bardseyeview

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

Saturday, October 21, 2006

As Secure a Sleep

Bardseye is currently doing the Henry IV play series, which contains oddly persistent parallels with the events of our times. As always, we cast the major players of our era in Shakespearean roles, as follows:

Prince Hal (a youthful prince struggling to
do good but subject to temptation): America

Falstaff (a charming rogue who seeks to
mis-educate the Prince): Western Europe

(Falstaff's understudies: The UN and the New York Times)

Joining late? scroll down or use the archives from October, 06 onward.

* * * * *

As Secure As Sleep


Hal: “Where shall we take a purse tomorrow, Jack?”

Fal: “Zounds, where thou wilt, lad, I’ll make one.
An I do not, call me a villain and baffle me.”

Now that the Prince has caught Falstaff out on his willingness to commit robbery at the next opportunity, that next opportunity arises. Poins, an associate of Falstaff’s, arrives to inform Falstaff of a group of pilgrims and traders, who by the nature of their vocations must carry ready money. Poins has cased out the group’s itinerary, and knows when best to waylay them (vizards means masks):

Poins: “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….We may
do it as secure as sleep….”


The Prince hesitates, at first begging off (“Who, I rob? I a thief? Not I, by my faith.”), and then consenting (“Well then, once in my days I’ll be a madcap.”) and finally reverting to refusal (Well, come what will, I’ll tarry at home.”) The idea of warning Falstaff and Poins off of their plan never occurs to him.

Poins asks Falstaff to leave so that he can change the Prince’s mind. Alone with him, he suggests the Prince agree to participate, hide until the robbery is over, and then, masked, descend on Falstaff and rob him of his ill-gotten loot. To this the Prince readily agrees.

Poins: “…we will set forth before or after them and
appoint them a place of meeting, wherein it is at our
pleasure to fail; and then will they adventure upon
the exploit themselves, which they shall have no
sooner achieved but we’ll set upon them.”


By hiding their horses, and changing their masks and clothes, Poins and the Prince expect to successfully rob Falstaff, to rob the thief. In this they resemble no institution so much as the New York Times, which has in recent months published leaked documents (that is, documents stolen from their legitimate purpose), revealing here a secret terrorist surveillance program that had tracked the evil monsters’ communications, and there a secret but otherwise perfectly legal terrorist bank transfer surveillance program. Most recently the Times published excerpts of the national intelligence estimate, which was leaked, criminally and treasonously, by Larry Hanauer, a democrat staff member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in order to embarrass the administration in an election season.

Just as the Times reckons that the government will shy from prosecuting the paper for what in truth amounts to treason, Poins reckons that stealing from Falstaff will pose little difficulty:

Poins: “I know them to be as true-bred cowards as
ever turned back;…if he fights longer than he sees
reason, I’ll forwear arms…”.


The national intelligence estimate, by the way, is a sort of anthology of opinion among the myriad intelligence agencies whose hidebound bureaucracy has so consistently disappointed the nation, starting from its failure in the late 1970’s to contemplate the possibility that the Shah of Iran might fall, or in the late 1980’s that the Soviet Union might, or the existence of Sadman Insane’s nuclear program (discovered after sanctions were imposed following the first Gulf War), or the collapse of Sadman’s WMD program following imposition of a decade’s worth of those sanctions. This last intelligence failure led of course to the famous egg-on-America’s face that so delighted the world’s Falstaffs, even as America proceeded in Iraq to end an ongoing holocaust, liberate a nation, and at least attempt to set up the world’s first Arab democracy.

At least in Shakespeare, if not in today’s Times, the Prince, who steals from the thief, regrets his madcap action, and understands the call of his nation upon him:

Prince: “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…”.


To be continued…..
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