If Democrats really wanted to understand the president

One Gregg Opelka in the Wall Street Journal:

If Democrats really wanted to understand the President, they would read Shakespeare’s King Lear. All the ageing monarch wants is to be loved and appreciated by his three daughters. “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is / To have a thankless child,” he laments about his eldest, Goneril.

Trump is Lear, and the country is the king’s daughters. What wounded the king more than anything was filial ingratitude.

Er…no. That’s not Shakespeare’s play. “All the aging monarch wants” is everything – to quit being a king but to go right on getting all the perks and all the groveling, to get everyone to declare infinite love for him, to be surrounded with flatterers who never tell him the truth about himself, to have his dinner the instant he wants it, to throw his only honest and genuinely loving daughter to the wolves and his only honest and genuinely loving courtier right after her, to treat everyone else like slaves while he expects to be treated like a god. Trump is very like him in the pre-storm half of the play, but unlike Trump, Lear finally learns better.

Lear is most definitely not the deeply-wronged noble hero of the play: he’s the bad king and bad father and bad man who has to be stripped of everything before he can see himself clearly.

After a series of seemingly never-ending assaults on his dignity, Lear painfully observes out on the rainy heath: “I am a man / More sinn’d against than sinning.” It isn’t difficult to envision Trump saying the same.

Indeed it’s not, and he’d be just as wrong. Lear has sinned against others far more than even Goneril and Regan have sinned against him. Trump of course never ever admits he’s wrong about anything, even a simple fact.

Even adamant supporters of the President aren’t blind to his annoying character flaws — the endless self-aggrandisement, the bravado, the hyperbole, the unpresidential disregard for language. Trump’s brashness invites his mistreatment to some extent.

Shakespeare’s Lear was full of himself too. And like the king, Trump has been subjected to a daily barrage of indignities, distortions and outright falsehoods, which render him a folk hero to his followers.

The king is not “subjected to a daily barrage of indignities, distortions and outright falsehoods.” He has his retinue steadily reduced over the course of two short scenes, and his two older daughters speak dismissively to him. That’s all. It’s bad enough but it’s less than what he’s done. The more sinned against than sinning in this play are Cordelia and Kent, not Lear.

In the Trump-Lear story, Trump’s champions resemble the faithful Kent, who called the monarch “every inch a king”.

Er, no. It’s Lear who says that, with deep irony, when he’s wandering the heath after going mad.

Gregg Opelka might consider actually reading the play.

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