Friday, October 17, 2003

A Tale Told By An Idiot

While I've never been too keen on expanding what appears to me an already bloated military budget, here's one expenditure I can wholeheartedly endorse – bringing Shakespeare to military bases. The British newspaper, The Guardian reported that the National Endowment for the Arts is going to bring two traveling productions bases in Alabama and Alaska.

Shakespeare performed is generally well received, as opposed to reading it in the classroom. The more cynical among you would say that is because it allowed you out of class (or in the case of soldiers, duty) for a couple of hours, but they are considerably more accessible when you see them on stage. And most of them are quite good. Even Hollywood acknowledges good plots when they see them. Over two hundred movies have been made based on Shakespeare's works.

The choice of plays is interesting as well; Othello and Macbeth, since both plays have strong military themes and their protagonists are soldiers. Felicia Knight, a spokesperson for the NEA says the choice of plays is purely coincidental (not ironic, I might add.)

Still, as admirable as this endeavor is, it might have unforeseen consequences for Bush, Rumsfeld, and company. After all, encouraging reflection on the part of soldiers in time of war is always a dicey business. There is a scene in act V where Macbeth is standing on the castle walls, under siege by Macduff. A cry is heard from within the castle, and he learns that Lady Macbeth has killed herself. Now resigned to the barren futility of life, he gives one of the most famous of Shakespearean speeches:

"To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow; a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing."

This talk of "The way to dusty death" cannot help but bring up uncomfortable images of a particularly dusty corner of the world. And as for "it is a tale told by an idiot," I wonder how anxious Bush or Rumsfeld is to field that question?


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