All the World’s a Stage and Adjuncts, Merely Voters on It
by Alissa Montalbano
Flustered by official analysis and ad nauseam personal opinions of politics spewed about using purported facts, and even, god forbid, math, we English Majors usually sit by the sidelines and watch elections unfold with a mixture of boredom and confusion. In truth, we are waiting for whoever is speaking to stop so we can go read. Yet, this year’s approaching inauguration seems the right time for this Adjunct Professor to look up from grading papers to discuss the current political landscape as Shakespeare might —
While The Donald stomps around like Caliban claiming, “this island is mine” and “gabble(ing) like a thing most brutish,” the right side of the audience claps quietly, so as not to disturb the scary beast. Stunned, we try to translate both his words and the intent of his character; all the while hoping he turns out to be more Prospero than Macbeth. We wonder if he’s truly a symbol of our Colonial Imperialism or the very embodiment of it.
Meanwhile, the younger members of the audience bemoan the passing over of poor Bernie “Lear” Sanders, who blithely suggests gifting away the kingdom while ruthless Goneril Wasserman and Regan Abden circle overhead. They tell us he is a kind, gentle grandfather. In the play, however, he appears exactly like his namesake: an old fool.
The ladies and gentlemen to the left side of the stage feel duly obligated to defend My Lady Macbeth-Clinton (don’t forget to hyphenate), even while she is seen wiping blood from her hands in the dim glow from her private server. True! She valiantly vanquishes enemies: domestic, foreign, and anyone who sleeps with her husband. But, there’s all that blood!
Something is clearly rotten in the state of Democrats.
So we turn to Republicans who tell us to ignore Antonio’s premonitions about a man named Pence quoting scripture for his own purposes and rely on the outside chance that Othello hating Bannon will somehow change his spots.
This comedy appears to be veering very quickly toward a tragedy.
Over the years we, the members of the audience, have relished throwing rotten fruit at the fairy kingdom, otherwise known as Capitol Hill, where we have seen decades of cavorting in the woods, drinking of fairy wine, and playing of pork belly tricks. We have gleefully pointed and laughed as those “scurvy politicians” who have placed their asses upon their heads in an attempt impersonate poor sweet Bottom.
Begging your pardon for this judgment, but the audience has been too much enjoying the play.
Gasping with laughter, we have watched Nancy Dogberry being hoisted by her own petard while hearing Paul “he who switches from one moral stand to another faster than Falstaff can sprint toward a mug of ale” Ryan pontificate:
What is honor? a word. What is in that word honor? What is that honor? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
We look to the stage for someone, anyone, to speak, yet there is only deafening silence.
It appears that we, the bewitched audience, have set the spell by chanting, “double, double toil and trouble; fire burn, and caldron bubble” and now we look around in disgust at what we have wrought.
In our defense, we are not the actors on the stage. We cannot be like Portia and refuse all of our unappealing choices. We don’t want to follow Shylock’s steps and demand pounds of flesh for perceived wrongs. And we really shouldn’t assume the persona of Henry IV; who, on his deathbed, heartily embraced his only begotten choice knowing full well this was a dangerous chance.
If all the world’s politics, and we merely voters in it, then we ought to recognize that our cheering, clapping, stomping of feet, and throwing of fruit has ensured that the only characters left on the stage are villains, fools, and tricksters. Our naiveté, dear audience, is in thinking that we are at the mercy of the play, or the actors in it.
Instead we can choose another. We can hope, like John of Gaunt, for good things to come for us here living on:
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm . . . .
Ladies and Gentlemen, before the curtain falls, before the final scene is acted out, before we leave this theatre depressed that the show is over and we must wait 4 (or 8!) years for the next one, please consider this: If it is our own hand that created the “very midsummer madness” that we have before us, then might the direction of the play be changed by the very same?
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