequences of both relative poverty and a lack of freedom to indulge in what he sees as being artistically important to him. However, this essay on “The Agony and the Ecstasy" in terms of patronage should take another view, simply for the sake of argument. If you wish to find a good thesis statement for an argumentative essay on “The Agony and the Ecstasy" an alternative is to make the statement that without these patrons, the artist would not be able to practice at all or devote his life to his work. While patronage was often stifling for Michelangelo, without it he would have had to work at ordinary labor and would not be able to spend time developing himself as an artist, even if the medium or subject of his art was not necessarily to his choosing.
* Other possible thesis statements for “The Agony and the Ecstasy" by Irving Stone you might want to consider include the role of the women in the novel and how they operate only to serve as inspiration and are not developed. Additionally, you might want to consider the intersection of the idea of God as a sculptor and how the author repeatedly suggests through comparison how God and Michelangelo are similar. This is a dense novel full of many themes and symbols ripe for analysis. If you are still stuck, you can always write a comparison of the film versus the book as they offer several distinct differences and similarities. *
This list of important quotations from “The Agony and the Ecstasy” will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Agony and the Ecstasy” by Irving Stone listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Agony and Ecstasy” by Irving Stone above, these quotes alone with page numbers can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way.
“God was the supreme carver; the lyrical hills, each range composed by a draftsman’s hand, complementing the succeeding ranges as they rolled back, with nothing the eye could see that was carelessly conceived" (37).
“Still, it is true: people who are jealous of talent want to destroy it in others" (75).
“It was a long time, deep into the heat of summer…he [Michelangelo} realized he was jealous. Jealous of Torrigiani. Jealous of Contessina. Jealous of the two of them together. Jealous of each of them separately, apart. He was appalled" (75).
“The scalpellini respected this stone. To them it was the most enduring material in the world; it had not only built their homes, farms, churches, town, but for a thousand years had given them a trade, a skill, a pride of workmanship, a living. Stone was not king, but god. They worshipped it as did their Etruscan ancestors. They handled it with reverence" (42).
(Michaelangelo upon being asked to create something he wasn’t inspired about) “He needed work, not merely because of the money involved but because he was growing restless. It would put marble in his hands" (229).
“He knew that many artists traveled from court to court, patron to patron, for the most part well housed, fed and entertained; be he also knew he would not be content to do so. He promised himself that one day soon he must become his own man, inside his own walls" (309).
“Humanism … what did it mean? … “we are giving the world back to man, and man back to him. Man shall no longer be vile, but noble…. Without a free, vigorous and creative mind, man is but an animal and he will die like an animal, without any shred of a soul. We return to man his arts, his literature, his sciences, his independence to think and feel as an individual, not to be bound to dogma like a slave, to rot in his chains" (121).
Source : Stone, Irving. The Agony and the Ecstasy. New York: Signet, 1987.