A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Falstaff and the NSA


Even people who have made themselves comfortable with Shakespeare will shy away from the history plays, except for the famous Richard III, which stands on its own as a great tragedy. Bardseye admits that a full life can be led without reading the Henry VI trilogy. But there is another three-play series, comprised of Henry IV Part I, Henry IV Part II and Henry V, that is worth making room for in one's life. Besides showing the rascally Prince Hal wrestling with his youthful nature as he matures into the great leader Henry V, you get to meet Hal's pal, Shakespeare's greatest comic creation, Falstaff:

Fal: "…When thou art king, let not us that
are squires of the night's body be called
thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's
foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions
of the moon, and let men say we be men of
good government, being governed, as the
sea is, by our noble and chaste mistress the
moon, under whose countenance we steal."

Shakespeare makes Falstaff so fat, so old and so funny it is easy to forget that he also makes him a thief. In the above passage, Falstaff is actually recommending to his friend the prince that he outlaw the word 'thief' upon his ascension to the throne, and substitute any of a number of more romantic alternatives. During his friendly chat with Prince Hal, Falstaff's friend and fellow thief Poins arrives with inside information (vizards means masks):

Poi: "But my lads, my lads, tomorrow morning,
by four o'clock early, at Gad's Hill, there are
pilgrims going to Canterbury with rich offerings
and traders riding to London with fat purses.
I have vizards for you all, you have horses for
yourselves. …If you will go, I will stuff your
purses full of crowns…".

It seems that Poins has hopped off the stage recently and gotten a job in the National Security Agency. There, perhaps feeling resentful at administration policy, our modern Poins has divulged to Falstaff, I mean to the New York Times, details of an effective, clandestine surveillance program in the War on Radical Islamic Terrorism (WRIT - copyright bardseye), Poins is informing Falstaff, that is an NSA employee is informing the Times, of where and when rich travelers may be waylaid. The travelers, like the US public, have spent the past four years - the period since their last robbery, which occurred in the same woods, on a clear September day; a terrifying memory, the men masked, the event sudden, a number of their party killed - wondering at their good luck in avoiding a subsequent attack.

Little would the travelers have known that it was the NSA's surveillance of international Al Qaida communications that had protected them. Now that NSA employee Poins has informed the Falstaffian Times, however, their protection is lost.

Prince Hal later agrees with Poins to arrive after the robbery and re-rob Falstaff of the ill-gotten gains. Still, Hal knows that his involvement in any such shenanigans (like the shenanigans of partisan politics that lies beneath the wartime NSA leak) is beneath his royal station.

What we all seek in sober times like these are sober leaders. And left alone, Hal admits his own longing to mature into such a leader:

Hal: "I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.
If all the year were playing holidays,
To sport would be as tedious as to work.
But when they seldom come they wished-for come…".

Sober and serious leaders, intent on their people's survival and well-being, do indeed seldom come.

And wished-for come.

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Here's a related post from PoliticalTeen

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