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Essentials of a True Hero

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The Essentials of a True Hero
The pervasive theme of leadership has been embodied in many different forms, such as novels and films. In particular, the theme of leadership has been directly associated with the attainment and protection of freedom. In Mel Gibson’s historical/mythological epic, Braveheart, several leadership styles are evident. William Wallace, Edward the Longshanks, and even the Scottish nobility all demonstrate distinct styles of leadership. Despite the difference in styles, William Wallace’s courageous and active leadership proves the most essential. Ultimately, Wallace’s undying passion and determination for freedom helps his army prevail as an underdog.
In the film Braveheart, the opening scene is set during late 13th century England, which is controlled by a tyrant known as King Edward the Longshanks. His claim over the Scottish throne cause great suffering for his Scottish subjects, due to his cruelty and brutality. After a series of tragic events, which includes William Wallace losing his father and wife, Wallace seeks revenge. In the form of rebellion, Wallace begins leading a series of uprisings against Longshanks in order to free Scotland from its current tyranny. He receives intellect from the princess of Wales and meets with the Scottish nobility, where he seeks the assistance of Robert the Bruce to unite the clans. The Scots are confronted by Longshanks at the Battle of Falkirk, where Wallace is betrayed by Robert the Bruce himself. Regretful of his actions, Robert helps an injured Wallace escape from the English. Wallace takes revenge on Mornay and Lochlan, who abandon him during the battle, leaving the Scottish nobles in fear for their lives. Furthermore, Robert discovers his own father conspiring with the other nobles to trap Wallace. Learning of all his deceit, Robert disowns his father. Meanwhile, Wallace is captured, brought before a magistrate, and executed. Years after Wallace’s death, Robert the Bruce presents himself on the field of Bannockburn to officially acknowledge English acceptance. In an unexpected turn of events, he leads his army into battle against the speechless English, securing the independence of Scotland once and for all.
Throughout the entire film, King Edward the Longshanks was bent on gaining allegiance by any means necessary. He gave little consideration to the feelings of others and accepted no form of flattery. He treated himself as the central authority and expected his subjects to follow his orders, with no concern of their needs. As a leader, he instilled fear in those who resisted him and rewarded those who followed his views. He expanded his power by using fearful force or through the greed of others. For instance, Longshanks had his own archers “fire on his own troops, in hopes of hurting enemy forces” (Borchers). In this case, Longshanks was determined to conquer all of Britain, no matter what means he took. Furthermore, Longshanks established the right of prima nocta, in order to breed out the Scottish and establish complete control over the Scottish. This meant that Longshanks’ nobles carried the right to bed their subjects’ brides on their wedding nights. In reply, Longshanks would severely punish those that refused or resisted, which included Wallace’s wife, Murron. Ultimately, King Edward exhibited a cold-hearted tyrannical style of leadership.
The Scottish nobility displayed another leadership style, one of compromise and reevaluation. “They were willing to barter the lives and welfare of their fellow countrymen for vain promises of land and titles” (Borchers). This meant that the Scottish nobility were easily tempted with little sense of concrete loyalty in order to achieve their objectives. For instance, Leper (Robert’s father) and his views represent the Scottish nobility. He secretly schemes, telling his son to play it safe by supporting both Longshanks and Wallace. Eventually, Leper instructs Robert to pledge allegiance to Longshanks instead, due to the fact that there is no sense in “being in the side that is slaughtered” (Braveheart). Again, the Scottish nobility exhibit a leadership style that focuses on the future battle, rather than their current conflict as their road to victory. Furthermore, Robert was also portrayed as a leader, despite his internal conflict between family and justice. As a leader, Robert was logical in thinking and turned to reasoning in most approaches. His intelligence kept him rational and levelheaded, despite his internally lost soul. Even though Robert was a man of conscience, he lacked the passion and action as a true leader. He carried the ability of a leader, but did not display this courage until he finally declared he would “never be on the wrong side again” (Braveheart). Lastly, William Wallace’s leadership directly contrasts from Longshanks and the Scottish nobles. Wallace was not born of royal descent or the noble class. He did not he desire fame or fortune. One distinct characterization of Wallace was the fact that he proved he was a leader before he truly became one. His sincerity led him to take action, risking his own life to save the lives of others. For instance, during battle he would step up to the front line to show his troops his commitment. He was a man of action, unlike Robert, and led through the certainty of his actions. Unlike Longshanks, Wallace did not feel that he was more important than the freedom of his people. He displayed directive leadership by having a clear vision, which was the pursuit of independence for Scotland. Also, unlike the Scottish nobility, Wallace refused to accept any type of bribe, knowing that accepting those bribes meant submitting to the King. Despite these idealistic qualities, William Wallace was a realistic hero, with no overblown perfectionism. He knew fear and had experienced death, “but had the courage and conviction to endure all that was inflicted upon him, inspiring those who would later bring freedom to his people” (Borchers). He relied on the advice of others and encouraged participation. He demonstrated humility by seeking the help of others and not by relying fully on his own strength. For thousands of years, qualities of leadership have varied from person to person. However, what is the definition of a true hero? The definition lies in the heart of William Wallace depicted in the film Braveheart. He was a man of certainty, passion, and peace. His quest for peace and liberty demonstrated central qualities of leadership worthy of imitation. His actions, including his commitment to a noble cause, stirred those around him and united a nation to conquest. William Wallace’s leadership was essential in guiding a nation to freedom, and renovating a future king into a leader who would lead his people to liberty.

Works Cited
Borchers, Daniel. "Braveheart: Leadership Will Out." N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.brotherwatch.com/files/Braveheart%20- %20Leadership%20Will%20Out.pdf>.
Braveheart. Dir. Mel Gibson. Prod. Mel Gibson. By Randall Wallace. Perf. Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, and Patrick McGoohan. Paramount Pictures, 1995.
Braveheart Dramatica. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2012. <http://www.dramatica.com/story/analyses/analyses/bravehear t.html>.

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