Arthurian Legend

"Once back here I got to thinking - 'how do I get out of this?' Perhaps the really haunting spectre is that I would have to turn my back on the lake, and the prospect of the sword." Alan Clark, Diaries - 19th May 1999

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

The Bard and Contemporary Political Figures (Act I, Scene I)

Shakespeare ’s capacity to depict and to lay bare the nature of mankind in his triumphs, weaknesses and failings is without peer in English dramatic poetry. He was a man for all men, and a man for all times.

On a number of occassions over recent months I have been struck by a number of lesser-known lines from a Shakespearean play or sonnet, and their potential to address figures or events on the political stage of my lifetime.
Many will remember the summer of 1995 when John Major challenged his enemies in the Conservative Parliamentary party to “back me or sack me”.

Shortly afterwards, Michael Portillo was discovered to be installing new telephone lines into the offices of his unofficial campaign HQ. Had he stood, Portillo may well have got the number of votes necessary to secure Major’s resignation, and the crown of the Conservative Party. In the eyes of many, it was there for the taking. But Portillo never went through with his challenge. He lost his nerve, the less popular Redwood stood and, although Redwood secured a creditable 89 votes, Major held on until the oblivion of 1st May 1997.

Some may know these lines of Menas, Pompey’s pirate comrade in Anthony and Cleopatra:

For this,
I'll never follow thy pall'd fortunes more.
Who seeks, and will not take when once 'tis offer'd,
Shall never find it more.


And indeed, although Portillo went for the leadership in 2001, the poisoned chalice was handed to Iain Duncan Smith, and Portillo announced his resignation from Parliament a couple of years later.

4 comments:

Newmania said...

Enjoyed that KA..I am a bit of a bard lover myself , despite my sun says style.I feel myself that to think of him as political in any modern sense is usually anachronistic.

I also see the Comedies as the heart of his writing but I daresay there are plenty of opinions on that.

Your post is revealing , I have age data to work with . Noone in the party ( last night ) had any clues.

Really terrific stuff thoug

Duncan Webster said...

Thats quite an interesting piece KA, and it is sad to see how M Portillo has gone off hte boil since failing to secure the leadership of the Conservative Party.

KA can you link into http://islingtonconservatives.blogspot.com/ and we will provide a link back? Likewise Newmania can you as well? Good to see you last night.

Anonymous said...

Or as Robert Burton put it around the same time :

"He that will not when he may,
When he will he shall have nay"

Rose said...

Good words.