Friday, April 22, 2016

If Only Our Politicians Would Quote Shakespeare

In memory of William Shakespeare, who died four hundred years ago tomorrow, and in view of the sad level of discourse displayed in our current presidential campaign, a few quotes gathered from the Bard may be in order.

After all, if politicians wish to insult one another, they might at least do it with style. Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if Mr. Trump referred to Mr. Cruz next week as a “whoreson ass?”

Or if Senator Sanders lambasted Senator Clinton:         

“Never hung poison on a fouler toad.
            Out of my sight! Thou dost infect mine eyes.”

Governor Kasich could unleash the dogs of war with this blast,directed at Trump or Cruz, or Sanders or Clinton—assuming he makes it to the general election: “Go thou, [insert opponent name here] and fill another room in hell.”

Perhaps, Clinton could score some quick points with this blistering attack on Sanders—kind of hinting he’s old to be running the country: “Thou sodden-witted lord, thou hast in thy skull no more brain than I have in mine elbow.”

Certainly, there were times during GOP debates, where it might have been amusing to see a real donnybrook ensue, a kind of Jerry Springer moment. I think Senator Rubio could have stayed in the race if he had responded to some of Mr. Trump’s insults, with this threat: “I will beat thee into handsomeness.” 

Even Jeb (Jeb!) might have stuck around if he’d gone after Mr. Trump with a little more barbed language. I can almost see it now. Mr. Bush getting Mr. Trump in a headlock, with Wolf Blizter or some other moderator calling hopelessly for calm, and Mr. Bush shouting, “I will smite his noodles.”

Alas, too late, too late, for either man.

The possibilities seem almost endless. We’re hearing about a “New Trump” in recent days, a less bombastic version, prepping for the general election campaign. I think he’d sound impressive if he laid this bomb on his Democratic opponent, whoever it might be, during the first national debate: “He/she draweth out the thread of his/her verbosity finer than the staple of his/her argument.”

Then again, Mr. Sanders or Mrs. Clinton, tipped off to Mr. Trump’s plans to quote the master, might be retort: “Mr. Trump ‘speaks an infinite deal of nothing, more than any man in Venice [insert 'Washington' here]. His reasons are as two grains of wheat hid in two bushels of chaff:  you shall seek all day ere you find them, and when you have them they are not worth the search.’”

Perhaps a pithier version might be better. So, any candidate might savage the arguments of their foe with this:

            “…out idle words, servants to shallow fools,
Unprofitable sounds…”

Really. Not much has changed in four centuries, though, thankfully, men no longer wear cod pieces. I believe Sanders, when questioning Clinton’s Wall Street connections, could lay this on her and make it stick:

“Let me tell you, Cassius [substitute ‘Clinton’], you yourself
Are much condemned to have an itching palm,
To sell and mart your offices for gold
To undeservers.”

Or [altering gender below]:

“I know a discontented gentleman
Whose humble means match not his haughty spirit.
Gold were as good as twenty orators,
And will no doubt tempt him to anything.”                                   

Since I tend to vote Democratic, I hope, if it’s Clinton or Sanders vs. Trump, either Democratic standard bearer will note that five GOP-chosen Supreme Court justices decided the Citizen’s United case, unleashing fresh hundreds of millions of Establishment money in all campaigns, by baffling Mr. Trump with this 17th century nugget: “They say if money go before, all ways do lie open.”

I understand Senator Cruz is supposed to be brilliant. We all know there’s no love lost on his part for Mr. Trump. Of the GOP front runner, Senator Cruz might say: “Trump hath never fed of dainties that are bred in a book. He hath not eat paper, as it were, he hath not drunk ink. His intellect is not replenished, he is only an animal, only sensible in the duller parts.’”

Really, this could be great. 

It might even fuel an interest in the general public for reading Shakespeare once again. News commentators could get in on the act, mocking Trump for promises to make our military great —when, back in the day, the candidate decided not to take any part in the Vietnam War. His feet hurt, or something.

“Foul-spoken coward, that thund’rest with thy tongue,
And with thy weapon nothing dar’st perform.”

Megyn Kelly could class it up during her broadcast, highlighting the failure of the GOP to put forward a strong candidate to stop the rise of Mr. Trump:

“A little fire is quickly trodden out,
Which, being suffered, rivers cannot quench.”

Rachel Maddow, on MSNBC, could make it clear that Sanders and Trump had tapped a nerve with the suffering middle class, by quoting:

“And that is the wavering commons; for their love
Lies in their purses, and whoso empties them
By so much fills their hearts with deadly hate.”

Sean Hannity could explain how Senator Cruz captured the deep and abiding concern of all true conservatives:

“I find the people strangely fantasized,
Possessed with rumours, full of idle dreams,
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear.”

Trump could go two for one, taking out Cruz and Clinton both, with: “The first thing we do let’s kill all the lawyers.”

We could all kind of “feel the Bern” if he would warn that Cruz has plans to involve us in another misguided Middle Eastern war:        

“…He is come to open
The purple testament of bleeding war…”                          

Trump could attack the veracity of Cruz—or Kasich could blast Trump—or Trump could torch Clinton—or Clinton could lambast Sanders—or Sanders could thump Trump with these old lines:

“No marvel though you bite so sharp at reasons,
You are so empty of them.”

Think how much more elegant it might sound for one candidate to attack the other if they only quoted the greatest master of the English language. Lying Ted? Oh, please. Why not: “Through the false passage of thy throat thou liest!”

And why not bring back this gem—since it fits almost any election: “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”

It might seem these days that political discourse has never sunk lower. Still, it’s never as bad as we think. Even in this regard the words of Shakespeare still ring true. “Past and to come seems best; things present, worst,” the great poet once noted. Such was true in 1616, the year of his death.

Such is true today, four hundred years later.

Can be applied to any candidate you don't like,
including Mrs. Clinton, with substitution of a pronoun.

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