I remember the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth back in 1964. I was 12 and wouldn’t have made the connection, but someone mentioned the anniversary of the Bard’s birthday on a TV program I was watching. I can’t swear to it, but I think the show might have been That Was the Week that Was, which was broadcast live on Friday nights and satirized the week’s news, a sort of prototypical cross between The Daily Show and Onion TV, only with lots of musical skits.
Unfortunately, the show has essentially been lost – only the pilot survives along with some amateur audio recordings, one of which you can listen to on YouTube if you’re a nostalgia junkie or history freak.
Interestingly enough, the episode on YouTube from 12 June 1964 mentions a stop-Goldwater movement within the Republican Party and features a skit lampooning unsophisticated Goldwater supporters.
I’d forgotten what cigarette ads sounded like – Raleighs came with coupons — and also forgotten about Twist-O-Flex watchbands that were so flexible you could tie them in a knot.
Ultimately, for me, though, in 2016 the skits fall flat. Topical humor has a short shelf life, especially if you’re blindly listening to a visual medium — unlike Master Will’s humor, which can still provoke laughs from high school sophomores who don’t need to see it performed to find it funny.
April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and so, obviously, the 52-year span of his life fits within mine. If he had been born in 1964, he would have arrived in an election year when Barry Goldwater, much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment, became the nominee, and if he had died in 2016, he would have survived just long enough to see Trump’s triumph in the New York primary, much to the chagrin of the Republican establishment.
In fact, at least according to the very dated AL Rowse book I just finished, Shakespeare was a very political writer himself, which a quick google search readily reinforces. In fact, the greatthinkers.org website offers UVA professor Paul Cantor’s series of 25 lectures on “Shakespeare and Politics.”
So the question arises – whom would Shakespeare have supported for President this cycle.
Will was, after all, a monarchist, a conservative in the old form of the word – one who valued tradition, order, and obedience, so no way he’s feeling the Bern or could suffer a buffoonish upstart like Trump. Cruz? That modern day Malvolio? Forget it. Hillary? I doubt it.
I say Jeb!