Honor & Shame: A Clash between Greece and Japan Essay

Honor and shame are key themes of Iliad by Homer and Chushingura: Hana no Maki by Inagaki. At the same time, these two works are not just mere works of art but also they are ultimate manifestations of ancient Greek and Japanese culture. These two works give insights into the essence of Japanese and ancient Greek culture. They uncover values, views and beliefs of ancient Greeks and Japanese. At the same time, these two works help to reveal how different ancient Greeks were from Japanese. Greek and Japanese cultures were different and this difference was determined not only by their physical and time distance but also and mainly by the different philosophy of ancient Greeks and Japanese which determined the different worldview of Greeks and Japanese. As a result, ancient Greeks were primarily concerned with their personal success, honor and heroism, while Japanese Samurais were primarily concerned with the honor and success of their clan and their leader.

Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki are two epic works revealing the essence of ancient Greek and Japanese cultures which also show substantial differences between cultural norms of ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais. Even though both works depict warriors, who spend a large part of their life on the war, they are still quite different. Japanese Samurais remind an army unit with warriors being non-personified. They all look the same and their similarity is not physical but it is spiritual and behavioral. They do not look similar physically because they are different people but they act in the same way, they think in the same way, they have the same values, strives, beliefs and worldview. They are like spiritual twins, who act as the solid, united body to the extent that it is difficult to distinguish clearly the personhood of the main characters from the collective personhood of their clan.

In this regard, ancient Greeks depicted by Homer are totally different. Even though they belong to one and the same nation, they are still different. Homer depicts leaders of the Greek army which are absolutely different. Achilles is strong, brave and almost immortal because of the protection of gods. This is why he is one of the main heroes of the Greek army, whose brave is undisputed. Odysseus is a cunning leader, who can help to resolve conflicts between leaders and offer unusual but effective solutions ancient Greek confront in the course of the war. Agamemnon proves to be the true leader, who has managed to unite all Greeks under his command and his wisdom helps him to keep Greeks united. In such a way, each leader is a distinct personality that makes characters of Iliad absolutely different from the main characters of Chushingura: Hana no Maki, whose personhood is unclear because it is overshadowed by the personhood of the clan which prevails over the individual personhood of each Samurai of the clan.

Such difference in cultural vies and the worldview of ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais determines the difference in their perception of honor and shame. At this point, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that ancient Greek views were determined by their individualism and their focus on the ideology of heroism. What is meant here is the fact that ancient Greeks idealized heroes. Naturally, they wanted to be heroes too and every leader in ancient Greece wanted to be a hero but to become a hero they had to perform some heroic acts. In this regard, the war was the perfect opportunity for them to prove their heroism. At the same time, their uniqueness in their strife for heroism made the concept of honor and shame highly dependent on the concept of heroism. As a result, ancient Greeks viewed heroic acts as the milestone of their honor, whereas the inability of committing heroic acts was a shame as were acts that revealed the cowardice of Greeks or their inability to be true, fearless heroes.

At this point, it is possible to refer to numerous examples which reveal the essence of the honor for ancient Greeks as well as examples of shame. The kidnapping of Helen, the wife of Menelaus was apparently the shame for him because he could not protect his wife which was a disgrace for any Greek. However, he launched the war on Trojans that was an honorable act because it was justified by his natural desire to revenge on Trojans for the shame, disgrace associated with kidnapping of Helen. In such a way, the revenge in response to the shame was an honorable act for ancient Greeks as well as it was the honorable act for Japanese Samurais. However, Greeks viewed it as a personal matter of the one whom the shame affected. Other Greek leaders joined Menelaus not because they wanted to revenge on Trojans for his shame but because they wanted to protect Greece and to use the war as an opportunity to multiple their personal honor through committing numerous heroic acts which would glorify them forever.

In this regard, Japanese Samurais were concerned with the revenge for the shame of their leader and their clan. This is why they wanted to revenge on their offenders but their action was united that means that all Samurais acted together. They did not even try to play heroes as was the case of ancient Greek leaders and warriors. Unlike Greeks, each of whom wanted to be a hero and for whom it was the matter of his honor to show his bravery and fearlessness, Japanese Samurais wanted to regain the honor of their clan through revenging on their leader, who was forced to commit a ritual suicide. Samurais are ashamed of their leader’s forced suicide. To put it more precisely, they are ashamed of the cause of the suicide because the shame of their leader is their own shame too. Similarly the shame of the clan is their own shame too. In such a way, Japanese Samurais did not distinguish their personal shame from the shame of the clan. Instead, they believed that the shame of the clan was their personal shame and, on the contrary, the personal shame of either clan member is the shame of the entire clan. In such a way, the shame was the collective concept for Japanese Samurais and so was the concept of honor. The honor of the clan was prior to every member of the clan that means that they were primarily concerned with the honor of their clan. They could not feel being honorable, if their clan was not honored. This is why they are so fierce and desperate in their attempts to revenge on the death of their leader. They wanted to regain the honor of their clan because this was the only way for them to become honorable again. Not a single clan member could be honored, unless the clan regains its reputation and honor.

Thus, ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais had absolutely different worldviews and cultures. The difference between them is clearly shown in Iliad and Chushingura: Hana no Maki. In this regard, the theme of honor and shame is particularly important because it reveals how important the honor and shame were in the life of both ancient Greeks and Japanese Samurais. These two concepts were closely intertwined and interdependent because honor could not exist along with the shame. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact that the honor of ancient Greeks and their shame were different from those of Japanese Samurais because they were highly individualized. What is meant here is the fact that honor and shame were primarily the personal matter of each Greek. In stark contrast, Japanese Samurais viewed honor and shame in the context of their clan. These concepts were collective notions that means that they were concerned with the honor of their clan and viewed their personal honor through the retrospection on the honor of the clan and the same principle they applied to shame.

 

Works Cited:

Fox, R.L. Travelling Heroes: Greeks and their myths in the epic age of Homer. New York: Allen Lane, 2008.

Homer. Iliad. New York: Penguin Classics, 2012.

Inagaki, H. Chushingura: Hana no Maki. Toho, 1962.

West, Martin (1999). “The Invention of Homer”. Classical Quarterly 49(364).

 

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

freeessays.club (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance." freeessays.club, 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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