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If Shakespeare Lived Today


vcczar
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Shakespeare is well-known for his history plays -- Richard III, King Lear, Richard II, Henry V, and so and so on. 

If Shakespeare lived today and wanted to write plays about the US Presidents, who do you think would make the best subject of a play?

Here's who I think might make the list. Based on these criteria of Shakespeare plays -- 

1. The president must have both internal and external tension. 

2. There must be a formidable protagonist or threat

3. The presidency must have some ups and downs, most likely with some sort of all 

4. There should be one main plot and some subplots. 

5. Typically, there is some sort of ally, who may or may not betray them. 

6. Ideally, one comic character.

7. The central character will ideally have inwardness. That is, they change, like a person does, through experience. If they don't then they're a one-dimensional cartoon, and Shakespeare doesn't do that. 

Here are my candidate presidents:

  • John Adams 
  • James Madison (so long as it ends with the War of 1812)
  • JQ Adams (would have great inwardness, but wasn't enough of a fighter to really have a good ending as president)
  • Jackson (but only so long as it ends with him becoming president after having lost in 1824)
  • Van Buren
  • Tyler
  • Taylor
  • Pierce
  • Buchanan
  • Lincoln
  • A Johnson
  • T Roosevelt (post-presidency to end of 1912 election)
  • Wilson
  • Harding
  • Hoover
  • FDR (probably starts as he's reelected for the 4th time)
  • Truman
  • JFK
  • LBJ
  • Nixon
  • Carter
  • Bush I
  • Clinton
  • Bush II
  • Trump (lacks inwardness to have any effective monologues. It would be too comic)

I think of the above, the most Shakespearean possibilities would likely be -- Bush II, Nixon, LBJ, Wilson, Lincoln, Buchanan, J Adams, with the possibility of Taylor. I think Trump works only if the monologues are carried on by someone else, where Trump leads the events but isn't the central character, even though it's about Trump's presidency since Trump lacks the depth to be the top character. Shakespeare does this sometimes. For instance, Henry IV is dominated by both Prince Harry (future Henry V) and Falstaff because Henry IV is dull. Henry VI is never the central role in parts 1, 2, or 3 for the same reason. 

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2 hours ago, vcczar said:

Shakespeare is well-known for his history plays -- Richard III, King Lear, Richard II, Henry V, and so and so on. 

If Shakespeare lived today and wanted to write plays about the US Presidents, who do you think would make the best subject of a play?

Here's who I think might make the list. Based on these criteria of Shakespeare plays -- 

1. The president must have both internal and external tension. 

2. There must be a formidable protagonist or threat

3. The presidency must have some ups and downs, most likely with some sort of all 

4. There should be one main plot and some subplots. 

5. Typically, there is some sort of ally, who may or may not betray them. 

6. Ideally, one comic character.

7. The central character will ideally have inwardness. That is, they change, like a person does, through experience. If they don't then they're a one-dimensional cartoon, and Shakespeare doesn't do that. 

Here are my candidate presidents:

  • John Adams 
  • James Madison (so long as it ends with the War of 1812)
  • JQ Adams (would have great inwardness, but wasn't enough of a fighter to really have a good ending as president)
  • Jackson (but only so long as it ends with him becoming president after having lost in 1824)
  • Van Buren
  • Tyler
  • Taylor
  • Pierce
  • Buchanan
  • Lincoln
  • A Johnson
  • T Roosevelt (post-presidency to end of 1912 election)
  • Wilson
  • Harding
  • Hoover
  • FDR (probably starts as he's reelected for the 4th time)
  • Truman
  • JFK
  • LBJ
  • Nixon
  • Carter
  • Bush I
  • Clinton
  • Bush II
  • Trump (lacks inwardness to have any effective monologues. It would be too comic)

I think of the above, the most Shakespearean possibilities would likely be -- Bush II, Nixon, LBJ, Wilson, Lincoln, Buchanan, J Adams, with the possibility of Taylor. I think Trump works only if the monologues are carried on by someone else, where Trump leads the events but isn't the central character, even though it's about Trump's presidency since Trump lacks the depth to be the top character. Shakespeare does this sometimes. For instance, Henry IV is dominated by both Prince Harry (future Henry V) and Falstaff because Henry IV is dull. Henry VI is never the central role in parts 1, 2, or 3 for the same reason. 

1.George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk (covering the Mexican War like Henry VI part 1 covered the Hundred Years War and Henry V covered the victory at Agincourt), Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover (Tragedy, perhaps?), FDR, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump. I know his plays mainly spanned the Plantagenet era, so he might focus on certain Preidents from a particular period in US history?

2.Would William Howard Taft be a comic figure? Will Rogers? Huey Long and William Jennings Bryan would make interesting characters.

3.Off-topic, but Shakespeare is said to have had an hand in the play "Sir Thomas More," and since there were several of that genre, a few plays about prominent congressmen, governors, or mayors might exist.

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Adams is great theater, that's what made the mini series so compelling.

Buchanan would be so good, provided you could take a lot of liberties with his life. Really tragic death of his fiance then later losing his longtime roommate William Rufus King to Tuberculosis. Sad sad man.

Lincoln would be great, too. So many swings in his presidency alone. 

Finally, not a president, but Henry Clay would make for a great tragedy. 

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Just now, vcczar said:

Of non-president politicians -- Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton, Hillary Clinton, Douglas MacArthur, and Colonel House might be among the best Shakespeare play possibilities. 

I think Henry Clay and James Baker as well, and maybe Dick Cheney too

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Just now, ShortKing said:

I think Henry Clay and James Baker as well, and maybe Dick Cheney too

I don't know if James Baker really has the tension and perhaps tragic fall that a Shakespearean play would go for. Cheney might in the sense that his war became unpopular. Clay might in the sense that he lost so many presidential elections and also, perhaps, if you use creative license for him to predict the Compromise of 1850 would only accelerate the Civil War once it was too late to stop the bill from passing. 

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Just now, vcczar said:

I don't know if James Baker really has the tension and perhaps tragic fall that a Shakespearean play would go for. Cheney might in the sense that his war became unpopular. Clay might in the sense that he lost so many presidential elections and also, perhaps, if you use creative license for him to predict the Compromise of 1850 would only accelerate the Civil War once it was too late to stop the bill from passing. 

If you haven't read the Man Who Ran Washington by Peter Baker (no relation) and Susan Glasser, I would highly recommend it, they do a great job illustrating the internecine fights he often found himself in the middle of, and his internal conflict between seeing himself as a statesmen of import and dignity and knowing that his reputation was that of a political hack, even after his tenure as Secretary of State. I might end it with the 1992 election, when he steps down as SecState to help manage his best friend's reelection campaign, only for it to end in ignominious defeat. 

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7 minutes ago, Patine said:

There's no Romeo and Juliette scenarios one can really milk out of any U.S. President's life. And most of the premises of Shakespearean comedy (as opposed to modern comedy - especially political satire and lampooning) lacks true compatibility or application to such leaders' lives, too...

That’s why I mention only history plays in my first comment. 

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54 minutes ago, Patine said:

There's no Romeo and Juliette scenarios one can really milk out of any U.S. President's life. And most of the premises of Shakespearean comedy (as opposed to modern comedy - especially political satire and lampooning) lacks true compatibility or application to such leaders' lives, too...

I would direct you to the Warren G. Harding presidency as well as his documented affairs. One of which with a teenager and another with a German spy. 

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