January 07, 2019

Coriolanus Calling


Good Kevin D. Williamson piece on the plebes and the elites and Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. The problem with reading is everything leads me to something else, endlessly.  Fortunately this led me to Shakespeare.

The conservative Twitterverse was roiled of late by Tucker Carlson’s recent populist/viral pronouncement, about how the elites like Romney don’t care about us - some say he made some good points, others were of the mind (like David French) that he was wrong.

Part of the Tucker thing comes down to the familiar tension between personal responsibility and a leader’s responsibility. It seems almost impossible to square and ultimately is a judgment call that involves the judging of others.

Humans are complex and situations likewise and it’s pretty unrealistic to think anyone can come to a determination (such as where a person’s free will really ends). I was hoping Shakespeare might’ve weighed in on it, and Kevin Williamson quotes the Bard's play approvingly (in fairness, related to a different issue, that of the Twitter mobs) but according to the Globe Guide to Shakespeare says it’s not that cut and dried:
The story is a fable however you look at it, but it points in different directions: in one reading, Coriolanus is a hero deserted by a fickle populace; in another, he is a villain whose arrogance threatens dictatorship. Shakespeare makes room for both those positions and more besides, drawing on the politics of his own day to press home urgent and thorny questions about how democracy should operate.
The play has been used in the past for both a denunciation of democracy and “mob rule” to the opposite. But of course that's what makes great art.

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