Wednesday, 1 August 2018

when a kingdom stands on brittle glass


As Trump tries to shut down the Mueller investigation, my thoughts flittered briefly to Shakespeare.

Depending on how it's measured, Richard III, is broadly considered to be one of his top three villains. Shakespeare's Richard scores around 11 on something called the Dr Stone scale. It's a continuum describing psycho killers, from 1-lowest to 22-highest. His score could have been higher, but he usually enacted his power-mad bloody deeds through the actions of others.

Richard had deaths from warfare on his hands, but also an excess of murder and executions. First as the Duke of Gloucester before deviously grasping the throne, his deceits and cold-blooded elimination of those in his way gave Shakespeare plenty of material. Richard repeatedly schemes to capture the crown, and in the play we hear his inner thoughts expressed, often cruelly, in monologues.

Richard is portrayed as a supremely confident manipulator. Rick the Trick rather than Don the Con. A first example is his seduction of Lady Anne after being the instrument of her husband’s death. For Richard it is the first of many vile acts, including ordering the murders of his brother George, Duke of Clarence and his two young nephews who stand between him and the crown.

As well as his hunched back and withered arm, Richard had an unbalanced demeanour. He could act as a weasel when useful and unpredictably forceful when necessary. Shakespeare wrote him to reveal his chilling innermost thoughts directly to the audience.

Set in the late 1400s and written in 1590, there's ne'er a tweet in sight, although the type of actions and motivations still ring true today. My movie still above shows Ian McKellen as Richard III, but reimagined in a 1930s fascist Britain.

That's why I've used the Stone scale in a slightly different way. The Stone numbers around 10-12 are all about someone removing people who are 'in the way'.

10 is removal of witnesses, 11 is removal of family members, 12 is striking out when cornered, 13 invokes uncontrollable rage.

See where this is heading? But if we are to believe the Stone scale, we are still only half way along the continuum.

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