The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0594  Tuesday, 14 October 2008

From:       Donald Bloom <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Monday, 13 Oct 2008 11:55:50 -0500
Subject:    Heroes

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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