Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Courage in the Face of Death

Could you inspire courage in the face of death?

Imagine yourself standing in front of a group of soldiers in Iraq with the whole Al-Qaeda terrorist organization coming to destroy you. You are far out-weaponed, and out-numbered by the enemy. It is your duty, as the soldiers' leader, to inspire them to fight with all they have, though the outlook is bleak and death is almost certain. You turn, face your men and proclaim:

"I am come amongst you as you see at this time, not for my recreation and disport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of battle, to live or die amongst you all- to lay down for my God, and for my kingdoms, and for my people, my honor and my blood even in the dust...I myself will will take up arms- I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field."

How would you say it?

Meekly, kindly, boldly, intensely? To inspire a group of men would you use a feminine approach or would you hone in on the masculine characteristics of bravery, boldness, intensely shouting your lines and transferring your earnest intensity to your soldiers?

Let's go back to the literature which spurred this blog, Queen Elizabeth Tudor's Tilbury Speech. We have explored her use of actual words and of visual appearance so let's explore one more element to communication, tone of voice. Elizabeth's plight was similar to the one you just put yourself in. How do you think Elizabeth presented her speech? Though we don't have any recordings, I feel it safe to say, if she made efforts to enhance her masculinity through word choice and visual appearance (as I explored in my previous post), she probably did the same with her voice. I couldn't find a good audio/video recording of Elizabeth's speech, but this one is fairly good. Watch it. How would do things differently?

Remember, there were runners going through the crowd reading her speech in sync with her, but would you depend solely on those runners to exude the same intensity and tone you would? When we understand paralinguistics (the non-semantic aspect of speech--everything but the words themselves) plays as much as 38% of how our words are received it brings up an interesting question which doesn't really have any answer. Were the runners a necessity or theatrical element of her Tilbury performance? While it is pretty safe to say the runners were partly out of necessity, Elizabeth was too sharp to miss the advantage of her speech being read by a man's voice. This tactic is yet another manifestation showing her mastery of blurring the lines between biological reality and social perception. Her role became one which was not one of "masculine" or "feminine" but rather as their "general, judge and rewarder," their monarch leader, "A King of England."

1 comment:

  1. It is interesting to consider that these runners provided a psychological advantage on at least two fronts. The first, as you already mentioned, blurs the lines of gender and adds a dose of masculinity and authority to Elizabeth's appearance. A masculine voice taps in to a more authoritative sound, especially on the battle field. The second relates closely to the psychological needs of the situation. I would presume very few men had ever entered into bettle after a pep talk delivered by a woman. Perhaps the use of runner's voices helped return soldiers to the appropriate mindset, hearing the masculine voice to prepare for battles far removed for the typical Engilsh woman. Another thought, perhaps the voices of the male runner helped create greater continuity in the context of the speech. Elizabeth refers to herself as a 'king' of England, among other maculine references. This line, in particular creates quite a contrast between the authority and appearance of the queen. I would imagine it was a line best delievered by a male voice more agreeable to the statement.