Every Man Dies But Not Every Man Really Lives Braveheart

braveheart and scotland
Mel Gibson's famous line "every man dies but not every man lives", as he attempted to rally his countrymen over the British, has had a sustained and long lasting impact on society and culture. We'll give some historical facts about the character portrayed and speculate about why the quote has been so impactful in society. What does it mean to die? What does it mean to really live? Such sentiments may be outside the scope of this particular page but important questions for all of us to consider.

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We’ll get to biographical and historical details about the movie Braveheart in due time, but first the full quote as portrayed in the film.

Every man dies, but not every man lives.

William Wallace played by Mel Gibson

There’s a lot to talk about here but first let’s address some of the basics.

Who was William Wallace?

The Scottish Knight known as William Wallace was a central figure and military leader in Scotland’s first attempt to be free of the British Empire. Even in his own time, he was in fact a legendary figure throughout Scotland as well as the rest of the world. The man who stood up to British imperial rule at a time the Scottish civilians, like many civilians around the world, could do nothing but accept British rule.

What really happened?

One of the ways the film Braveheart is true to historical account, if not factually accurate, is the way that the character of Robert the Bruce, known as Robert I, is treated. Now known as a national hero in Scotland, equivalent to a George Washington in the United States, Robert I came from wealth and status and was one of the primary claimants to the Scottish throne.

However, Robert wanted more for Scotland than the continued Empire rule and the corrupt hereditary ownership of local lords over the population. On the other hand Robert I struggled mightily for either he would be forced to be betray either his friends and country or his family.

As this is a quotes site we’ll wrap up this post with a fitting quote by EM Forster, who once wrote, “if forced to choose betraying a friend and betraying my country, I should hope I have the courage to betray my country.”

Where is the quote most popular?

Given the sociological importance of this quote, we thought it would be prudent to look at where it’s most popular (i.e. where are people searching the quote most frequently). To do this we consulted Google Trends, which revealed unsurprising results on the subject.

The quote, it won’t be a surprise to many, is most popular in the United States, followed by the United Kingdom. While that may not be surprising, within the United Kingdom, the quote is actually more popular in England than Scotland. What explains this discrepancy? Wouldn’t one think the British would want nothing to do with the memory of William Wallace?

Well, fans of history will know what’s coming and it’s not pleasant for the Scottish. In the centuries that followed Scottish independence, things didn’t go particularly well. Eventually, Scotland would “peacefully” return to Great Britain and assume the virtual representation of their own laws that lead to the American Revolution. This is all to say, despite his heroic status in Scottish history, the words of William Wallace only echoed for centuries in non-Scottish territory.

Was William Wallace a real person?

Actually, he was. In fact, he was a major figure in Scottish independence as portrayed in the film Braveheart. There’s some discrepancies between the movie and real life that we’ll get to in longer form but for now, just know that he was a real person.

Did William Wallace really say it?

Probably not. Though an energetic and charismatic figure, as portrayed in the film, we found no evidence that William Wallace ever uttered this exact quote to his countrymen. Not that it makes it any less inspiring.

Was William Wallace Executed?

Yes. William Wallace was viciously executed after being betrayed by a fellow Scottish Knight (not Robert the Bruce, but more on that below).

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