Sunday, August 10, 2008
Henry V – the anti-Bush
by Larry Geller
I’m a great fan of Joan Conrow’s “musings”—her daily blog posts from Kauai over at KauaiEclectic. When she sets out with her dog Koko for their morning walk, it seems that she is genuinely one with nature. She knows about stars and constellations, and what the different flower scents are. She grows taro.
When I was a kid in New York City, we didn’t ever think of the moon because it wasn’t anything we saw. Stars? Impossible, given the air quality. But we had Shakespeare in the Park every summer.
Next stop Tokyo. More tall buildings, denser air. My morning commute was an education in hair tonic, train noises, and the sour aromas of what salarymen had eaten (and given back) the night before. Still, we had Shakespeare.
On Oahu, we have lots of Shakespeare. So yes, Shakespeare is a reason to live on Oahu for those who must have it.
Ok, enough. Henry V.
Fantastic play (I'm not reviewing it here). The theater was within walking distance, tickets were affordable, and we followed with a relaxed dinner in Chinatown. That’s hard to beat. The theater-in-the round was just like Roundabout Theater in New York (before it became large and successful) and like Jean-Jean in Tokyo. It’s like never leaving home. We still have our Shakespeare (and even Kabuki or Noh every so often). We sat next to Professor Terence Knapp and had a chance to speak with him a couple of times.
In the play, Henry V invades France and prevails at the battle of Agincourt though outnumbered five to one. Unlike George Bush, he leads his men into battle. He even mingles incognito among them to learn what's on their minds, and then uses his fine oratory skills to inspire them to victory.
I suppose going to war and conquering other countries is a guy thing, but setting that aside for a moment, the contrast between Henry and George was stark. I also know that England's objective was to conquer and assimilate France. What George Bush is doing in Iraq and has in mind for Iran is pure plunder. Plunder their oil. He has no intention of making Iraq into part of the USA or anything like that.
Henry V’s statements show his remarkable ability to look beyond the ingrained and commonplace value judgments of his society, entertain an independent perspective, and place himself imaginatively in the shoes of his subjects. Henry also shows how little pleasure he takes in his own power. He is motivated by a sense of responsibility to his subjects, a responsibility that he takes very seriously and that requires him to place his own personal feelings a distant second. He is unable even to express his sorrow at his condition to anyone else; only when he is alone can he relax enough to allow himself to feel his own regret. [sparknotes]
Without condoning violence and mass murder, still, as a guy, I feel I can detect and admire the difference between a true leader and an asshole-in-chief.
May peace prevail on earth, but leave us our Shakespeare also, please.
Thanks for your kind words about my blog, Larry. Long live Shakespeare! Give us peace and true leaders! And gown with the asshole in chief!
For an account of political punditry's analogies between Bush and Henry V, see the following piece:
anonymous, Thank You for that link!
It's so juicy even today, though it's several years old. Since many people don't read comments, I'll mention your link in a regular post.