Shakespeare – Henry IV, Part 1, Act 5, Scene 4
The better part of valour is discretion.
Meaning: caution is better than rash bravery
In the speech below Falstaff redeems a cowardly act. He’d feigned his death to escape being killed. His claim for so doing was that notions of ‘valour’ and ‘honour’ are meaningless once you’re dead.
To die is to be a counterfeit, for he is but the counterfeit of
a man who hath not the life of a man; but to counterfeit dying,
when a man thereby liveth, is to be no counterfeit, but the true
and perfect image of life indeed. The better part of valor is
discretion, in the which better part I have sav’d my life.