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The Demise of the Coward
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0977  Wednesday, 1 November 2006

[1] 	From: 	V. K. Inman <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 31 Oct 2006 16:05:29 -0500
	Subj: 	Re: SHK 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward

[2] 	From: 	Bruce Young <
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	Date: 	Tuesday, 31 Oct 2006 16:57:41 -0700
	Subj: 	RE: SHK 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		V. K. Inman <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 31 Oct 2006 16:05:29 -0500
Subject: 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward

Quoting John Crowley <
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 >

 >>>It was Hal's band of brothers if anything.
 >>
 >In response to this and Bruce Young's fine analysis, wouldn't it be great
 >in a production of Henry V to place Bardolph, Pistol etc in conspicuous
 >positions when Hal makes his band of brothers speech?  For a moment any
 >man can be not a coward, or be included in the band of brothers, even if
 >later he proves unworthy -- like Falstaff's conscripts in 2 Henry IV --
 >"mere men."

Great idea! --V. K. Inman

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From: 		Bruce Young <
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Date: 		Tuesday, 31 Oct 2006 16:57:41 -0700
Subject: 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward
Comment: 	RE: SHK 17.0970 The Demise of the Coward

Since no one yet has mentioned it, I thought I'd make one more 
contribution to the Shakespearean coward question by pointing out that 
the three undoubted cowards in Shakespeare--Falstaff, Pistol, and 
Parolles (there have got to be more; who are they?)--are all examples of 
the miles gloriosus/braggart soldier.

At least one thing that makes them laughable, maybe even contemptible, 
is their pretending to have a courage they don't have.  The focus of any 
scorn we feel, or other characters appear to feel, is their hypocrisy 
more than the cowardice itself, though the cowardice probably comes into 
it too.

I feel awkward, though, referring to contempt and scorn because that's 
not really what I feel toward Falstaff or Pistol.  I'm less clear about 
what I feel toward Parolles.  He's never struck me as being as affable 
or enjoyable a character as the other two.  His groveling is funny; 
besides that, he functions (as I see it) to make Bertram less 
sympathetic at first, since he's taken in by Parolles, and more 
sympathetic later, maybe even having undergone a bit of moral growth, as 
he comes to see Parolles' character more truly.

Falstaff, of course, is a much more complicated character who elicits 
all kinds of emotional and moral responses from us.  For me at least, 
among those responses contempt plays a very minor role--except, maybe, 
when I see him leading a band of soldiers that he considers nothing more 
than "food for powder."

Bruce Young

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