Discuss how the political setting of Ben-Hur affects the relationship of Messala and Judah.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The political setting is what creates the most profound impact on the relationship on Messala and Judah.  As childhood friends, both embrace one another's friendship in the purest of possible terms.  It is only after Messala goes to Rome that he returns to Judea with the greatest of contempt for anything that is not Roman.  Messala returns with what Judah would describe "the poison of Rome" within him.  It is in this light that Messala approaches Judah upon his return, as a potential intermediary to advance the Roman empire in the rebellious state of Judea.  The political setting of opposition between Rome and Judea is what causes their friendship to be undermined.  Both men, as adults, end up embodying each end of this polarity.  It is the absorption of such political animosity that compels Messala to do what he does in condemning Judah and his family.  At the same time, it is the drive for vengeance in Judah that becomes perceived as part of this political struggle.  In both conditions, one can see how the political setting of animosity and mistrust colors and formulates the friendship of both men to a point where there is no longer any bond of connective thread, but rather of mutual driven destruction.

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