What is a hero? My mental image is of Laurence Olivier as Henry V in the 1944 film; dressed in magnificent armour, brandishing a sword, standing before the walls of the French port town of Harfleur, urging his men on with the words: ‘Cry God for Harry, England and St George!’. Well, today is Shakespeare’s birthday, and also – of course - St George’s Day. We know that George was a middle-Eastern saint, probably a Christian Roman soldier who was martyred about the year 304 at Lydda in Palestine for refusing to sacrifice to the pagan gods. Known in the East as ‘The Great Martyr’, St George was unknown here until the crusaders returned from the Holy Land in the C12th and C13th and brought his story with them. It was Edward III who secured George’s place as patron saint of England in the C14th.
So: a hero is a warrior, a dragon-slayer, a model of chivalry? There are other ways of looking at it. This morning’s Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme included an item based on an invitation to listeners to nominate their Covid-19 heroes. One of the nominations was for a man who’d been cooking and delivering meals for vulnerable people in his community. Asked how this had been financed, he said that recently a ‘GoFundMe’ page had been set up. Earlier on, he’d drawn on some savings he wanted to find a use for. That sounds pretty heroic to me.