Shame and Disgrace, Causes

Shame and Disgrace, Causes

SHAME and disgrace cause most violent passions and bitter pangs. Ob pudorem et dedecus publicum, ob errorem coimmissum sæpe moventur generosi animi (Felix Plater lib. 3. de alienat. mentis): Generous minds are often moved with shame, to despair for some public disgrace. And he, saith Philo lib. 2. de provid. Dei. "that subjects himself to fear, grief, ambition, shame, is not happy, but altogether miserable, tortured with continual labour, care, and misery." It is as forcible a batterer as any of the rest: Many men neglect the tumults of the world, and care not for glory, and yet they are afraid of infamy, repulse, disgrace, (Tul. offic. l. 1.) they can severely contemn pleasure, bear grief indifferently, but they are quite battered and broken with reproach and obloquy:" (siquidem vita et fama pari passu ambulant) and are so dejected many times for some public injury, disgrace, as a box on the ear by their inferior, to be overcome of their adversary, foiled in the field, to be out in a speech, some foul fact committed or disclosed, &c. that they dare not come abroad all their lives after, but melancholize in corners, and keep in holes. The most generous spirits are most subject to it; Spiritus altos frangit et generosos: Hieronymus. Aristotle, because he could not understand the motion of Euripus, for grief and shame drowned himself: Cúlius Rodiginus antiquar. lec. lib. 29. cap. 8. Homerus pudore consumptus, was swallowed up with this passion of shame "because he could not unfold the fisherman's riddle." Sophocles killed himself, for that a tragedy of his was hissed off the stage: Valer. Max. lib. 9. cap. 12. Lucretia stabbed herself, and so did Cleopatra, "when she saw that she was reserved for a triumph, to avoid the infamy." Antonius the Roman, "after he was overcome of his enemy, for three days' space sat solitary in the fore-part of the ship, abstaining from all company, even of Cleopatra herself; and afterwards for very shame butchered himself," Plutarch vita ejus. "Apollonius Rhodius wilfully banished himself forsaking his country, and all his dear friends, because he was out in reciting his poems," Plinius lib. 7. cap. 23. Ajax ran mad, because his arms were adjudged to Ulysses. In China 'tis an ordinary thing for such as are excluded in those famous trials of theirs, or should take degrees, for shame and grief to lose their wits, Mat. Riccius expedit. ad Sinus, l. 3. c. 9. Hostratus the friar took that book which Reuclin had writ against him, under the name of Epist. obscurorum virorum, so to heart, that for shame and grief he made away himself; Jovius in elogiis. A grave and learned minister, and an ordinary preacher at Alcmar in Holland, was (one day as he walked in the fields for his recreation) suddenly taken with a lax or looseness, and thereupon compelled to retire to the next ditch; but being surprised at unawares, by some gentlewomen of his parish wandering that way, was so abashed, that he did never after show his head in public, or come into the pulpit, but pined away with melancholy: (Pet. Forestus med. observat. lib. 10. observat. 12.) So shame amongst other passions can play his prize.

I know there be many base, impudent, brazen-faced rogues, that will Nulla pallescere culpa, be moved with nothing, take no infamy or disgrace to heart, laugh at all; let them be proved perjured, stigmatized, convict rogues, thieves, traitors, lose their ears, be whipped, branded, carted, pointed at, hissed, reviled, and derided with Baillo the Bawd in Plautus, they rejoice at it, Cantores probos; "babæ and bombax," what care they? We have too many such in our times,

"-- Exclamat Melicerta perisse
-- Frontem de rebus."

("Melicerta exclaims, all shame has vanished from human transactions")

Yet a modest man, one that hath grace, a generous spirit, tender of his reputation, will be deeply wounded, and so grievously affected with it, that he had rather give myriads of crowns, lose his life, than suffer the least defamation of honour, or blot in his good name. And if so be that he cannot avoid it, as a nightingale, Quæ cantando victo moritur (saith Mizaldus), dies for shame if another bird sing better, he languisheth and pineth away in the anguish of his spirit.

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