Along with the rest of the world I am celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th birthday with glee! My joy is enhanced by a perfect gift from friends of my own copy of the Norton Anthology of Shakespeare, all 3000+ pages of it.
Since it is not meant for traveling purposes, Norton and I spend time together at home. I am reminded again and again of the enormous depth and breadth of Shakespeare’s genius. I care little for the scholarly arguments about who wrote the plays; I do care that we still have them for our delectation.
I have gone back to the history plays, drawn there by my own ignorance of so much of the pre-Tudor history. I am particularly fascinated by the author’s probing the meaning and responsibilities of governing.
In an era that still believed in the divine right of kings, Shakespeare depicts heirs to the throne who have to ask themselves what comes first: the realm, the people or the personal desires of the man wearing the crown.
This all seems so relevant in this American election year as we seek to choose leadership according to a constitution that declares power comes from the consent of the governed. AS Shakespeare’s princes wrestle with duty versus ego, our candidates have to do the same, although we stir in media issues that further complicate the picture. I would love to recommend that all candidates for public office go back to their Shakespeare for some insights into governance, which is not a popularity contest but an awesome responsibility.
Thanks, Will, for saying what we all need to hear.