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Courage and Cowardice: Going Beyond Physical Measures - Essay Example

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Summary
Some people are kind yet cruel at the same time; others are strong yet dependent, still others can be cheerful and gloomy. Whether the positive qualities are more prominent than the negative ones is questionable, but following the concept of tabula rasa, one can say that the negative qualities come out when triggered by an occurrence…
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Courage and Cowardice: Going Beyond Physical Measures

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People can be courageous and cowardly at the same time. Even the most fearless people have their own share of cowardice. Military men, for instance, may be brave enough to lose their lives at battles yet afraid to lose their family. The contradicting attitude of courage and cowardice may vary from one person to another, yet most people, if not all, encounter this experience. In many literary works, courage is associated with legendary heroes such as Beowulf, King Arthur and his knights in the older tradition, and Superman, Spider Man, and so on in the modern tradition. Courage is also possessed by kings. In the old Western texts, we see courage in Macbeth, Gilgamesh, and Oedipus, who are all kings. Macbeth seizes the throne from the former King Duncan, Gilgamesh inherits kingship from his father, Lugulbanda, whereas Oedipus, like Macbeth, takes the place of the dead king, but like Gilgamesh too, inherits the throne of his father Lugulbanda. Macbeth and Oedipus share the crime of killing the reigning king and seizing the power in their lands. However, Oedipus did his crime with some innocence, whereas Macbeth killed Duncan by will. Moreover, Oedipus inherits the place of his father after the latter’s death but still without knowing it, whereas Gilgamesh is pronounced king by inheritance of his father’s throne. As kings in their own lands, the three characters show the courage to defend their throne. Macbeth, remembering the prophecy that Banquo will beget a king’s death, plots a murder to prevent the prophecy. ...
Meanwhile, Gilgamesh courageously destroys the beast Humbaba in his search for eternal life for his people, whereas Oedipus Rex faces the sphinx with courage and wisdom. These examples illustrate that courage is greatly associated with kings. In other words, a king’s characteristics usually include courage. It is questionable whether the three kings’ courage is innate or it is dependent only on their power. Unlocking the source of courage could lead to determine the source of cowardice as well. To begin with, we ask, are the characters brave because they have power? Macbeth, raised as a warrior, has the courage to face battles, thus shows an innate courage relying on his physical strength. Although nothing is said about his youth, it is easy to believe that Macbeth is a courageous soldier for he wins battles that make him rise to the position of Thane of Cawdor. As the sergeant reports about Macbeth and Banquo: As sparrows eagles, or the hare the lion. If I say sooth, I must report they were As cannons overcharged with double cracks, So they Doubly redoubled strokes upon the foe. Except they meant to bathe in reeking wounds, Or memorize another Golgotha (Act 1 40–46) Macbeth, along with Banquo, faces battles to the point of risking his life. He and Banquo are likened to eagles and lions in defending and bringing honor to their country. Owing to his physical prowess and military skills, it is no doubt that Macbeth’s courage is innate. King Duncan is pleased with him for his achievements. Similarly, we find Gilgamesh’s courage to be innate, him being the son of a goddess and a king. As he and Enkidu plan for the death of Humbaba, Gilgamesh expresses his courage and willingness to die for his ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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