Monday, December 05, 2016

"What is Honour? A word. What is that word Honour? Air."

The combination of Donald Trump's most recent tweet today, "If the press would cover me accurately & honorably, I would have far less reason to 'tweet.' Sadly, I don't know if that will ever happen!", and reading Philip Roth's Our Gang about Dick Nixon, who was pathologically wed to the concepts of "peace with honor" and "an honorable end to the war" (even if that insistence cost tens of thousands of  American lives in Vietnam during his time in office) got me thinking about Republican presidents and their obsession with that hollow abstract noun.

Is this a concept that is more important to Republicans? It seems that way to me. My feelings about the concept are more in line with Sir John Falstaff's in English literature's most famous consideration of honor at the end of Act V, Scene 1 of Henry IV, Part One when Prince Hal speaks to Sir John immediately before the battle at Shrewsbury.

From Bodleian First Folio:
I would it were bed time, Hal, and all well.
Why, thou owest Heaven a death.

'Tis not due yet; I would be loath to pay him before
his day. What need I be so forward with him that
calls not on me? Well, 'tis no matter; honour pricks
me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I
come on? How then? Can honour set to a leg? No: or
an arm? No: Or take away the grief of a wound? No.
Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? No. What is
honour? A word.  What is that word honour? Air.
A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
He that died o' Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No.
Doth he hear it? No. Is it insensible, then. Yea,
to the dead. But will it not live with the living?
No. Why? Detraction will not suffer it. Therefore
I'll none of it. Honour is a mere scutcheon, and so
ends my catechism.

No comments: