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The Teaching of King Amenemhat I
Commentary. General issues

The historical background: the regicide question (2)

How can a modern reader measure the original effects of a discourse on regicide? It is difficult for us to imagine the trauma of regicide within a society where both elite and other subjects often named their children after the king, where the cult of the king was the focal economic and architectural operation in the land, where the king is son of the sun-god - and so not a human but a divine presence on earth. It is as difficult as it is to understand the tsarist censorship of the opera Boris Godunov by Mussorgsky, or the insistence by another mid-19th century censor that Verdi's opera Un ballo in maschera (a Masked Ball) treat not regicide but, less traumatically for the established order, murder of a colonial governor.

Given the power of kingship in both the dominant ideology and local living, the closest analogy in modern society to the Ancient Egyptian trauma of regicide would be a core tabu subject that we can virtually neither mention nor imagine. Few subjects raise the extreme, visceral disgust, and inner threat to social structure, that the topic of regicide may have inflicted on the Middle Kingdom reader or listener.


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