Geoffrey of Monmouth’s “Life of Merlin” is a text that makes its readers struggle with finding criteria for madness. What does it even mean to be “mad?” Madness seems to define a person only when he or she does something to stray from the normality of any given group of people. Breaking societal norms often leaves people open to criticism and suspicion. In order to be sane and mentally healthy, one has to abide by all explicit and implicit rules of society. “Life of Merlin” is about a man that abandons feudal society, and all of its rules, in hopes of finding a better place to live. A better place to live, for him, is one that is purely good. Violent and deceitful people are ultimately the factors that drive him away, causing him to be termed as “mad.” I argue that Merlin is a character with extreme extra worldly perception. Many would think extra worldly perception to be a privilege, but this essay serves to contradict the positive effects that extra worldly perception can have. I will show why he is perceptive, rather than mad, as well as explain why this type of perception can be detrimental to one’s life. When a person has too much perception he can often live in a world of fear and discontent, one that is only curable by the restructuring of an entire society.
To begin, Merlin’s reasons for leaving feudal society are too logical to call him “mad.” One place where logic can be heard is where Merlin says, “Surely a malignant fate cannot have been so vindictive as to take from me all these my companions, men such that many a king and many a distant kingdom have stood in fear of them till now” (55). What Merlin is addressing is the fact that someone is to blame fo...
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...s left with after reading the text. While Merlin seems to have a good start towards creating a more peaceful society, it does not seem that it will prove to be completely peaceful. Of course anything is better to him than living in the city, and it only seems to get better when he is encountered with people much like himself. A text like “Life of Merlin” makes me question whether a peaceful society is within grasp. Even in current times, countries are at war and people lie to and cheat one another. Have we become more violent and deceptive with time? In order to create a peaceful environment, the idea of competition might have to be removed. Competition, one thing that is instinctive in all creatures, is a driving force of all human action. Merlin seems to strive towards the ideal, but it remains questionable as to whether or not his ideal is within grasp.
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