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Friday, March 31, 2006

Shakespeare & War

Are the troops responsible for what happens in war? Not if you ask William Shakespeare.

I dare say you love him not so ill, to wish him here alone, howsoever you speak this to feel other men's minds: methinks I could not die any where so contented as in the king's company; his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.

That's more than we know.

Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if we know we are the kings subjects: if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.

But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection.

Lately, these have become favorite lines of mine. King Henry V, disguised as a soldier, goes out among the troops to find out their state of mind the night before a decisive battle. When Henry tells a soldier his cause is just "and his quarrel honourable", he's told it doesn't matter. They're bound by duty. The only one who must answer for the war, in the end, is the king who waged it.

So, for those who confuse supporting the war with supporting the troops, I say it's time to play catch up - Shakespeare knew better some four hundred years ago...

(keywords: politics, literature, Iraq, president, bush )