Sunday, October 9, 2016

Shakespeare Explains the 2016 Election

I don't understand why this NY Times piece hasn't gotten wider play. A Harvard scholar explains that the question of how a sociopath can come to rule an otherwise rational country was thoroughly considered centuries ago by Shakespeare in his play Richard III. It's a brilliant analysis of a brilliant play, and you needn't be an English nerd to grok it easily. This is precisely the missing psychological chunk our pundits frustratingly never seem to supply. Please give it a read, it's short. Excerpt below:
First, there are those who trust that everything will continue in a normal way, that promises will be kept, alliances honored and core institutions respected. Richard is so obviously and grotesquely unqualified for the supreme position of power that they dismiss him from their minds. Their focus is always on someone else, until it is too late. They do not realize quickly enough that what seemed impossible is actually happening. They have relied on a structure that proves unexpectedly fragile.

Second, there are those who cannot keep in focus that Richard is as bad as he seems to be. They see perfectly well that he has done this or that ghastly thing, but they have a strange penchant for forgetting, as if it were hard work to remember just how awful he is. They are drawn irresistibly to normalize what is not normal."


fbj said...


For months I have been trying to get my friends to understand the election through this metaphor. The problem I find is that anybody who might understand the Shakespearean frame has already committed to one candidate.

Why is it that all the people who are horrified by the prospect of Richard III, are in deep denial about the alternative: that having shanked Polonius behind a tapestry in Act II, Lady Macbeth may soon be running the country?

I far prefer the grotesque hunchback we know in the daylight, to the bloody-handed poisoner by night, bewitched, unnatural, stabber of her own guards, strangler of children, loyal only to herself.

I'm amazed the Obama girls didn't end up drowned in a butt of Malmsey.


Maggie Mahar said...

This NYT column never got wider play in large part because the NYT has a firewall.

Unless you subscribe, you cannot read the piece.

I don't subscribe to the Times as a matter of principle:

Their defense of Bush's "weapons of mass destruction" myth
helped justify the war in Iraq--
which, in turn led to real mass destruction.

The NYT also set out to demonize Hillary Clinton
back in the early 1990's with their exaggerated story
which became known as "Whitewater."

I have worked at the Times (as an editor) and learned that they
"all the news that fits"
their world-view.

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