Shakespeare and Current Politics

Shakespeare and Current Politics

With most of Shakespeare’s works, there is always a prurient and bawdy layer of comedy. What I went looking for, was a good way to wrap up current politics, and an example.

With its failed revolution and abundant evil, the Scottish Play MacBeth holds popular attention and justifiably fair comparisons. The political polls suggest an uncanny similarity to the witches.

I was looking for something else. Henry IV, pt. 1, near the conclusion.


“O Harry, thou hast robb’d me of my youth!
I better brook the loss of brittle life
Than those proud titles thou hast won of me.
They wound my thoughts worse than thy sword my flesh.
But thoughts, the slaves of life, and life, time’s fool,
And time, that takes survey of all the world,
Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy,
But that the earthy and cold hand of death
Lies on my tongue. No, Percy, thou art dust,
And food for—

  • Dies.

Prince Hal:

For worms, brave Percy.

  • Henry IV, pt. 1 (5.4.76-86)

Current conditions, shifting, mutating, and changing every moment? It is the end of Hotspur, as Prince Hal stabs him. Fair fight. Hotspur the favored victor, but history and and time spent carousing in taverns, served Prince Hal well.

Little background, sort of a short summary of a scene where a prince battles another prince, and as a prince, Hotspur in whom both the besieged king (the play’s eponymous King Henry IV) and Hotspur’s own father opposing the King, both kings see regal qualities, and hope for a future kingship in Percy (Hotspur). Fun bit of foreshadowing there, and then, “My kid can beat up your kid.” Or stab him with a sword.

Hotspur is a usurper to the duly appointed with dubious claim to the throne current monarch, and Prince Hal is the misbehaving youth. I’ve already used the conclusion of the play as an example of the upcoming Saturn in Aquarius.

As noted before, I saw these two plays on stage, back-to-back, same cast. Remarkable show, and the way this scene played out, great sword fight between Hotspur and Hal, and then, add the layer of comedy, I mean, sure, death of Hotspur, a noble, is a classical tragedy, but he was kind of an arrogant prick, so yeah, he had it coming. What happens at the end of the scene, though, Hal’s old drinking buddy Falstaff feigns death, then Falstaff wakes up, sees Hotspur’s body, goes over an stabs it then claims a hero’s bounty. Since Falstaff’s wound bleeds, turns out that Hotspur wasn’t totally dead yet.

True nobility fights a fair fight, and when vanquished, dies a glorious death with a touching soliloquy before the death rattles.

That’s the way a they do it on stage. How this applies to current politics, I was looking for a connection, a version or just verse, from Shakespeare’s canon, to illustrate what is happening.

Previously, I’ve thought about the plays MacBeth and Coriolanus, and great Caesar’s Ghost gets thrown into the fray, but that doesn’t really work (for me).

What does work about this scene, it’s the inevitable conclusion.

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Perverse, vaguely Shakespearean, humor? Maybe compare current politics to an early play, Titus Andronicus.


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