Archive for August, 2011

11
Aug
11

World War One Poetry: Deconstructing The Soldier and Dulce Et Decorum Est

Poetry is, and always has been, difficult to define.  While some see it as a technical assimilation of economically chosen words on a page, others define it by the way it makes them feel.  Either way, poems certainly have a respected position in literature – they transcend their specific era and speak to readers of later generations.  Because they retain their thematic relevance in such a way, we study and learn from these works and use them, many times, as templates of culture.  One group of writers and their work that was extremely influential at the beginning of the 20th century was the group of British “soldier-poets” who gained popularity during World War One.  The purpose of this thesis is to argue that while the work of these British World War One poets most certainly places itself within the larger Georgian movement of the time, two significant poems from this era situate themselves not only as classical examples of this type of literature, but also as political statements speaking to cultural validation and condemnation of the British war effort.  Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier and Wilfred Owen’s Dulce Et Decorum Est serve more than admirably as models for these two very divergent points of view in justifying England’s involvement, as close reading and interpretation will prove.  Their inclusion into the canon of World War One literature establishes the very real need for a deconstructive study and placement of the poems into not only a literary context, but also one framed by politics, intellectual beliefs of the time, and humanity in general.  Although Brooke and Owen used their poetry to convey exceptionally different themes, they are linked by what the “Great War” caused in many of the British citizenry:  a necessary examination of how society was changing with the onset of the 20th century.

In order to gain a clearer understanding of the selected poems for this essay, a solid understanding of British Georgian poetry and the historical background of World War One must be established.  The Georgian movement is best described as a body of lyrical poetry written by a variety of British poets in the early 20th century.  This period in literature succeeded the idealistic Victorians, and was a pre-cursor to the more abstract elements of the Modernist era.  While immediately preceding the war, the accepted period of Georgian work (aptly named for the newly crowned King George V) is considered to be between the years of 1910-1922.  Its early lyrical style is characterized by a touch of the romantic, using natural and realist language as a conventional means to express feeling, emotion, and intent.  Later, as the British war effort escalated, it would be accompanied by a significant shift in tone – one that gave readers a darker, more realistic illustration of the war culture, and British societal beliefs.  The movement was further distinguished by its rebelliousness in terms of challenging established poetic techniques, cultural mores, and placing a high level of importance on emotional response.

In 1914, as the fragile political balance between two main European blocks was upset by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Britain made the decision to enter the world’s first “total” war.  Eloquently, George Walter later pronounced it the first total war because “no-one who lived through it could remain untouched by it” (Walter xi).  From the initial British perspective, the conflict was only to last a short time and was necessary for England to solidify her position over Germany as the dominant world power.  The reality soon emerged that this conflict would last much longer – and be proven much more destructive – than anything prior to it.  With the introduction of different methods of warfare, equipment, and tactics, war was – in many ways – reinvented.  Millions of lives were lost during the four year campaign, and an entire generation of young British men was gone.  The deleterious effects of this were innumerable – not only in terms of the tangible loss of men, but also in how society viewed the war.  Soldiers such as Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen began writing poetry that reflected their thoughts on what was happening around them.  These “soldiers-as-poets” became, in a very real sense, reporters of the war activities, and they invented with their verse a different kind of literature – borne of experience, compelling, harsh, and equally sentimental.  Coming out of the idealistic Victorian age, a new readership (thanks to Victorian era educational reform) emerged for this type of writing.  In many ways, the war ushered in an explosion of literary creativity that spurred the writing of hundreds of thousands of poems during the war years.

Arguably the most celebrated of the British war poets, Rupert Brooke symbolized a sense of English nationalism that defined the era in terms of memorializing the war.  Well-educated, young, and talented, Brooke was popularly recognized and representative of the enormity of England’s sacrifice for what many (including the poet himself) believed to be a just cause.  Although he died in the early years of the war without tasting any real sting of battle, his poetic efforts centered mainly on his experience as a soldier.  The reception and praise for his most famous work, The Soldier, was perhaps magnified by his own early death.  Even the title of the work represents simplicity, yet gives the reader the complicit understanding that the soldier in the text stands for an ideal that is both significant and meaningful.

The poem itself is about a man who loves his country unconditionally (idealized) and wants to be remembered – if he were to die in battle – that he was English first and foremost.  When the speaker says, “think only this of me,” he is reminding readers to forget that he may have other titles.  We are asked to forget that he may be a father, an officer, or an employee.  His simple admonition to us is that he is England, and that is what he wishes to be known for.  He goes a step further with the image of “a richer dust concealed,” by claiming that whatever “foreign field” he may find himself in upon his death, the inclusion of his English-ness just made the soil that much greater.  The speaker now owns this land in which he died, has enhanced it through British blood, and has declared it for the glory of England.  These are strong and persuading images, and while the speaker seems not affected by the horrors of war, he shows true acceptance of the idea that dying for one’s country is an admirable charge.  In the fifth line of the poem, Brooke uses the metaphor of England as a mother figure.  She “bore, shaped, made aware” – all very maternal allusions to the rearing of a child in terms of respecting the family name [England].  It is necessarily important to point out that Brooke mentions England six times in this relatively short poem.  This is, notably, not accidental – since it illustrates his deep love of country and reminds us in very unambiguous language, what his subject is.  By literally comparing his idea of heaven to what he knows of his English experience in the last line, “under an English heaven,” the speaker assigns a spiritual connotation to match his national pride – which most certainly speaks to the sentimentality of the poem, and the Georgian movement in general.

Many of Brooke’s critics staunchly defend his patriotic style, which is to say they fully understand the context in which he wrote.  St. John G. Ervine – who knew Brooke personally – writes, “this love [of England] was strong in him, and the wayward irreverence of rebel youths could not seduce him from it.” (Ervine 439).  With this statement, we have first-hand knowledge and textual assurance from one of Brooke’s contemporaries, that his love of country was a real, tangible element – and that his love poem to England isn’t the imagined prose designed to sell books, but the “real deal.”  This translates into amazingly powerful literature.  The poet’s division of his poem from body-centric in the first half to more soul-centric in the second half shows readers how transformative his adoration becomes.  Since we are all human, and all have both physical and spiritual elements, we can relate to this mind/body connection.  Additionally, his words, “all evil shed away,” are impactful in that they remind of us the washing away of our sin or iniquity through the blessed “greatness” of England.  In terms of nationalism – of which Britain needed a heavy dose to swallow some of the atrocities that it incurred – nothing rose as high as The Soldier.  Ervine writes, that the poem “is a thing of exquisite feeling…so long as men love their land, this poem will move them” (439).  And perhaps this is the best thing that can be said about this particular work – it moved people during a time of national and cultural change.  As England came into the 20th century – shedding their Victorian skin – literature helped them to reinvent themselves.  A strong argument can be made that Brooke’s poem continues to move British citizens, as a patriotic anthem.  And for the purposes of this discussion, I would have to agree.  Nothing else symbolizes the transition and general good, nationalistic feeling than the poetry, especially The Soldier, of Rupert Brooke.

Wilfred Owen, categorized not only by his technically innovative work, but also by the fact that he eventually came to see Britain’s participation in the war as unnecessarily involved, represented the opposite side of the coin from his contemporary Brooke.  Famously stating that, “my subject is war, and the pity of war…The Poetry is in the pity,” he also reminds readers that “true poets must be truthful.”  George Walter, in his Introduction for The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, calls Owen “a tragic, selfless, talented young man whose humanism in the face of wartime atrocity spoke out from every poem (xxv).  Nowhere is this depiction of the poet more noticeable than in his poem Dulce Et Decorum Est.

In stark contrast to Brooke’s sentimental look at English patriotism, Owen’s poem is a chilling account of the futility of war, based on personal experience of the appalling conditions of trench warfare.  In direct and painful language, the speaker describes a chemical attack on a platoon of soldiers – using such vivid language as “guttering, choking, drowning” to give his public audience a very real look at war – and something very much different from what the British media was offering.  The title itself is Latin for “it is sweet and right,” but the full quote – borrowed from one of Horace’s Odes – adds “pro patria mori” to the end.  This changes the meaning to “it is sweet and right to die for your country.”  In other words, it is a wonderful and great honor to die on the battlefield representing your nation in war.  Since the poem in no way speaks of honor or glory or rightness, or sweetness, it is an ironic choice for a title.  Owen, with a sneer, calls this statement “The old Lie” at the poem’s conclusion.  While the realism is mixed with an equally compelling sense of compassion, the poem presents a disturbing illustration of what battle truly looked, smelled, and sounded like.  Utter despair is represented in phrases such as “froth-corrupted lungs,” and “incurable sores on innocent tongues.”  Owen mocks those with “high zest”, or what this interpretation sees as enthusiastic idealism, when he presents to them the “hanging face” of a dying soldier.  The tone of this poem is dark, realistic, and full of the negative aspects of war.  It does not celebrate the flag-waving, Brookian view of battle as glorious, but tersely gives readers the practical snapshot of war as a hellish and helpless endeavor.  It shows the true investment of the poet as being genuine in his work, with an attempt to combat the public’s complacency over the war effort.  Since context is important for analysis, it is fair to say that the majority of the English people were misled by reports coming from British newspapers regarding the conflict.  Owen’s work helped to educate the cynical masses, and served as arguably the most well-known World War One poem in terms of actual truth and realism.

One aspect of Dulce Et Decorum Est that is particularly compelling, at least from my perspective, is the relevance of the poet’s point of view.  Owen the soldier was active in trenches such as the ones he writes about.  He wasn’t back home in Shropshire, reading about war in a newspaper article from a comfortable living room sofa.  He literally saw men die and could hear “the blood come gargling.”  He was injured on the battlefield in 1917 and knew the first names of the men in his platoon who strangled to death from the effects of German mustard gas.  Because of this, his poetry has the especially real sense of power by experience.  When he talks of being “Drunk with fatigue,” in Line 7, readers should understand that he absolutely felt the depths of this same fatigue.  He more than likely knew what it felt like to have “blood-shod” feet.  Readers should realize that this example of “soldier-as-poet” isn’t what many might perceive this group of men to be.  They weren’t “poets by trade” thrust into battle – but legitimate military men – writing of their experience in an extremely heightened and emotional way.  This is what makes Owen’s poem so powerful in retrospect.  Because he was, in fact, part of the fighting, we can respect his work at an even greater level.  When A.J.P. Taylor wrote that, “Idealism perished on the Somme” (xx), it was the words of Owen that served as literal proof.  “The old Lie,” ironically, speaks a very sobering truth.

While many scholars might interpret the poetry of Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen in a variety of different ways, this is only one interpretation of two of their best known poems.  There is no question that the writing of this period was affected by Britain’s culture at the time.  How could it not be?  World-power Britain, suddenly thrust into a war it could not readily remove itself from, while watching thousands of their young men die by the trench-ful, became a ripe proving ground for some very talented writers.  As the Victorians waned into history and the post-war Modernists had not yet come into prominence, the Georgian movement bridged a crucial gap in British literature.  Interestingly, as British literature progressed more deeply into the 20th century, the writing of the war poets declined.  One reason being:  many of them did not survive the Western front, such as Brooke and Owen.  For the ones that did, they had lost their muse – so to speak.  This is most likely due to the fact that their writing was so dependent on being in battle and relating the atrocities of what they saw.  It is understandable that once the guns over Europe were silent, so were the literary voices of this group of young poets.  We are now a century removed from the work of these men, yet our studies still continue.  It would, as this argument contends, be a disservice to literature not to recognize their canon of poetry as significant and worthy of discussion.  In this attempt, my hope is that while we use the texts of The Soldier and Dulce Et Decorum Est as models of cultural, war-time literature, we also appreciate their relevance.  As Wilfred Owen himself reminds us, as “children ardent for some desperate glory,” let us as students of literature remember the importance of these poems.  Their place in history deserves as much.

08
Aug
11

Shakespeare Synthesized: The Relevance of Pride as Thematic Element

When undertaking a task as weighty as the study of Shakespearean literature, there are indeed some challenges.  This is not to say that the texts are necessarily difficult, or particularly easy for that matter, but that careful analysis must be accompanied with a solid reception of theme.  Undoubtedly, a student can get lost in the myriad of interpretations and meaning in the depth of the Bard’s work.  That is why, essentially because of this apparent inconsistency, finding the most significant elements within the text is crucial for a full and appreciative literary understanding.  The purpose of this discourse, then, is to argue that yes, the plays of Shakespeare we studied in this course – as well as their modern-day film adaptations – are ripe with valuable thematic elements.  But the over-arching theme of pride surpasses all of them in terms of saliency, substance, and magnitude.  It is this specific theme that initiates the tragic unraveling and decline of King Lear, causes Titus Andronicus to renounce and murder his own child, and precipitates the destruction of several main characters in Othello.  It is this type of pride that loosens a man’s grasp on reality and becomes that which not only defines him, but eventually destroys him.  As such, we begin the discussion of pride as a relevant thematic element by carefully looking at each source and arguing pride’s mostly unflattering (but nonetheless powerful) effects.

Since theme is defined as the main idea, or message, of a narrative, we look to theme as being one of the most important elements in terms of analysis.  Throughout the course, we studied themes that revolved around violence, family, and society.  In some cases, theme was even illustrated by certain gender roles or through sexual ambiguity of some sort.  There are four main texts that deserve our close inspection, to fully realize the extent to which pride thoroughly channels itself through and embeds itself within each one of them.  These include Shakespeare’s original plays Titus Andronicus, King Lear, and Othello – in addition to Tim Blake Nelson’s film adaptation of the latter, aptly named O.  With that in mind, our task becomes this:  by using the texts as a means for interpretation through close reading, how truly fundamental is pride in terms of the overall stories?  Does it usurp some of the relevance away from some of Shakespeare’s other views on family relations, politics, and religious connotation?  This essay will attempt to prove that yes, pride not only assumes the highest position in our hierarchy, but also speaks so loudly through the Bard’s use of language that it absolutely demands our attention and study.

The first play that we studied for this course was Titus Andronicus.  We are introduced to the title character in Act 1, and from the outset realize that he is a focused military leader with a number of equally admirable traits.  From the material, we are told that “A nobler man, a braver warrior, / Lives not this day within the city walls.”  Later on, readers learn that Titus is a “Patron of virtue,” and “Rome’s best champion.”  It takes no real great analytical talent to understand that our hero is essentially a good man.  We see the first instance of his prideful nature when Titus becomes enraged at his daughter’s betrothal to Bassianus instead of the new emperor Saturninus.  The prideful old soldier simply cannot allow his only daughter to “fall” from the potential position of Empress of Rome into a lesser role.  In his view, the Androcini are better than this, they deserve much better than this – and the pride of his family name simply will not be tarnished on his watch.  When his son Mutius comes to his sister’s defense, Titus’s pride reveals itself in the form of bloodshed – as Titus fatally stabs him and defends it by exclaiming, “Nor thou nor he are any sons of mine. / My sons would never so dishonor me.”  This, quite simply, is pride in its worst manifestation.  For a man to be so proud as to justify the killing of his own progeny, there must be some serious underlying issues.  At the very least, we can say that pride was the cause of this violence.  We see it again when the emotionally injured Titus declares that Saturninus’s words “are razors to my wounded [proud] heart.” Ironically, we see a measure of Titus’s pride when he cuts his hand off in an effort to save his two sons from execution at the hands of the Emperor.  Is this the same type of pride that drove him to stab his own son?  In an ironic twist, yes it is.  His pride has reached such a crescendo at that point in the play that he willingly agrees, “With all my heart I’ll send the Emperor my hand. / Good Aaron, wilt thou help to chop it off?”  Without pride, this decision could never have taken place.  To divest oneself of something so important suggests that Titus is proud enough to sacrifice for his sons’ benefit.  It is this startling and quite real juxtaposition (pride as violence with Mutius, yet redemptive with Quintus and Martius) that makes pride such an undeniably crucial element within the reading of the play.

Aaron the Moor, Shakespeare’s example of unrepentant evil in Titus Andronicus, also demonstrates a form of pride that cannot be ignored.  His is an unapologetic pride, for he even states that despite being punished for his criminal behavior, he would do it again, “Ten thousand worse than ever yet I did / Would I perform, if I might have my will.”  This is an astounding statement, given the position that he is in – one of execution at the hands of the new political ruler.  But what makes Aaron’s position so strong?  Why does he maintain steadfast in his villainy, as the chips slowly mount up against him?  Again, look to pride for the answer.  Aaron is another type of character who feels wronged by his situation.  Outcast because of racial differences, he uses evil pride as a subjective form of checks and balances, or as a means to “get back” at society.  He is proud in the sense that he knows he is different, excluded, perhaps unfairly, and resentful because of it.  This pride translates into deceit, violence, and a shameless attitude without any real hope of reformation.

King Lear, as we will see, probably has the most compelling evidence in terms of how debilitating the element of pride can be.  We first see the aging King of England in a position to divide his kingdom equally between his three daughters.  There is really nothing prideful in that, but when he demands that they each state the level of love they have for him, we see his pride-driven ego begin to emerge.  Clearly, he is a proud man who needs to have this positive reinforcement in his life.  Otherwise, what would the point be in asking his children to declare their allegiance?  Shouldn’t a father already be aware of their position?  Should there be a valid reason for his request other than prideful vanity?  Ironically, it also works to show readers the dishonesty that lies beneath the surface in the sisters Goneril and Regan.  But Lear doesn’t realize this at the time.  When Cordelia opposes her deceitful sisters’ opinions and tells her father, “I love your Majesty / According to my bond, no more nor less,” Lear cannot understand this and his pride suffers dramatically.  It then follows that his pride “allows” him to outright disown Cordelia with these especially terse words, “Here I disclaim all my paternal care.”  When the Earl of Kent tries to intercede on Cordelia’s behalf, Lear banishes him as well, threatening him with death if he ever “be found in our dominions.”  Surely this is not the logical, well-thought out diplomacy of a right-minded monarch?  Why would a man who presumably has the capacity for consistent and rational behavior banish his own blood, and later one of the highest members of his inner circle?  For what crime, even?  The Earl of Gloucester calls his crime “honesty,” but the answer to our question is, unequivocally, pride.  This is not the nationalistic pride one feels for their country, for example, or the positive-feeling pride that accompanies watching your children succeed.  The pride that infiltrates Lear’s mind at this point is the type that incapacitates and is so inherently obtuse that it allows for no other balanced thought.  Since it is this element that triggers most of the resulting actions in the story, it must be categorized as the most salient theme.

Lear isn’t the only character in the play to show prideful tendencies, however.  Edmund, as the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester, is tremendously prideful in his actions to depose the rightful Gloucester heir, Edgar.  In Edmund’s mind, he is the more qualified to inherit the estate of his father.  And with that assumption, pride grows within himself.  He calculates how to remove his half-brother and voices publicly, “Let me, if not by birth, have [Gloucester’s] lands by wit. / All with me’s meet that I can fashion fit.”  With these words, Edmund is shaping his deceitful plan.  And what is the cause of his actions?  What urges his decision to take what isn’t his?  Namely, it is the prideful intent that lives inside him – most likely from his label as a bastard child, and the “unfairness” that he must feel at why Edgar’s rightful position cannot either belong to him, or shared in some way.  Contextually, being in such a position would certainly cause a bit of resentment and jealousy.  When you add a prideful man into this mix, nothing good can result.

Othello, much like King Lear, is packed with prideful elements – ranging from Iago’s pride in being overlooked for a promotion to Othello’s own internal pride which causes insecurity and anxiety at so many different levels.  To begin with, readers are informed within the first few lines that Iago has been “wronged” in some way.  It is evident that his own pride has been hurt by Othello’s selection of another for promotion when Iago states, “I know my price, I am worth no worse a place.”  In this passage, we see an individual who most certainly thinks his qualifications and merits on the battlefield are deserving of the lieutenantcy he was denied.  He is flatly stating that he knows his worth (proud), and he deserves much better than what he has been given.  Human nature will generally confirm that a certain amount of humility should accompany such denial, but Iago is not a humble type of character in the least.  Fury burns within him, and revenge becomes his way of trying to reverse the current scenario to his favor.  Iago even gives it as plainly as he can to readers with these words, “And nothing can or shall content my soul / Till I am evened with him [Othello].”  His pride is probably best described as being at least equivalent to the level of jealousy he has for Cassio, who was given the position instead.  Pride, therefore, is the instigator that drives him to start calculating Othello’s destruction.  Ironically, he even uses this same word to categorize the Moor himself.  He describes his boss as “loving his own pride and purposes,” which is perhaps Shakespeare’s way of foreshadowing the fact that Othello truly has a tremendous amount of prideful proclivities.  Coming from such an immensely evil character such as Iago, however, and so early in the play, readers may overlook this allusion.

Any discussion of pride cannot be undertaken without also illustrating the same theme in the psyche of the title character.  Othello is a man full of it, and an argument can even be made that it is perhaps natural for him to feel this way.  After all, he is an extremely successful military officer who “commands / Like a full soldier.”  He has a beautiful wife who loves him unconditionally, and he enjoys the complete respect of his subordinates.  Even the Duke of Venice calls him “valiant” in the final scene of Act 1, and references are made to both the general’s nobility and bravery.  But what of pride?  A good place to start would be with his relationship with Desdemona.  In Act 1, Scene 3, we see both Othello and Desdemona in effect defending their relationship to her father Brabantio and the Duke of Venice.  The inference in this scene is that her father and the Duke are incredibly surprised that such a union exists.  But proud Othello will have none of this uncertainty.  He shows pride in the fact that he “won [Brabantio’s] daughter” through the “dangers I had passed.”  This speaks of pride borne of military duty, nobleness, and the pride that simply accompanies being a good, honest man above reproach.  He is so proud of his relationship with Desdemona that he implores the Duke and Senator to call for her and ask for her concurrence.  If he [Othello] is wrong, then “Not only take away, but let your sentence / Even fall upon my life.” For a man to wager his life on something that he knows to be true and just, shows an extreme amount of pride in the situation.  In this example, we can see some positive effects of being proud.  As the play continues, this same prideful spirit that Othello owns will begin to work against his historically good judgment.

Nelson’s film adaptation of Othello provides viewers with an interesting study by taking the centuries-old play and interpreting it through an especially modern lens.  Since his movie O is set in the present-day south, Nelson can explore such recognizable, yet polarizing, themes such as racial prejudice and familial conflicts in an extremely contemporary way.  But much like its original cousin, O showcases the destructive pride that causes the downfall of so many.  This source is an interesting study because it gives us an excellent visual representation of the effects pride has on a character.  It is one thing to read about a man’s pride causing internal conflict, confusion, and anxiety – but Nelson’s interpretation of his main character, Odin, evokes a sense of sympathy not found in the written text.  For example, when Hugo first plants the idea in Odin’s head that Desi is probably being unfaithful to him, the anguish on Odin’s face represents pure hurt.  This argument would even contend that without a significant amount of pride from within, hurt could not even be a possibility.  Odin loves Desi, he is proud of their relationship.  He is proud of his status as the star of the basketball program.  He is proud that despite being a (racial) outsider, he is still viewed as a leader on campus.  That is why his stabbing hurt, and Nelson’s capturing of it on film, is so full of despair.  Because he has such a large amount of pride, acceptance of something like Desi’s (apparent) infidelity throws him into such a state of confusion that he cannot recover from it.  The scene on the basketball court where Odin rips down the rim – and reacts so indifferently to the booing crowd – there is no way an “un-prideful” person reacts in that way.  Put yourself in his shoes: nobody disrespects Odin James.  He is the big man on campus with the MVP trophy, the prettiest girlfriend in school, and college scouts drooling over his athletic abilities. How dare anyone “diss” him?  For if this type of man lacked pride, the story would end before it even got started.  Once (a pride-less) Odin thought his girlfriend was cheating on him, he’d go find another girlfriend and that would be it.  However, pride sneakily intervenes and doesn’t allow that scenario to occur.  In other words, pride – more than any other dramatic element in the story – dictates the outcome.  It dictates Odin’s fall from grace, it dictates Hugo’s actions and resentment of his father, and it dictates the deaths of both Roger and Desi.  It plays a crucial role in Mike’s injury and eventual redemption, as well as the coach’s inability to see his son’s frustrations and desires for what they are truly worth.  Frankly, pride rules the day.  And while there are, certainly, other themes in Nelson’s film that are important (teenage violence, racial prejudices, etc), none produce a more compelling argument than pride does.

As literary opinions usually go, there are literally hundreds of different interpretations that could be introduced for any given work.  This is most certainly true with something as widely read and analyzed as Shakespeare.  With the handful of sources that are outlined and examined in this essay, however, the prevailing conclusion is that pride carries the most weight.  It easily cruises past other themes such as ones pertaining to violence, gender, or politics in terms of relevant power.  It surpasses any theme of love, or religion, or family.  By and large, this theme of pride sits alone as the most credible example of what is most significant in all of the works we have studied.  However, this is not to say that pride is necessarily a “good” thing – since it is clear from the textual evidence that it leads to some very serious and destructive outcomes if left unrecognized and unchecked.  Pride, as we have seen it, exists primarily in characters who either have earned some form of esteemed status (Lear, Othello, Titus), or have been wronged (subjectively) in some way (Iago, Hugo, Edmund.)  But the result is the same:  this overwhelming and heavy encumbrance of pride causes – whatever the individual context may be – bad judgment, ill-fated decisions, and a decidedly negative outcome.  It almost never leads to anything positive, and it can be debated that it clearly leads to the exact opposite – which is the tragic element of destruction.  For these reasons, it is fair and reasonable to pronounce pride as the most salient theme in the majority of the texts we studied this semester.  While other arguments may exist that saliency is subjective, or that other themes deserve equal billing, the fact is that pride, fairly or unfairly, exceeds them all.  Perhaps the Book of Proverbs can serve as a worthy complement to Shakespeare as Solomon warns, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  For too many of the fallen Shakespearean characters, this was a lesson in humility learned far too late, and arguably, not at all.