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The Nature of Leadership in Billy Budd The Scarlet Letter

The Nature of Leadership in Billy Budd The Scarlet Letter

While it would be logical for good character to be in accordance with good leadership ability, this is rarely true in application. History has proven that many effective leaders were cruel and corrupt, and even American literature has reflected the commonplace nature of corrupted politicians. Upright politicians have existed but do not stay in the brief spotlight of American attention as the ones consumed by scandal. Therefore, Americans labor under the misconception that it is acceptable for a politician to be dishonest. Politicians will ignore moral guidelines to suit the lackadaisical characters of the voters as well as for their own personal gain. Only when Americans decide that personal character is more important than charisma will quality of leadership be supplemented by the moral awareness that the job demands, but which ironically the voters often complain that American leaders do not have.

A primary implication in American literature is that behind every good leader lurks a few dark secrets. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Dimmesdale is a devoted leader of the church who causes great inspiration to his congregation over the years. In fact, it seems that the greater his personal suffering grows, the more the public view of him appreciates. Arthur Dimmesdale is an adulterer and a hypocrite. While his lover Hester Prynne suffers publically for their combined sin, he is exalted as a moral icon. Through his own casuistry, he has convinced himself that he is serving the interests of the people this way. He is a very good minister, but a weak man. His dabbling in sin caused him to understand the peo…

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…d gone without notice because they have not been involved with a scandal. The fact that the job can be adequately performed without a moral conscience doesn’t mean that immorality is a prerequisite. In fact, citizens should reconsider the motives of their leaders if they know that the person feels no moral obligation to do what is right . When Americans look at their government officials, they should be proud rather than ashamed. By examining the literary and historical past of America, it should be apparent that serious thought should be involved in the selection of leaders as well as scrutiny of those already in power. With the system of government that America has today, it is imperative that the intentions of the founding fathers be remembered: “to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice.”1

1 The Constitution of the United States, 1787

Comparing Virtue and Vice in Garrick’s Romeo and Juliet and Bowdler’s Romeo and Juliet

Virtue versus vice is of great concern in the 18th century, an issue that causes a major shift in the presentation of plays on the stage. Stage writers adapted well-known plays to meet the criteria and expectations of the time. Contributing to the overall acceptance of virtue on stage is the enforcement of decency and cleanliness by both the ruling class and the audience. A famous actor of the time, David Garrick, not only abided by these rules but also worked them to his advantage. Garrick packed theater houses with his talent and versatility as an actor, while at the same time promoting an acceptance of cleaner versions of plays. Many of these adapted plays were by Shakespeare, though Garrick himself wrote plays that were as universally accepted. Audiences today may criticize the inadequacy of these adaptations, but during the 18th century audiences expected and loved them.

What were these changes exactly and where did they originate? Garrick himself does not begin this movement towards virtue, but simply accepts the changes present. In 1698, Jeremy Collier wrote A Short View of the Immortality and Profaneness of the English Stage. This piece strongly attacks the current conditions of the theater and the various “immoral” works by certain authors currently published. The Longman Anthology of British Literature writes, “by portraying wickedness in ways that give delight, [Jeremy Collier] argued contemporary plays cultivated in their audiences the vices of their characters” (2270 Longman Anthology of British Literature). These authors include such notable minds as John Dryden, William Congreve and William Wycherley. Collier especially criticizes the profane use of language and the abuse of clergy all of which, he felt, manage…

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Garrick, David. The Dramatic Works of David Garrick, Esq. Vo. 1 London, 1798.

Greenbalt, ed. The Norton Shakespeare Based on theOxford Edition. New York: London, 1997.

Frye, Northrop. “Essay date 1986.” Mark W. Scott, ed. pgs 575-579.

Hume, Robert D. “Before the Bard: Shakespeare in Early Eighteenth-Century London.” ELH 64.1 (1997): 41-75.

November 14, 2000. .

Jameson, Anna Brownell. “Essay date 1833.” Mark W. Scott, ed. pgs 423-425.

Knight, Joseph. “David Garrick” Literature Criticism from 1400 to 1800. Vol. 15. November 7, 2000.

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