Skip to main content

tv   Shakespeare U.S. Politics  CSPAN  December 4, 2020 5:34pm-6:40pm EST

5:34 pm
weekend on c-span3. you're watching c-span3 your unfiltered view of government, created by america's cable television companies and brought to you by your television provider. next on americanis t ihisto, democratic chief counsel michael evans discusses how shakespeare has been invoked in congressional debates and the political lessons learned from his plays, especially the tragedies. this lasts about an hour. today is very special. mike evans comes to us a graduate of salem state university where he was just granted an honorary dock rate for his significant
5:35 pm
contributions to public service so we can now call him dr. evans. and then he went to a small law school called harvard. from there he took all of that education and he became a public servant. he was the democratic chief council and deputy staff director. and he has been a senate staffer for more than 25 years. but he is not here to talk about the senate. or to talk about the senate finance committee. usually known as the "the powerful senate finance committee." but instead he is here to talk about his passion. he has writing and reading and researching shakespeare and congress. shakespeares guide to tax policy. before he became chief council
5:36 pm
and deputy staff director, he worked as the senate environment and public works committee. so his experience and committee leadership is vast and broad. he is now working on a book called -- that is tentatively titled "shake peer's guide to american politics." so we're fortunate to have mike talk about how united states politics has been historically influenced by shakespeare and how we might look at it from shakespeare's eyes. michael. [ applause ]
5:37 pm
>> thank you, jane, and thank you to all at the historical society for holding this event and thank all of you for coming. two disclaimers. there will be no sword play. and for those of you who were hoping to get me to recommend some shakespearens insults for you to fling at your political opponenopponents, i'm to stay away from that and stick to the history. my interest in shakespeare came relatively late. in high school and college, i read some of the plays, but i never really got it. the language was hard to understand. and i couldn't tell my king richards from my king henrys. so the plots were hard to follow. almost 20 years ago, i decided to give shakespeare another try. people i respected kept talking
5:38 pm
about how much they enjoyed shakespeare. maybe i was missing something. so i decided to give it some serious study. i quickly became entranced. i was struck by how profound yet thoroughly enjoyable the plays were. and i was struck by how much shakespeare focuses on political leadership. grant it, it's not the biggest theme, but it's there. many of the mays are about how a leader achieves, maintains, or loses power. there are the english histories, which trace the struggle for the crown that begins when henry bowlingbrook deposes richard ii. there are the classical histories which tell how julius ceasar loses power and how
5:39 pm
brutus and mark anthony contend for it. there are the great tragedies that tell the stories of hamlet, mcbeth, and leer. each a king or prince who loses power. taking this all in, i wondered whether shakespeare can teach something to those who work in and around congress. after all, shakespeare was one of our greatest thinkers. when he talks about politics, we may want to pay close attention. i submit that there is indeed much that shakespeare can teach us. but first, i want to whet your appetite with a mystery. why is the greatest shakespeare library in the world, the folger, located not in london or stratford, but if washington, d.c.? it is essentially on the capitol hill campus. if you came over from the house
5:40 pm
side, you may have walked right past it. so two questions. why is the folger library here? second, why does it matter? why is it important that the world's greatest shakespeare library is in washington, d.c.? and i should note the wonderful shakespeare theater downtown. why does it matter that shakespeare is in our midst? let me start by giving you some background about shakespeare and american politics. america's european founders came from shakespeare's world. when the english settlement of america began in jamestown in 1607, shakespeare was at the height of his london career. after shakespeare's death as his worths became popular in great britain, his popularity carried over to colonial america.
5:41 pm
the first performance of a shakespeare play was in the -- the first american performance was in 1750, and there were many soon after that. in new york, philadelphia, and williamsburg. as the american nation developed, shakespeare's influence grew. two of the first distinctively american novelists were heavily influenced by shakespeare. and shakespeare's greatest 19th century author mark twain was an avid reader of shakespeare. in "huckleberry fin," the barn storming rascals and showman, the duke and the king, perform a slapstick of mangled passages from various shakespeare plays. and the humor depends on the
5:42 pm
reader's familiarity with shakespeare's original material. shakespeare's mays dominated the american theater. in new york city, you could attend any one of three performances of mcbeth on a single evening in 1849. it wasn't just the eastern elites. as settlement moved west, shakespeare went along. there is hardly a pioneer's hut that does not contain a few odd volumes of shakespeare. his influence extended to politics. the leaders of the american revolution, including john adams, george washington, and thomas jefferson, were steeped in shakespeare's work. which they relied on to inform their political vision and sharpen their rhetoric. a particularly arresting imamg
5:43 pm
is from 1786, when adams and jefferson, both serving in european diplomatic posts, visited shakespeare's birthplace. soon they would be bitter political enemies. but for that moment they were together because of their love for shakespeare. members of congress frequently turned to shakespeare's plays to express themselves during debate. in 1837, the senate was considering whether to expunge its resolution censuring president andrew jackson. senator henry clay acknowledged those who wished to expunge the resolution appeared to have the votes. thus, he said, "the deed is to be done that foul deed which, like the blood staining the hands of the guilty mcbeth, all ocean's waters will never wash
5:44 pm
away." another example occurred in 1846. rival factions were seeking control of the new kansas government under the terms of the recently enacted kansas-nebraska act. a politician had been elected as kansas's first territorial delegate. but opponents argued that his election was based on fraud. they called for a special election to investigate. as the debate unfolded, the congressman from ohio, samuel galloway spiced up his argument with a quotation from mcbeth. referring to the date of the enactment of the kansas-nebraska act, he said, let that pernicious hour stand acursed on the calendar. later that day, congressman john millson of virginia took the floor. he also knew his shakespeare.
5:45 pm
he responded, the gentleman from ohio favored us with a quotation from mcbeth. i will give him an answering quotation from hamlet. he then quoted from the scene which ophelia's brother expresses his exaggerated grief of her death by leaping into ophelia's grieve. millson said, do you come here to wine, leaping into her grave? i'll rant as well as thou. the most notable example of the use of shakespeare in congress occurred in 1830 during the famous debate between senators robert hain of south carolina and daniel webster of massachusetts. it was the first major debate about the relationship between the northern and southern states.
5:46 pm
after which webster gave a speech about public lands policy, han arghain argued that was a smoke screen. webster's real problem, hain said, was the disintegration of a coalition that webster hoped to establish between the north and west against the south. evoking a scene from mcbeth in which the ghost of the murdered person appears to lady mcbeth, but is invisible to the others who are sitting with them at a banquet table. senator hain asked, has the gentleman's tempered fancy been disturbed by new alliances in which he hinted? has the ghost of the murdered
5:47 pm
coalition come back to sere the eyeballs of the gentleman. dark visions of broken hopes and honors lost forever still floating before his heated imagination? that was hain. the next day webster responded. he said the honorable gentleman was not entirely happy in his elusion of vanquo's murder and ghost. turning the tables, webster explained that vanquo's ghost was an honest ghost, it disturbed no innocent man. but appeared only to vanquo's assassins. mcbeth and lady mcbeth. by identifying with those who saw the ghost, webster argued,
5:48 pm
hain had slipped up. he had unintentionally revealed his own sinister motives. after reciting several lines from the play, webster asked, those who murdered vanquo, what did they win by it? substantial good, permanent power or disappointment rather and mortification, dust and ashes, the common fate of vaulting ambition over leaping itself? then he said, i need pursue the illusion no further. there are many other examples. congressman william jennings bryant began a speech by directing the house clerk to read a passage from "merchant of venice." a manager of president johnson's senate impeachment trial compared his cabinet members to
5:49 pm
pellonius in hamlet. by my count, between 1833 and 1873, there were 159 references during congressional debate, to shakespeare himself or to the plays, hamlet, mcbeth, othello and king lear. let me add a fun fact. one of the foremost shakespeare scholars war julian verplank of new york, chairman of the house, ways, and means committee during the fierce tariff battles of the late 1830s. after leaving congress, he became the editor of the first major american edition of shakespeare's plays. today, shakespeare continues to be invoked occasionally in congress. during the time i worked in the
5:50 pm
senate, there has been one person who might give ways and committee chairman ver b rrvegv run for his money. senator robert byrd red shakespeare's plays throughout his robert bird red shakespeare's place throughout his life and he frequently used to shakespeare to make a point during senate floor debate. another fun fact, at one point or another during senate floor debate in 1994, senator senator byrd quoted from each of shakespeare's 36 plays, even the bad ones. but senator byrd aside is a difference. when daniel webster delivered his reply to senator haynes, he knew his audience would understand the like mcbath passed on current events. shakespeare was a central part of what's a historian called a rich shared public culture.
5:51 pm
today that is left the case. when contemporary politicians invoke shakespeare, they are likely to do so superficially, grabbing a line from quotations on the internet in order to add a sheen of sophistication to their argument. i suggest that if we lose shakespeare, we lose something important to our political life. the folger library is here to remind us of this. that brings me back to our mystery, why is the faulder library here? in the early 20th century, henry folger, one of the leaders of standard oil of new jersey and his wife emily, amassed the world's finest collection of shakespeare's works, shakespeare scholarship and related artifacts. they owned for example, more than a quarter of the first folios in existence. all of this, piled up in the
5:52 pm
folger's brooklyn town house. eventually the folger's decided to establish a library to make the collection available. after considering several locations, including london and stratford, henry folger said quote, i finally concluded i would give it to washington, for i am an american. over eight years, and re-folger quietly purchased a block of town houses near the capital building. but there was a problem. it turned out that the federal government was about to acquire the same property by eminent domain. folger sprang to work. he persuaded congress that locating a great shakespeare library on the site would benefit the nation. in 1928, well considering a
5:53 pm
bill of acquiring property for the library of congress, congress modified the bill to allow folger to retain the property at second and eat street. with the understanding he would construct his library there. it was to use around terminology, special interest legislation. although of a very positive kind. that is why the library is on capitol hill. but why does it matter? why is it important, particularly to those who work among congress that shakespeare is in our midst? i suggest two reasons. one practical and one with reason. first the practical. the hand out that i think we have made available, or that we will make available, >> the green paper. >> okay. i missed practical lessons that
5:54 pm
i believe shakespeare teaches about politics. some lessons stressed the importance of strategic thinking and good management skills. decisiveness, pragmatism, listening carefully to advisers and the deft use of subordinates. another lesson stresses the importance of empathizing with the common person. like prince how, and unlike korea lateness. another lesson stresses coriolanus. another lesson stresses that as with prince howe's transformation into king henry the fifth, a leader must forswear personal indulgence. through it all runs of the constant theme of balance -- a leader should be decisive like henry v, but not reckless. pragmatic, again, like henry v, but not cynical like richard the third. above the crowd, but empathetic in lesson coriolanus never learned,. let us dig into two these
5:55 pm
lessons. one is that a leader must listen carefully, including to advice here she would not here. a good example is henry bolingbrook, who initiates the events that unfold throughout the english history plays bolingbrook is in many respects a capable leader. and he has been wronged by richard ii, who unlawfully confiscated his land. further richard himself, is for all his faults the legitimate king under the english laws of succession. deposing him would undermine those laws and perhaps the very legitimacy of the english monarchy. at the beginning of act for of richard the second, henry bolingbrook is meeting with advisers, trying to decide how
5:56 pm
to deal with king richard. who has been defeated but retains the throne. bolingbrook exclaims -- "in god's name, i will ascend the legal throne." one of the advisers, the bishop of carlisle, objects saying -- "if you crown him -- bolingbrook -- the blood of english shall manure the grounds. o, if you raise this house against this house, it will the division prove that ever fell upon the corset earth bowling brook ignores the bishops warning. richard is deposed him and bolingbrook becomes king henry iv. we're always skill, bowling brook eventually fails. although he will remain king until his death and past the
5:57 pm
crown down to his son and grandson. their rains eventually will devolve into a brutal civil war. this happens for reasons that were brought to bowling brooks early attention by the bishop of carlile. but bowling brook would not listen. there are other examples. king lear divides his lands according to how profusely his daughters flatter him. and when the honest cordelia refuses to flatter, lear erupts in anger and denies cordelia any inheritance and banishes her. an impetuous act that he will come to profoundly regret. julius caesar is warned by the soothsayer and others about the impending assassination attempt, but he ignores the warnings, saying, "am i not caesar? " as if he is immortal.
5:58 pm
in make beth, the witches tell mcbath everything, including about his downfall. he only here is what he wants to hear and discounts. shakespeare's lesson is clear. when they achieved power, these leaders stopped listing listening carefully. we see the mistakes come and are the same mistakes every day. as flatterers thrive and as honest core delia's are ignored. another lesson that surprised me, is that a leader must set personal loyalty aside and favor of pragmatism. the best example is henry the fifth. he has many good leadership qualities. he is no saint. he is utterly pragmatic. the most vivid example is the
5:59 pm
repudiation of falstaff. it is one of shakespeare's greatest creations. he is a wig and philosopher. also, a drunkard, glutton, lecher, cowered in petty thief. he is a wonderfully rich character and has some of shakespeare's greatest lines. as the accompanies prince howls through his wayward oath youth. this makes falstaff's fate especially heartbreaking. full when falstaff learns that for four king henry the fourth has died, making the prince the new king am a falstaff thinks his ship has come in. he waits outside the palace expecting that when the new king passes by and sees falstaff in the crowd, the king will welcome him with open arms and grant him his due.
6:00 pm
but the new king, seeing falstaff in the crowd, does not embrace him. instead, he delivers a speech that is shocking in its ruthlessness. it begins -- "i know thee not, old man." and it concludes, "presume not that i was the thing that you thought i wasn't. i have turned away from my former self. so will i those that kept me company. the young king orders falstaff band. for a long, heartbroken falstaff dies. why did shakespeare subject one of literature's greatest characters such a sorrowful and. to my mind, shakespeare is
6:01 pm
underlining this point. as king, and we will force where the wayward companions of his youth and adopt the sober demeanor appropriate to leadership. to shakespeare, leadership overcomes friendship. even friendship with a character as endearing as falstaff. so shakespeare teaches many practical lessons. again, they are listed in the hand out. if my book is ever finished, you can read them all in detail. turning from the practical, there's another and probably more important lesson in shakespeare's treatment of politics. in a recent book, the lessons of tragedy authors how brands and charles ate all look at the ancient greeks. one of the central events -- each spring, the citizens of athens gathered for a
6:02 pm
celebration lasting several days. one of the central events was the public performance of one of the great greek tragedies like and a rex, and the guinea and the persians. these plays are brutal, heartbreaking and unrelenting. why make them the center of the celebration of the world's first democracy? they argue that these performances were critical to the success of ancient greek civilization. quote for the greeks, theatrical and other dramatic representations of tragedy were public education. tragedies were meant to serve as both a warning and a call to action. they were intended to chasten and horrify the citizenry, and in doing so, to inspire them. athens was capable of ascending to great heights, but only if the public understood the
6:03 pm
depths to which it might cenk. absent great effort, cohesion and courage. shakespeare's plays can perform the same function. shakespeare gives us many leaders who struggle to obtain power, only to realize that they're empty or destructive. generally speaking, there are no successful leaders in shakespeare, only different types of failures. it is almost as if shakespeare is performing the role of the roman slave who follows behind a general riding in a victory procession through rome, whispering in the general's ear, "all glory is fleeting." shakespeare is whispering to us. there is richard the second, legally and poetically
6:04 pm
realizing that his power is gone. there is the evil but irresistible richard the third, railing against the fates at the battle of basel worth. i law the battle of bosworth. and there is, again, bolingbroke's henry iv, the great usurper. as the civil war grinds on, king henry iv, now old and tired, long as for the rest. declaring, "uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." in shakespeare, political power comes at great cost. shakespeare's most specific essay about the cost of political power is macbeth. as a historical matter, macbeth was a warrior who having been cut out, of the line of succession, responded by murdering king duncan and
6:05 pm
successfully asserting his own kingship until he is killed by duncan's descendents. shakespeare transforms this material into a dark exploration of the danger that comes from the unbridled lust for power. shakespeare's attitude toward macbeth is different than his attitude toward other unscrupulous monarchs like richard iii. when we observe richard, we identify with macbeth. shakespeare pulls us in until we share macbeth's horror of what he has done and what he has become. also, unlike richard macbeth suffers from pangs of conscience. he also suffers from mounting nihilism leading to the great soliloquy about life being all sound and fury. signifying nothing.
6:06 pm
still, macbeth is impelled on, as he says, "blood will have blood." at the base, macbeth is undone by his own inhibition. in american politics, the consideration of macbeth takes us perhaps surprisingly, to our greatest president, abraham lincoln. lincoln was a deep student of shakespeare. as a boy, he recited many of the great, speeches which he had in a volume. as a young lawyer, he traveled with a copy of shakespeare in his saddle bags. when he became president, he frequently attended shakespeare's plays in washington. in the white house, he often would read aloud from the great soliloquys. five days before he was assassinated, lincoln visited richmond, which had just fallen to union troops. he was greeted joyfully by
6:07 pm
soldiers and former slaves. he briefly sat behind the desk from which jefferson davis had led the confederacy. then he returned to a union riverboat to steam back north. along the way, he pulled out a well-thumb volume of shakespeare and read alouded to officers for more than an hour from macbeth, which was shakespeare's favorite play. this may seem a strange place to turn during the terrible war. it hardly provides solace, at least in the conventional way, but perhaps macbeth fit particularly well, because lincoln understood, that as the so it philip sidney wrote in
6:08 pm
shakespeare's time, tragedy shows up on how weak foundations yielded roofs are built. lincoln had a deep appreciation of tragedy. we can hear it in the second inaugural address. after explaining that the military situation was well in hand, lincoln described the onset of the conflict, with war coming, even though both sides had tried to avoid it. then he cut right to the tragic heart of the civil war. he said -- fondly do we hope, and fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. yet, if god wills that it continues until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another, drawn by the sort, as was said 3000
6:09 pm
years ago, still it must be said. the judgments of the lord are righteous and true altogether. lincoln then moves to his famous conclusion, beginning with malice towards charity towards all. bystanders of conventional political rhetoric, this speech is extraordinary. on the threshold of a greek victory, there is no triumphalism. not even a modest note of congratulation. instead, there is complexity, irony, and hard consequence. surely, lincoln was drawing on his close study of shakespeare. on the english histories that began with a grant to power that ignited a civil war that
6:10 pm
would burn for centuries. on king cloudiness and hamlet, who seized power and then discovered that he was cursed and could not pray. on mcbath, whose ambition held him on to his own distraction. on lear, profound wisdom and mercy only after he had lost all power. we hear in the second inaugural echoes of them all. this i suggest is the second lesson we should take from shakespeare. an appreciation of tragedy. like the athenians, we should remind ourselves that our blessings are not guaranteed. we may be tempted to think that faith is on our side, that are constitutional checks and balances will counteract any serious threats to our system of government. that it can't happen here. but tragedy teaches otherwise. liberal democracy is not
6:11 pm
guaranteed, it is fragile. without constant attention, including from those of us privileged to work in and around congress, we can lose everything. . that is why it is important that shakespeare is in our midst. why we should read or even better, watch king the year, richard -- king lear, richard ii, or macbeth. all this brings me, in conclusion, act to the folger library. in the west garden is a that two of park, a statue of the mischievous spirit from a midsummer night's dream.
6:12 pm
he is facing the capitol. at the base of the statue is a quote from the play -- " o, what fools these mortals be." that our status here is precarious and requires immunity we are in the capital of a great nation. but even so, we are just a few steps away from the tragic mistake that makes our work all the more important. thank you. [applause] >> our speaker has agreed to take some questions, it is now the audience's floor. please stand up. >> i appreciate your comments, that he was not standing victorious and chanting, we are
6:13 pm
about to win this. i also want you to comment on his residency. he spent many a day and night in the white house, but he also had his residence near the old socialist. and i believe the horse drawn carriages bringing up the caskets of fallen soldiers were buried under his watch in his backyard almost. i sense it was that perspective as well, as well as knowledge of shakespeare's writings that gave him this perspective as well. i wonder if you would comment. >> i think that is a wonderful point about this paradox of our greatest president being so steeped in tragedy. if you have been to the soldiers home, it is a wonderful place. it is perhaps the best place there is to get an unmediated sense of lincoln. it's been restored is essentially to the way it was in the summer white house for him. it is the same point, thank
6:14 pm
you. it is on the grounds of a cemetery. a military cemetery and a military hospital. if you get a feel for it how it was back then, when he was walking in the front yard, there might be 50 yards away, a burial being conducted. there would be amputated veterans, walking about. that was his summer home. that's where he went for rest. he was comfortable being reminded, of the tragic circumstances that he was dealing with. i was surprised at how much lincoln was a shakespeare guy. if you go back to those stories we have lincoln as a young man, reading books everywhere in the
6:15 pm
barn and under a tree, they actually traced some of the books that he got. they basically came from his stepmother. when she married his father. she brought with her a bundle of books. one of them was i forget the name of the author it was called lessons on eloquence. after giving some of the lessons it was a long collection of speeches. many of them where the great shakespeare speeches. henry of ash and poor, mark anthony at caesar's funeral. those when lincoln was under that tree reading a book he was often reading shakespeare. when he was president, he actually got in a bit of a controversy because he went to see a famous actor playing the part of falstaff in henry iv,
6:16 pm
probably at the 40 feet are. and afterwards, an actor named hackett, afterwards shakespeare wrote him a letter, complimenting him on his performance and suggesting a couple of ways that linking might change things if he were to do it. and hackett, of course he thought it was cool. you got a letter from the president of the united states. he showed it to his friends and it got published somewhere -- abraham lincoln complimenting my performance. lincoln actually became a controversy because some in the press criticized him for being so -- what they considered frivolous, during a time of war. francis carpenter painted lincoln's portrait in the white house, and he wrote a book about that. and he talked about how at one point, he was painting lincoln and was sitting there, and
6:17 pm
lincoln asked if he could rise. he rose and he delivered the opening soliloquy from richard the third, now is the winter of our discontent. from memory. carpenter said he did it as well as any professional actor. lincoln and shakespeare is fascinating. and the soldiers home is one of the best places to get a sense for that. thank you. questions? yes. >> in court delia, you mentioned as a positive figure are there any other women rolls in shakespeare's place that might inform political leaders? >> that is a great and troubling question. as shakespeare writes mostly about men. and which is interesting
6:18 pm
because queen elizabeth was the principal ruler at the time. some there as queen margaret in henry the sixth is a strong strong figure. cleopatra, in anthony and cleopatra is fascinating. she is the better politician than mark anthony by far. and of course the comedies are different. the comedies are as frequently starting women as men. in the histories, it is mostly male figures because of the times, it's something we have to try to overcome as we read it. john of arc, is a figure in
6:19 pm
henry the sixth. in a few parts of henry the sixth. you have any iv bowling work takes the throne, he lives until he dies of natural causes. henry the fifth, his son succeeds him and is very effective king but dies very young. his young son henry the sixth, succeeds. and is a disaster. he is a, -- it's interesting it's how shakespeare presents him. he presents him as a very good man. one of the three parts of henry the sixth is sometimes subtitled or titled, the history of good king henry the sixth. at one point, when margaret
6:20 pm
says you should be pope rather than king. because as good as he is, he can't make difficult decisions. and things fall apart. there's a rebellion in england, and the french take back a lot of the land that henry the fifth one. in this with the french, joan of arc is a very important and attractive character as she leads the french in taking back land in france that henry the fifth had taken. check? >> i apologize i came in light you might have address this, if you haven't i'm sure the audience would be interested. knowing how someone would find out, how often shakespeare would get eluded to or quoted in the congressional register or any other notes of debates.
6:21 pm
how do you go about -- it can be just a straight-up word search. there are thousands of lines of shakespeare. how would you go about that? >> well sometimes you come across them in history. the webster main debate, i just read because it's an important part of the precip will war era. it really is the first time that senators from the north and south confront each other. on the senate floor, about an essence slavery. i happen to read that at the same time that i was studying mcbath. and i came to it that way. some of it also came from senator bird. i love senate processing procedure. he was a great defender of the
6:22 pm
institution and its process sees. i read a lot about him. i came across a reference in one of the eulogies to him. quoting from each of the 36 plays during the debate in 1994. i have read a lot of those. there are never throwaway quotes. it's not like a rose by any other rose or the slings and arrows of our misfortune. he goes into it. he explains how the play reflects on what we are doing here today. i've come across them in different places. and in different aspects of history. i've had to look a little bit, and some text searches to. yes? >> do you have any examples for
6:23 pm
us of 21st century references? >> current politics. i want to stay away from anything too close to home. it was a lawn england direct shakespeare's time that you cannot write a play that featured a living politician. i think it's good advice for me to stay pretty close to that to. i'll give you some examples from american history. where some of the lessons contagious from american history. one of the examples that comes from richard the second is you have to understand the source of yours already. richard the second thanks because he is the legitimate king that is it. hey i'm diligent mimicking what can happen to me? he doesn't realize he also has to be an effective king. and that is the cause of his
6:24 pm
downfall. there are others like that i mentioned julia cesar, five lines before he is assassinated, he is talking about how he is the immortal caesar on the senate floor. king leader thinking he can keep his authority. all these leaders that think because they have the title, they have the power. we see that a lot. anytime congress changes hands you have a chairman or subcommittee chairman and they think i am chairman i could do it i want. they don't realize all they could do is call hearings and get a few extra spaces for their staff in the senate parking garage. everything else is hard work. you see that in many cases. in american history, i think you have seen it in the supreme
6:25 pm
court. and the supreme court thinking because it was the supreme court you could do anything they wanted without regard to the source of its power. and examples dred scott with justice teeny thought he could resolve the issue of slavery, just because he wanted to and thought it needed to be done. and, bush v. gore. at the supreme court decided that it could resolve issues that were not before the court. and announce that this was one time only. it was not a president. institutions getting too big for their bridges. others in the 20th century. pragmatism. knowing the best way to get. to my mind in my experience, the best example, bob packwood. packwood said i like the tax
6:26 pm
code the way that it is. what's his effort to write a bill, disintegrated in the senate finance committee or couple weeks. the whole world was watching you completely reversed course. throughout all the provisions he previously sponsored. and he went for a clean tax reform bill. he was pragmatic. he wanted to win. and that was the way to win. a couple of others. i think you often see how mention lyndon johnson. he is -- when you talk about the
6:27 pm
machiavellian shakespeare, richard the third, yeah go always coming up with treacherous ways to get ahead. that's early lyndon johnson. and robert kanner writes brilliantly about all of that. but there is also another johnson. in less than shakespeare teaches is that you must have empathy. prince hal, henry iv, the prince before becoming king, henry iv lived with the common people. that is an important part of his connection to the people. the night before the battle of agincourt now he is can you henry the fifth. he puts on a cloak and discusses himself and he walks among the troops as a common soldier, not as a king. shakespeare is teaching the
6:28 pm
importance of empathy. with coriolanus, one of my favorite plays, a great warrior who can't stoop to the ritual of democracy. he thinks they are beneath him, we see an example. to my mind he gives us that after montgomery bridge, when he, at a moment of national crisis, gave a speech which is one of the greatest in american history, about civil rights, and how we were all in this together, and how we were all there at the bridge. to me, it compares in a sense to king lear. king lear fell from power. he was foolish when he was powerful. as he fell from power, he grew in wisdom until he is there on the heath in a storm, and he's being pelted. he's in rags and he has nothing. at that point, he asks if only
6:29 pm
i had known more about the poor. if only i had known more about mercy, if only i had done more for those lesser than me. leader in his powerlessness, finally achieves was them. kelly i see that in lyndon johnson late in his career. i was president, he had fallen in power the same way but he sort of wood, he found leader like wisdom. i talked about the repudiation of falstaff. i sometimes when i think about that, i think about presidential candidate barack obama and in essence. the repudiate xin of german right, that he was prepared to take that next step.
6:30 pm
he had to step away from an old friend, and spiritual adviser. so, those are some. thinking of others know is thinking of suggestion. i hope you can come up with some as well. do i have time for another? >> one last question. >> lee? >> i want to go a different direction. shakespeare wrote these plays during elizabeth time certainly an unsettled time of england, was a lot of constraints on it. in your article you pointed out that essex was considering to run richard the second before he tried to overthrow elizabeth. what is your perception particularly and the histories of the political pressures that
6:31 pm
shakespeare was under when he was writing these plays, knowing that this was not a time of freedom of the press or playwrights, and things can happen to him that might not be good. >> such as losing his head. when earl of essex trying to start a rebellion against queen elizabeth or her advisers, one of the thing that essex did, was commission a performance of richard the second the night before the rebellion. because richard the second remembers shows them the posing illegitimate king. all of the members of the company that performed it were imprisoned except shakespeare. it was very careful. at the time, every play had to be reviewed first before can be performed in london by the
6:32 pm
master of the rebels, to make sure was politically correct. moreover, shakespeare performed his play, his company eventually was called the kings men, and it was sponsored by king james. they performed 20 or 30 times a year before the court. people were watching. so his political views had to be express shall we say, very carefully. he could get away with a few things like mcbath. mcbath is clearly about king james, it's about the trouble that comes from assassinating a legitimate ruler. catholics said just try to assassinate king james by blowing catholic conspirators by blowing up parliament. james was scottish, james perez
6:33 pm
the scottish play in which james decided that everyone looks good, and to not to assassinate taking. that was pretty easy to see to see who he's talking about but it was pretty safe. with the others, if you do it much more carefully. some of his contemporaries were jailed or killed because a place like kid, marlowe. and i'll conclude, that's one of the reasons why it's very hard to tell shakespeare's political ideology. he talks about political leadership, but you can't really tell about his political ideology. as far as i can figure it out, this is a deep disappointment to me. it may come as a helpful to my friend paul's timers. as far as i could tell shakespeare was no liberal, but
6:34 pm
more a conservative in favor of conserving the existing structure. he's what i call an edmund burke, george will kind of conservative. you can see that in some of the place. for example in some cases, where he is very afraid of the mob. like in korea lateness, and parts of julia cesar. and in places where there were speeches about the importance of maintaining the existing hierarchy. he was very careful. he was also in the midst of. it london was the political center. he was writing and performing before the crown. and many in his audience were going to the place to try to get some sense of how to
6:35 pm
appreciate current events. a lot of it is there, the ideology is difficult to understand, with the lessons about leadership are clear. thanks to all of you for coming >> [applause] >> bravo. >> thank you so much. don't forget to take your pink sheet, come back and join us. thank you all very much. >> look at what's coming up tonight, beginning at eight eastern, a couple programs from our american history tv israel america series. first all the way home, a 1957 film looking at change racial demographics in america neighbor hoods. that is the american, look this
6:36 pm
exams the style of mast goods in the 19 fifties including classic american cars. a 9 pm we'll show you this year's cable tv pioneers induction ceremony, showing 21 women who made influence to today's broadband industry. then crisis and love a town, -- during the 19 fifties. >> american history tv on c-span 3. exploring the people and events that tell the american story. every weekend. coming up this weekend, saturday at 10 pm eastern on real america. as health officials prepared to roll out a vaccine against the coronavirus, we take you back in time with five archival films now vaccines and the fight against disease. on sunday, at 6 pm eastern on american artifacts. tour new york city's lower east
6:37 pm
side museum with reconstructed wanted to show how immigrant families cope with poverty and crowded conditions in the 19th and 20th century. i also the author of the age -- of eisenhower. america and the world in the 19 fifties. then at 9 pm, a u.s. constitutional debate, hosted by the colonial williamsburg foundation. featuring a reenactment from founding fathers james madison and james mason on issues from the bill of rights to slavery. watch american history tv. this weekend on c-span 3. >> go inside a different college classroom and hear about topics ranging from the american revolution, civil rights, and u.s. presidents. to 9/11. >> thanks for your patience and for logging into class.
6:38 pm
>> with most college campuses closed during the impact of the coronavirus, watch.
6:39 pm
author michael gore a discusses his book the saddest words. william faulkner the civil war which examines the legacies of the civil war. the kansas city public library hosted this event and provided the video. >> welcome to our latest installment, before we get start i want to mention real quick if you have questions tonight, you could ask those in the chat boxer in the comments on the two page and will get through as many as we can. if you're interested in purchasing the book, i hope that you do, you could find the most major retailers would like to point people to bookshop .org, or you could find any book you're looking for and support independent booksellers across the country. again, that's bookshop


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on