I have been re-reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms for my Classical Chinese class, and I got into a discussion about the tragic flaws of the major characters with my professor. We eventually got around to discussing Zhuge Liang, and what happened to cause the downfall of Shu Han. We agreed that Liu Bei was ambitious, but that he relied upon the emotional (not to mention military) support of Guan Gong and Zhang Fei to carry them out - which explains why he chose to make such a reckless attack on Sun Wu when he lost both of them to the southern kingdom. But she and I differed on our interpretations of Zhuge Liang: I had interpreted Zhuge Liang as being something of a workaholic, who ended up taking on too great a burden after Liu Bei died (which is what caused him to fall ill). My professor had a different interpretation, and I was wondering what people here think of it.
She seemed to think Zhuge Liang was an extremely proud person, almost vain, who cared a great deal about his image and how history would judge him, and that he was content to serve Liu Bei because he felt that Liu Bei was both strong-willed and ambitious enough to restore the Han Dynasty, and because he felt that if Liu Bei succeeded, he would be seen among the greatest (and most virtuous) strategists in Chinese history. When Liu Bei died, Zhuge Liang felt that his chances of restoring the Han while at the same time appearing as virtuous had disappeared: he could take full command of Shu Han and oust Liu Shan, and still possibly triumph over Cao Wei and Sun Wu, but he feared that he would be judged a worse villain than Dong Zhuo or Cao Cao (even the Man wasn't evil as to oust Emperor Xian, after all). He also didn't want to be held responsible for the collapse of Shu Han, so he wanted to die himself before it could happen.
What do you think of this interpretation? Do you think it is valid? I actually think it makes Zhuge Liang a more interesting character.
On a side note, I read somewhere that Zhuge Liang was part of the zajia 杂家 (the philosophical school founded by Lv Buwei before the beginning of the Qin Dynasty), but Larry Gonick seems to think he was a Daoist 'hermit/scholar/wizard'. Can't seem to find much by way of corroboration, historically speaking...
Some more blood, Chekov. The needle won't hurt, Chekov. Take off your shirt, Chekov. Roll over, Chekov. Breathe deeply, Chekov. Blood sample, Chekov! Marrow sample, Chekov! Skin sample, Chekov! If I live long enough... I'm going to run out of samples.