The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0594 Tuesday, 14 October 2008
Date: Monday, 13 Oct 2008 11:55:50 -0500
Recent remarks about several characters have impelled me to bring out (perhaps a
bit sketchily) an idea I have been mulling over for some years: to wit, the
modern (post-Victorian) distaste for, antagonism to and fear of heroes.
By heroes, I do not mean protagonists, but those who in some measure display
heroic, admirable, courageous qualities. There seems to be an intense desire to
tear them down, expose their failings mercilessly, and make them as unheroic as
possible. The most obvious victim of this attitude is, of course, Prince Hal,
but Hamlet and Romeo seem to belong to the same category.
So, I pose the following questions:
Are there no heroic figures at all?
If not, why not?
If there are, who are they and why are they heroic?
Is the same process of denigration now being applied to previously admired
female heroic figures? (It seems to me it is.)
Is this absolute (there are no heroes and never have been) or merely a temporary
cultural phenomenon (we have lost the capacity to admire other people or something)?
I am not interested in comments in defense of the detestation of Hal, Hamlet,
Romeo, and company, because I've heard plenty of them. But I would like to know
what other people think about the general questions I've proposed. Are there any
heroes worthy of the name to be found in Shakespeare?
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