The chancellor and the tyrants in the ivory tower
| Reading time: 3 minutes
Attentive paparazzi have caught Angela Merkel while reading. Her Reading: “The Tyrant” by Stephen Greenblatt – “Shakespeare's Power Customer for the 21st Century”. What does she learn from it?
GThe country, which does not need any heroes, was happy, wrote the self-confessed coward Bertolt Brecht. Happy too the country whose Chancellor on vacation a work of literary criticism reads.
First, because it is reassuring in times of anti-intellectual backlash, when a leader does not join the cheap bashing of the “ivory tower”, but reads a product of the ivory tower. And second, because the country, whose Chancellor indulges such a pleasure, as bad as can not go, as the complainers claim.
Angela Merkel reads on the terrace of her Tyrolean holiday home Stephen Greenblatt's book “The Tyrant”. An investigation into the figure of the tyrant in William Shakespeare, especially the villain Richard III. A literary villain, mind you, because there are historians who consider the English king of the 15th century a victim of deliberate slander. In order to make themselves and their rule appear in the most favorable light possible, the monarchs of the succeeding Tudor dynasty, with the help of their Brecht devout-cunning and cowardly court dramatist Shakespeare, would have portrayed the overthrown Richard as a monster. Fake news in the 16th century, spread through the social medium par excellence, the theater.
But it is not important whether Shakespeare was a reliable historian or not. He has reliably exposed the mechanisms of power in his historical drama, whether they are playing in an ancient Rome, where the tower clocks beat anachronistically, in a witch-scourged Scotland or in late-medieval England. That is why the Polish literary critic Jan Kott called him “our contemporary” in 1965 and discovered in him a critic of Communist rule; that's why Josef Stalin – Shakespeare's Richard III. in a frightening way resembles performances of the drama “Hamlet”. Because if the prince was: “Something is lazy in the state of Denmark,” the audience regularly clapped frenetically applause.
Now 75-year-old American Shakespeare expert Greenblatt has again discovered contemporary parallels in William Shakespeare. “Donald Trump's fingerprints are everywhere in this book because I wrote it at the moment and because that's the world I live in,” Greenblatt said Germany radio, Exactly. Everyone finds himself and his time in Shakespeare.
But Trump is not Richard III. He lacks the malice, the self-irony and the cruelty of the king. Nevertheless, it is because of this statement Greenblatt in the German media, the Chancellor studying on vacation Trump. As if she needed Shakespeare for that.
If the Chancellor, in the face of the emerging illiberal turnaround in Greenblatt and Shakespeare, wants to look up how tyrants come to power to prevent it, they should go back from the four – part political series “Henry VI” plus “Richard III” precursor and Model of “House of Cards” – to the drama “Richard II.”, With which the disaster begins. Corruption, greed and nepotism – a ruling clique that goes beyond the law and considers the land as a mere exploitation object: This begins the erosion of state authority, which eventually led to the civil war and the dictatorship of the monster Richard III. empties.
The shock of the Great Depression is still deep; Many citizens still distrust a liberalism that had degenerated before 2007 into a pure apology of profiteering and declared the state the root of all evil. In Shakespeare's day, Henry VIII and his daughter, the great Elizabeth, reinvented the shattered state, disempowering the nobility and the church, and making the citizens feel part of the great story of England's departure. This is not necessary today, otherwise the path leads over clowns like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to real tyrants like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. And then the country would actually need heroes.
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