Monday, November 9, 2020

All the World's a Stage

Edwin Booth as Iago

Shakespeare is all about politics. And what a cast of political figures: Henry the Fourth and Fifth, Richard the Second and Third, Lear, Julius Caesar, of course, Hamlet. Let’s not forget the rogues like Iago and Antonio and cynics like Jaques. Octave Mannoni’s  Prospero and Caliban is an examination of colonialism. American politics can be dull, particularly since there have been periods when the political sphere has not drawn great or innovative minds--when  no Jeffersons, Madisons, Lincolns, Roosevelts or Obamas walked onto the stage. But the current cast of characters might actually outdo some Shakespeare plays. Biden is one of soft spoken equanimous Shakespearean personalities like Prospero if you listen to his “I will be the president of all Americans.” But where would Donald Trump fall within the pantheon of Shakespearean characters? Though Trump emanates from a less ambitious form of entertainment than Shakespeare ie reality television, he has inadvertently become a character with the bluster of Falstaff, to quote Coleridge the seemingly “motiveless malignity” of Iago, the murderousness of Macbeth and the duplicity of Cassius. Trump is an injustice collector like Richard the Third, blaming the press and the Democrats for all his problems from the very start of his reign. Here is a recent Trump tweet: “STOP THE FRAUD!” Speaking of which, the idea of monarchy and the divine right of kings in which the leader receives unquestioning loyalty from all his courtiers lives on in the Trumpocracy. Will it move to a new capital as the papacy did during the Babylonian Captivity of the 14th century? And then there's the notion that words of a President are true just because he or she says them--without regard to the facts. Will Hamlet’s last lines, “the rest is silence,” end up being the epitaph of Trump's tenure? 

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