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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: October ::
Heroes
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0612  Saturday, 25 October 2008

[1] From:   Jason Rhode <
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     Date:   Thursday, October 16, 2008 3:39 PM
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0602 Heroes

[2] From:   Al Magary <
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     Date:   Thursday, 16 Oct 2008 20:16:28 -0700
     Subt:   Re: SHK 19.0594 Heroes


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Jason Rhode <
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Date:       Thursday, October 16, 2008 3:39 PM
Subject: 19.0602 Heroes
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0602 Heroes

Alan Pierpoint brings up an excellent point. However, courage, stoicism, one's 
own value system, desire to do good, etc. aren't quite enough for me.

To my mind, the conditio sine qua non of heroism is unselfishness, or to put it 
broadly, a capacity for honest self-sacrifice.

If we use the broad definition of "one who does great and good, completely 
morally pure deeds," then, no, Shakespeare is absent heroes.

However, if we use the criteria defined by the NPR broadcast, and add to that 
the virtue of unselfishness, there are several characters that might meet our 
standard: Cordelia, Bottom, Lear's Fool, and Horatio.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:       Al Magary <
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Date:       Thursday, 16 Oct 2008 20:16:28 -0700
Subject: 19.0594 Heroes
Comment:    Re: SHK 19.0594 Heroes

I suspect we don't have a surplus of heroes these days because, unlike a three- 
or five-act drama, our 24/7 media ensures we will eventually know too much about 
them. The media that makes heroes may unmake them quickly, but minimally reveals 
them as merely human. Periodically an ordinary person --say, a passerby who 
rescues someone from a burning house -- gains instant heroism, but next day may 
gain infamy -- police say he's the guy who set the fire. At the leadership 
level, heroes are few, especially beyond the moment.

I have wanted to write about a Shakespearian figure in recent history: Col. Tim 
Collins. You may remember the Iraq War's beginning was marked in the British 
contingent by remarks both somber and inspirational by Col. Collins of the Royal 
Irish Regiment. This off-the-cuff talk, in March 2003 to a group of his men 
poised to cross the Kuwait border into Iraq, was picked up by the press and 
widely compared to Henry V's -- or, shall we say, Shakespeare's -- Agincourt 
speech. Iraq War skeptics noted the contrast between Collins' compassion on the 
eve of battle compared with President Bush's insensitive, comic-book rhetoric. 
(Nonetheless, Bush pinned up a copy of the Collins speech in the Oval Office.)

The Collins speech may be found, with commentary by the Daily Mail reporter who 
was present, at http://journal.dajobe.org/journal/2003/03/collins/   For a BBC 
series this year called "10 Days to War" the producers found a most appropriate 
actor, Kenneth Branagh, to do a re-creation of Collins' speech in the desert: 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpdeNcH1H8A

Henry V is as solidly enshrined in the hall of heroes as Richard III is 
positioned in the chamber of horrors. It would be hard to think of any single 
work of art that would so totally place a figure from the last hundred years. 
Nonstop news, backstopped by occasional history, ensures continuous development 
of plots or storylines so that, very often, the tales of heroes and men seem to 
have no end. Who would argue that the story of John F. Kennedy ended November 
22, 1963?

To return to Col. Collins, a chronology of headlines tells the story of his 
sudden rise, near fall, redemption, and anomalous current status. Even this 
month he is still in the spotlight.

Papers praise moving war speech
Irish commander is new U.K. hero
Commander's speech to troops raises eyebrows
Inspiring officer to be groomed for greatness
Heroes: are they really so hard to find?
Prince 'moved' by officer's battle speech
        *
Has a British officer incited war crimes?
Hero or villain?
British war hero probed over alleged crimes
Colonel Tim shopped by the U.S.
Colonel Tim: I'm no war criminal
RIR battalion commander faces second inquiry
Brit colonel fights to clear name
Col. Tim Collins cleared of charges of mistreating Iraqi civilians
        *
Cleared colonel awarded Iraq war OBE
Iraq War colonel quits Army
Col. Tim Collins wins double libel damages
Colonel accuses Allies over Iraq
Colonel Tim spurns politics for life on the small screen
Back into battle
        *
Tim Collins trained troops to fight with white phosphorus
Je ne regrette...Tim Collins
Basra pull-out leaves UK military 'damaged', says Colonel Tim Collins
Famous speech by Colonel Tim Collins 'left men fearful'
Hero colonel in war of words with his deputy over famous eve-of-battle Iraq 
speech that
        'demoralised' British troops
Soldiers clash over speech
Did the Sarge win this war of words?
. . .

I suggest that the creator who makes a story out of such headlines must depart 
substantially from reality. As we know, Shakespeare did with the muddled stuff 
of Hall's and Holinshed's history.

Cheers,
Al Magary

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