Friday, January 30, 2009

What must the king do now?

And so Birnham Wood has quickly come to Springfield and the mighty Quinn smote off the tyrant's head. (Although in truth the Thane of Ravenswood had already fled the place so he could get one last free ride on the gubernatorial jet, or so I understand). Given the former guvnor's predilection for literature, one wonders what Shakespearean scenes he and his gang of advisors and publicists were replaying in those final hours. Richard II comes to mind. One of the less known but most poetic of Shakespeare's histories, it chronicles the deposition of the corrupt wastrel Richard II by Henry Bolingbroke, later Henry IV. Echoing Macblugo's shunning of his kingmaker Richard Mell, in the first scene, Richard II recklessly banishes Bolingbroke and in so doing alienates many nobles. Richard meanwhile conducts business with complete disregard for due process and pillages the public coffers to entertain himself and wage foolish wars in Ireland. Sound familiar? Henry returns and leads the rebellion to Flint Castle, wherein the now isolate Richard is holed up. Richard dominates the gripping deposition scene, risky stuff in those days for a play about a deposed monarch to be shown in front of a monarch, with a masterly, self-indulgent, self-pitying whine played out in gorgeous iambic pentameter.

Act IV, Scene 1:

".... I'll read enough,
When I do see the very book indeed
Where all my sins are writ, and that's myself.

Re-enter Attendant, with a glass

Give me the glass, and therein will I read.
No deeper wrinkles yet? hath sorrow struck
So many blows upon this face of mine,
And made no deeper wounds? O flattering glass,
Like to my followers in prosperity,
Thou dost beguile me! Was this face the face
That every day under his household roof
Did keep ten thousand men? was this the face
That, like the sun, did make beholders wink?
Was this the face that faced so many follies,
And was at last out-faced by Bolingbroke?
A brittle glory shineth in this face:
As brittle as the glory is the face;

Dashes the glass against the ground

For there it is, crack'd in a hundred shivers.
Mark, silent king, the moral of this sport,
How soon my sorrow hath destroy'd my face."

For Bolingbroke substitute Fitzgerald and there you have it. The last words perhaps are directed at his successor. Later, Henry IV pays for his part in fomenting insurrection against a reigning monarch by spending his reign wracked by paranoia and suspicion: "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown." (Henry IV Parts I and II).

In the end the Thane of Ravenswood lacked the fight of his bolder Shakespearean forerunners like Macbeth or Richard III, who went down fighting gamely with sword in hand. Instead he chose to play for the cameras in a simpering, self-indulgent show, played across venal, pointless shows typified by the View.

Now his name is being erased from the thin blue signs that the Illinois tax-payers had paid so richly for, part of which he had of course lined his pockets with (allegedly). How many times had I genuflected before them at the Boughton Road toll on I-355 (ironically not far from Bolingbrook). I mourn the missed opportunity of being one of the motorists able to join in the celebration of the removal of that most odious name. Better to have replaced it by his head upon a spike, but I suppose these are more civilized times.

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