Achilles in Boston and Charleston

  François-Léon Benouville’s “The Wrath of Achilles” (1847), oil on canvas.

François-Léon Benouville’s “The Wrath of Achilles” (1847), oil on canvas.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has apologized for his role in the Boston Marathon bombing.

“I am sorry for the lives that I’ve taken, for the suffering I’ve caused you, for the damage I’ve done – irreparable damage,” he said in court Wednesday. “I’m guilty of it. If there is any lingering doubt of that, let it be no more.”

Is he truly sorry, and does it make a difference? Should we expect the same from Dylann Storm Roof, charged with the murder of nine in the Charleston church? Fat chance. That one will probably go to his grave Timothy McVeigh-like.

“‘The evil that men do lives after them,’” Judge George A. O’Toole Jr. told the Boston court, quoting Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.” “‘The good is oft interred with their bones.’ So it will be for Dzokhar Tsarnaev.”

What a waste – of his life, of those he’s killed, of the limbs blown off, of the lives of family and friends shattered. And for what? For nothing.

Thinking of him and Roof and all the others who’ve picked up a gun or planted a bomb in response to injustices perceived or imagined brings to mind not the ancient Romans but the ancient Greeks .

Achilles is right about Agamemnon in “The Iliad,” right to chafe under his unfair, incompetent leadership. But the boss is still the boss, even if he or she is a bad one. His sulking rage sets in motion a series of reactions that will only lead to death and desecration until at last he curbs his anger and recognizes in the loss of others his own.

“There has to be that breath, that pause,” says Kurt Rhoads, star of the one-man “An Iliad” at the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, opening July 30.

Would that breath, that pause have made a difference in Boston and Charleston?