The tension-charged exchange between Bolingbroke and Mowbray in the first scenes of Richard II provides exciting action for the audience, and gives a glimpse into trial by combat and the importance of honor in Shakespeare’s plays. Trial by combat, or a judicial duel was a traditional way to settle disputes in England and Europe for many generations. People dueled to defend their own honor, and to prove personal claims against the honor of others. Honor. Honor is the accumulation of virtuous deeds that instills a respect in others and in you. Possessing, seeking, and defending the elusive trait of honor are crucial elements of Richard II.
The concept of honor has different meanings to individual members of a modern audience, just as it did to an Elizabethan audience. What is honorable? What makes someone honorable? Aristotle thought:
there is no true honor in the world but that which commeth from vertue. Vertue seeks no greater or ampler theater to shew her selfe in, then her owne conscience. The higher the Sunne is the lesse shadow it makes, and the greater a mans vertue is the lesse glorie it seekes. (qtd. in Council 28)
So, by Aristotle’s rationale, those people who seek honor are in fact not honorable because they are deliberately seeking honor, which is a vice. Council sums Aristotle’s argument very well, “virtue consists in action; the reward of that action is honor; to pursue more honor than virtuous action warrants or to pursue honor for its own sake is a vice” (19). Honor is also eloquently described by Rabelais’s definition of honor to the Thelemites, “because men that are free, well-born, and well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have natu…
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…mon. New York: W W Norton, 1994.
12. Seldon, John. Table-Talk. . Ed. Edward Arber. London: Alex, Murray
Free Essays on Homer’s Odyssey: Life’s Epic Dimensions
The Odyssey: Life’s Epic Dimensions
In The Odyssey, the wayfarer discovers that life’s lessons are learned through epic dimensions as seen through life’s adventures, life’s test of loyalty, and life’s mistakes. Life is a grand adventure, and for one to understand and complete the grand adventure can be seen as a plethora of small adventures. Throughout the adventure of life, one must trust those closest to get one through rough and hard times there for those around one, namely Odysseus, can rely on his friends, family, and the gods loyalty for support through his adventure. In life most humans make mistakes throughout their life and so do heroes such as Odysseus. But no matter how many times you may prove yourself worthy, no one is perfect.
When a person takes a grand journey it is a great test and opportunity to prove himself a worthy person in front of family and friends. In order to reach ones objective victoriously one must endure a plethora of hardships. Time and again Odysseus has proven himself but the gods intervene and throw him a new journey or hardship any time they can with the intention of increasing Odysseus’ greatness. While Odysseus was disguised as an old beggar he took a beating of verbal insults from the suitors by the approval of the gods, “Yet Athena allowed the haughty suitors not altogether yet to cease from biting scorn. She wished more pain to pierce the heart of Laertes son, Odysseus” (180). Athena’s intention is to let Odysseus realize how the citizens of Ithaca and his family were treated by the suitors and place even more revenge in his heart. Throughout the testing by the gods Odysseus grows spiritually and proves to be a smart and powerful opponent. Like every persons journey, Odysseus grew stronger on the inside, where it counts the most.
The gods have no regard for what may happen to the many people who live except the ones they favor. The gods themselves are evil in a variety of ways and aided men who are evil without care as long as the ones they favor remain safe. Although Odysseus is a good man, the gods fully support the slaughter of the suitors even though there may have been more ethical ways of punishing the suitors, “He spoke, but not a word did wise Odysseus answer. Silent he shook his head, brooding on evil” (198).