Roman Forum 2006

Roman Forum 2006
Foro Romano, from the Palatine Hill - a favorite photo from one of my favorite cities

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Trump as Richard III

As I bolted upright at about 2 am today (EARLY today) I realized that I had just, yet again, shaken myself awake from a dream/nightmare...concerning The Donald." 

In the dream he appeared to me as one of Shakespeare's darkest creations; King Richard III, the man who plotted, lied, murdered his way onto the throne of England. 

I googled Donald Trump as King and was surprised
to find SEVERAL images
When I ponder Trump's "campaign" the first two words of the trio "plotted, lied, murdered" I take literally. As for the third, I doubt that he ever actually murdered anyone, but he rose by verbally "assassinating" all sorts of people, including Mexicans, women, the physically handicapped, and his many fellow Republicans, in what passed as debates in the early days of this excruciatingly, unforgivably lengthy election season(s).

Sidebar: The first announcements of those willing to run for the highest office in the land were made in May of 2015. Why do we need one and one half years to elect a president? America has been held hostage by politicos and the press (bottom feeders - the less good news, the better news it is, if you receive my meaning) for that long, long period of time. Just one example: the Republicans refused to even listen to a Supreme Court nominee in the name of waiting for "the people to speak." Surely we can limit this nonsense to six months - at most - surely!

When Trump cried "You're fired!" to his managers, and then brought on new campaign management for the third time, after the shameful Republican Convention, he began to assume different personas depending on the occasion: a humble (and it turns out lying) visitor to the Mexican President, then immediately after he adopted a strident voice once again on the subject of building that wall, banishing all illegal immigrants. Shortly after that, he performed the role of a penitent entering an African American Church - easy enough for a star of Reality TV for the few hours he  feigned engagement, interest, sympathy. 

Lawrence Olivier as Richard
I could offer examples of Trump-as-Richard throughout the text Richard III, but I will focus on only three of the most relevant scenes, Act III, scenes three, four and five as evidence. These scenes constitute a sort of play-within-a-play, not just with improvised dialogue but complete with stage directions dictated by Richard. Buckingham and Catesby (Chris Christy and Rudy Giuliani? excellent casting for their over-the-top tirades at the Convention) attempt convince the Mayor of London and the citizens of that fair city that Richard is fit to be king. 

An updated Richard with McKellen in the title role
and the fine Jim Broadbent as Buckingham - I saw a touring
version of this production with McKellen - wow1
As scene three commences, Richard cajoles Buckingham to play his part in the ruse:


Come Cousin, canst thou quake and change thy color, 
Murder thy breath in the middle of a word
And then begin again, and stop again,
As if thou wert distraught and mad with terror?


Tut, I can counterfeit the bleak tragedian,
Speak and look back, and pry on every side,
Tremble and start at the wagging of a straw,
Intending deep suspicion. Ghastly looks
Are at my service, like enforced smiles;
And both are ready in their offices,
At any time to grace my stratagems.

The Lord Mayor, somewhat dubious re Richard as king, is brought in and is made even more doubtful when he sees the head of the recently murdered Lord Hastings brought in, until Richard lies his way through a list of the misdeeds of that honest fellow. The mayor agrees to inform the citizenry of the reasons for the execution. On his exit Gloucester orders Buckingham to follow the mayor to, as he says "infer the bastardy of Edward's children" - the two young princes who would soon meet their fate in the Tower of London - and to convince the mayor and the Londoners to accept Richard as their king. At a place decided on by Gloucester mayor and citizens would find the man who would be king "well-accompanied with reverend fathers and well-learned bishops," and he would accept the crown.

Scene four is a simple, 14 line monologue delivered by a scrivener, who has just penned the indictment of Lord Hastings, per Catesby's instructions. He ends the speech with his take on the trumped up (sorry) charges:

Why, who's so gross

That seeth not this palpable device?
Yet who's so blind, but says he sees it not?
Bad is the world; and all will come to naught
When such bad dealings must be seen in thought.

At the beginning of scene five Buckingham explains to Richard what came of his efforts to sway the crowd.


I bid them that did love their country's good
Cry 'God save Richard, England's loyal king.'


 Ah! And did they so?


No! So God help me, they spake not a word;
But like dumb statues or breathing stones, 
Gazed on each other and look'd deadly pale.

Buckingham explains that he ordered the mayor to reiterate what he'd said; also that he had men stationed in the crowd, who, when the mayor finished pleading with the people, threw up their hats and cried, 'God save King Richard.' 

Realizing that he must push further, Richard, like another famous theatrical villain, Tartuffe, pretends to be holy, standing between two churchmen reading a prayer-book. Buckingham and Richard improvise a dialogue in which the the former begs the latter to agree to rule. The latter protests (too much, like the lady), 

"Why do you heap these cares on me?" and then:


Well, call them again. I am not made of stone, 
But penetrable to your kind entreats,
Albeit against my conscience and my soul.

And he agrees to be crowned the next day.

Pacino as Richard in the wonderful film
Looking for Richard

Another shot from Google images of Trump as King
Trump and Richard III are both expert dissemblers, and both of them will do whatever it takes to gain the crown or the oval office. A small difference between the two: Buckingham plays a far greater role in getting Richard crowned than anyone else does getting the presidency for Trump. It's a bit of a cheat but were I directing a modern-dress production of the play, in scene three I would cut Richard's line asking Buckingham if he were capable of the dissembling required and assign Buckingham's response, beginning with "Tut, I can counterfeit the bleak tragedian..." to Richard/Trump, because when I looked over the scene in order to write this post I immediately thought THIS IS TRUMP!

A larger difference is one that saddens me about this election. In productions of the play, and I have seen several, the crowd remains sullen and distrustful throughout. Shakespeare, it seems to me, is saying that the common citizen of London can see right through the evil Richard.

Why can't the people who hear Trump ranting, see HIM for what he is? Instead they cheer him, even egg him on, when he rants. Who are these people? I have long since given up on the idea that they are disgruntled with politicians and the direction they think America is heading. I now firmly believe that they (many of them at least - too many for my taste) feel just like Trump does in his desire for a huge wall (my God can't they remember the last huge wall that a world power built, in the 1960s? The Iron Curtain?) in his ugly opinions on Mexicans, his disparagement of women, on and on. And frankly, it sickens me.

Another Richard I was lucky enough to see, at
the Stratford Festival (Ontario) - Brian Bedford
was memorable as the King, - and Maggie Smith was fine
as Queen Elizabeth
I wonder how Shakespeare would have written Trump? How he would have handled the crowds that Trump has wooed (and too often won)?* Probably, as he did with Richard III, as a tragedy. If Trump gets elected it will be tragic, in the most comprehensive meaning of that word.
Saw this one too, at the Old Vic - Kevin Spacey plays
Richard, Annabel Scholey as Lady Anne
A last thought, having to do with the asterisk in the last paragraph. I'm playing on a line of Richard's in the several words before it, spoken much earlier in the play. He is speaking of Lady Anne, whose husband and father he killed. He has stopped her as she walks in procession with the men who are burying one of Richard's victims, King Henry VI. At this most inopportune moment Richard chooses to ask for (force) her hand in marriage in a brilliant display of verbiage that weakens her resolve. After he allows the procession to proceed he turns to the audience and asks

Olivier again, with Claire Bloom as Lady Anne
"Was ever woman in this humour wooed? Was ever woman in this humour won?"

Again I think of Trump (nor of murderer, as leader) and substitute one word, the same word, into each of these two sentences, 

"Was ever country in this humour wooed? Was ever country in this humour won?"

Frightening even to think of, worse to admit it might well happen.

Worse still, Richard's next sentence: 

"I'll have her, but I will not keep her long."

Four years of Trump? Dear God.

McKellen as Richard enthroned 
"King" Trump?

MAD Magazine “The Birther King”: A MAD Political Poster Classic MAD, Donald Trump, MAD #513, Desmond Devlin, Roberto Parada, Presidential Campaign
Any angry Trump fans reading this? An apologia, from another play by Shakespeare - 

If we shadows have offended
Think but this and all is mended
That you have but slumbered here
while these visions did appear
And this weak and idle theme
No more yielding than a dream...

remember, I was just having a Trump-mare!