Discretion Is The Better Part Of Valour Essay Examples

In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I when Prince Hal finds the cowardly Falstaff pretending to be dead on the battlefield, the prince assumes he has been killed. After the prince leaves the stage, Falstaff rationalizes “The better part of Valour, is Discretion; in the which better part, I haue saued my life” (spelling and punctuation from the First Folio, Act 5, Scene 3, lines 3085–3086).

Falstaff is saying that the best part of courage is caution, which we are to take as a joke. Truly courageous people may be cautious, but caution is not the most important characteristic of courage.

This passage is loosely alluded to in the saying “discretion is the better part of valor,” which is usually taken to mean that caution is better than rash courage or that discretion is the best kind of courage. Only Shakespeare scholars are likely to be annoyed by this usage.

However, those who take “discretion” in this context to mean the quality of being discreet—cautiously quiet—are more likely to annoy their readers.

Much more of a problem are misspellings like “descretion,” “disgression,” “digression,” and “desecration.” Unless you are deliberately punning, stick with “discretion.”

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Common Error

Falstaff's motto is essentially a proverb: a word of wisdom that is meant to be used in everyday situations. For example, the proverb "You draw more flies with honey than vinegar" means that it is easier to win people over if you are kind instead of rude. In the same way, the phrase "the better part of valor is discretion" means that the best sort of courage--the kind that constitutes true bravery instead of recklessness--is courage...

Falstaff's motto is essentially a proverb: a word of wisdom that is meant to be used in everyday situations. For example, the proverb "You draw more flies with honey than vinegar" means that it is easier to win people over if you are kind instead of rude. In the same way, the phrase "the better part of valor is discretion" means that the best sort of courage--the kind that constitutes true bravery instead of recklessness--is courage that is guided by wisdom (discretion). Bravery applied blindly without caution and wisdom is meaningless.

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