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

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Betwixt the Wind and His Nobility


Bardseye is currently palpating the oddly persistent parallels of the Henry IV plays with the events of our times.

We cast the play 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.

Shakespeare departs from Prince Hal’s internal struggles to return to affairs of state. Hal's father, Henry IV, is engaged in some diplomatic mopping-up operations following the quelling of rebellions in Wales and Scotland. The King is bristling at the expectations of the Percy family, whose scion Worcester exhibits an equal prickliness.

King: “You tread upon my patience. But be sure
I will from henceforth rather be myself,
Mighty and to be feared,…”

Wor: “Our house, my sovereign liege, little deserves
The scourge of greatness to be used on it –
And that same greatness too which our own hands
Have holp to make so portly.”

Portly here means potent, not fat, and yes, he said holp, meaning helped. The Percys basically put Henry IV on the throne, and no royal likes to be reminded of his former dependency:

King: “Worcester, get thee gone, for I do see
Danger and disobedience in thine eye.
O sir, your presence is too bold and peremptory…”.

No sooner does the king’s relationship with Worcester begin to disintegrate, but the aptly named Hotspur, also a Percy, responds to a royal summons to explain why he refused to fork over to the king’s representative some prisoners he took in quelling the latest rebellion.

Hot: “My liege, I did deny no prisoners.
But I remember when the fight was done,
When I was dry with rage and extreme toil,
Breathless and faint, leaning upon my sword,
Came there a certain lord, neat and trimly dressed,
Fresh as a bridegroom, and his chin new reaped
Showed like stubble land at harvest home.
He was perfumed like a milliner,…”

Clearly, the martial Hotspur in this scene represents our military, coated in sweat and grime and up to its elbows in the blood of Islamist terrorists and other enemies of democracy. And who is it that confronts the US Hotspur military in the very heat of battle – what soft-palmed, perfumed paper-pushing message boy from the very heart of government? Why it’s the Senate Intelligence Committee. Or perhaps the six retired generals out of 4700 who in a time of war publicly called for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. Or, most apt of course, it is the Democrat party, calling for our soldiers to march backwards over the bodies of their own 2800 dead in retreat from Iraq, in full sight of the world and all its calculating despots, without completing the stabilization of the world’s first Arab democracy. The military, speaking through Hotspur in its outraged honor, continues:

Hot: “And twixt his finger and his thumb he held
A pouncet box, which ever and anon
He gave his nose and took ‘t away again,
Who therewith angry, when it next came there,
Took it in snuff; and still he smiled and talked,
And as the soldiers bore dead bodies by
He called them untaught knaves, unmannerly,
To bring a slovenly unhandsome corpse
Betwixt the wind and his nobility.”

To be continued...

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