Category Archives: Shakespeare (William)

Can Trump Cast Off His Falstaffs?

Can Donald Trump, like Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” plays, shift from irresponsible merrymaker to great leader? Can he say, “I know thee not old man” to his former companions? Dream on.

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Shakespeare Understood Trumpism

According to Adam Gopnik, Shakespeare would have understood the rise of Donald Trump better than we do today. Whereas we see him as a historical oddity, Shakespeare would have seen him as the kind of evil that has always resided within humankind.

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Favorite Lit of Our Presidents

What was the favorite literature of the American presidents? I look at works that drew them (up through Franklin Roosevelt–the rest will follow tomorrow) and speculate on why.

Also posted in Addison (Joseph), Bulwer-Lytton (Edward), Byron (Lord Gordon), Cooper (James Fenimore), Defoe (Daniel), Dickens (Charles), Goldsmith (Oliver), Irving (Washington), Pope (Alexander), Robinson (Edward Arlington), Scott (Sir Walter), Shelley (Percy), Swift (Jonathan) | Leave a comment

Shakespeare Does Halloween

Shakespeare does Halloween very well. Some of it was to entertain James I, who was fascinated by the supernatural (to the sorrow of many women, who were executed as witches during his reign).

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Trump, Macduff, and “Untimely Ripped”

Donald Trump’s characterization of late-term abortions as “ripping” harken back to a verb used in “Macbeth.” Most people, however, would argue that both Trump and Macduff are describing caesarians.

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#TrumpBookReports (in 140 characters)

For laughs, check out #TrumpBookReport on twitter. I’ve gathered some of the best renditions of Trump reviewing the classics.

Also posted in Bemelmans (Ludwig), Bronte (Charlotte), Bronte (Emily), Carroll (Lewis), Cervantes (Miguel de), Dickens (Charles), Dostoevsky (Fyodor), Dr. Seuss, Hawthorne (Nathaniel), Hemingway (Ernest), Homer, Hugo (Victor), Lee (Harper), Lewis (C. S.), Melville (Herman), Milne (A. A.), Rowling (J. K.), Salinger (J. D.), Silverstein (Shel), Steinbeck (John), Stowe (Harriet Beecher), Styron (William), Tolstoy (Leo) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Defense of The Merchant of Venice

Percy Shelley believes that great art transcends the prejudices of its time, even when it is cloaked in them. If he is right, then “Merchant of Venice” is less of a problem play than many people consider it.

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Kill All the Lawyers? Nope, We Need Them

A district judge reflects upon what lawyers and judges can learn from Shakespeare, including “Othello,” “Merchant of Venice, “Hamlet,” “King Lear,” most of the history plays, and others.

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Bring the Liberal Arts to West Point

A military man argues that the military academies have been emphasizing the STEM disciplines while overlooking the traditional liberal arts. This is a mistake, he argues, and mentions the Agincourt speech in “Henry V.” Sir Philip Sidney, another warrior, would agree and would add Pindar’s Olympian odes.

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The Liberal Arts Will Not Die

Thursday My colleague Jeff Hammond, a national authority on Puritan poetry and a much lauded writer of reflective essays, recently gave a stirring defense of the liberal arts for our parents-alumni weekend. Jeff’s observations dovetail very nicely with Percy Shelley’s Defence of Poetry, which I happen to be teaching at the moment. Watching poetry getting […]

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How Trump Echoes Marc Antony

A New York Times article argues that Trump is using rhetorical flourishes like those that Marc Antony uses to defeat Brutus in Shakespeare’s play. His key strategy is casting himself as authentic against the inauthenticity of politicians.

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We Shall Not Look Upon His Like Again

Obama’s speech passing the baton to Hillary Clinton last night brings to mind a passage from “Hamlet.”

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Be Skeptical of Shakespeare’s Skeptics

Recent evidence further confirms what most Shakespeare scholars believe: that Shakespeare wrote the plays ascribed to him. The Bard’s social anxieties, however, may have communicated themselves to the skeptics, who play out their own anxieties as they attempt to tear him down.

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Shakespeare Was Malvolio

Recent research shows how much of a social climber Shakespeare was. The knowledge gives us new insight into characters like Malvolio and Othello.

Also posted in Austen (Jane), Marlowe (Christopher) | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kipling Perfectly Describes Brexiteers

A “Guardian” article applies Rudyard Kipling’s poem “Dead Statesman” to those irresponsible politicians who brought about Brexit. The poem applies equally well to Donald Trump.

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Defending the Canon vs. New Attacks

Yale English majors have been complaining about requiring them to study canonical writers. Here’s is why they are wrong.

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#NeverTrump! Never! Never! Never! Never?

Many who vowed NeverTrump are backing away from the word “never.” “Never” is an important word in “King Lear” and Lear, unlike Lear’s opponents, doesn’t back away from it.

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Time for GOP Moderates To Go to Ground?

As the GOP reels in the wake of Trump’s victory, it might want to model itself on Edgar in “King Lear.”

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Now, Gods, Stand Up for Trump!

When traditional institutions like the government or the Supreme Court are undermined, the way is cleared for the rise of liar like Trump.

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Ted Cruz as Lucifer, “Squat Like a Toad”

After John Boehner compared Sen. Ted Cruz to Lucifer, I went looking through “Paradise Lost” to find passages that would apply. If found a particularly good one but, if you ask me, Cruz more resembles Blifil, Tom Jones’s nemesis.

Also posted in Fielding (Henry), Milton (John), Stoker (Bram) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stories Have Always Opened Up the Future

An anthropologist argues that human beings took over the world because they had the ability to compose fictions. Literature continues to point the way forward for us as a species.

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Obama Is to Trump as Albany Is to Goneril

While Trump calls for torture of terrorists and Ted Cruz calls for carpet bombing them, President Obama calls for America to take the high moral road. He sounds like Albany arguing with Goneril in “King Lear.”

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If Trump Tweeted Classic Lit Reviews…

Donald Trump has a very distinctive twitter style., one that would be great for classic book reviews. A BuzzFeed writer imagines how he might have reviewed “Hamlet,” “Tristram Shandy,” “Ulysses,” and other classics.

Also posted in Hemingway (Ernest), Joyce (James), Sterne (Lawrence), Tolkien (J.R.R.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Plots vs. Trump Succeed?

“Beware the Ides of March,” the soothsayer tells Julius Caesar. On the Ides of March 2016, Marco Rubio received the unkindest cut from his home state of Florida. But if for perhaps a more apt application of the play, one should look at how members of the GOP establishment are hoping to stab Donald Trump at the July convention.

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Drama Shows Us a Way Out of Violence

New School philosophy professor Simon Critchley argues that theatre and the arts in general are vital in helping societies understand and moderate endemic violence. Aeschylus’s “Oresteia” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” are particularly important.

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Sans Scalia, a Happy Midsummer Ending?

The late Antonin Scalia claimed to be a strict textualist and would have found some excuse to support Texas’s law designed to close down abortion centers. There’s a Scalia-type character in “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Fortunately, by the end of the play he has been overruled.

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Christie as Prufrock & Other Lit Allusions

Political pundits have been turning to literature to talk about the GOP primaries. This past week saw citations of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, Lewis Carroll, and Richard Adams (“Watership Down”).

Also posted in Adams (Richard), Carroll (Lewis), Eliot (T.S.) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Prospero and the Presidential Primaries

Think of Shakespeare’s “Tempest” as an allegory for the current state of American politics, especially the presidential primaries. It contains visionaries and cynics, orchestrators and disrupters. If Prospero is the island “establishment,” then he enjoys some success but it is qualified.

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Rubio vs. Bush: The Unkindest Cut

The struggle between Jeb Bush and his former protegé Marco Rubio has been described as Shakespearean. The Shakespeare duos that come to mind are Caesar-Brutus, Duncan-Macbeth, and Henry IV-Hal.

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Conservative Extremists as King Lear

In another significant post that appeared this past year, I compared GOP extremists to King Lear–more interested in self-indulgent behavior than in responsible governance. The result is a divided country at war with itself.

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Donne’s Lovers, Spooky at a Distance

Tuesday Adam Gopnik makes some nice literary allusions in a recent New Yorker essay-review of George Musser’s Spooky at a Distance, which is about the history of quantum entanglement theory. Entanglement, also known as non-locality and described by Einstein as “spooky at a distance,” claims that two particles of a single wave function can influence each other, even […]

Also posted in Donne (John), Trollope (Anthony), Wordsworth (William) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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