From the moment Rick Perry announced he was running for president I wanted to see his candidacy as a Shakespeare play. Or, if Hollywood has now become the arbitrator of literature, (after having done such a good job as an arbitrator of morals,) an Edward de Vere play. The problem I face is that I can't decide whether his campaign is a tragedy or a comedy. Like Romeo and Juliet, elements of each keep creeping into the other. One moment Perry is playing Mercutio to adoring crowds. The next he is being booed as Count Paris. His is truly a star-cross'd campaign
Certainly, Shakespeare wrote histories as well as comedies and tragedies. And some out there might think the campaign must be classified as a history, which is a polite euphemism for the politics of our fore bearers. We prefer "history" because we're as uncomfortable with the idea that George Washington practiced politics as we are with the idea he had sex. (I think it's the white wig. No one in a white wig would stoop to either.)
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. For Perry's campaign to be a history he would have to win the GOP nomination and then the national election. Shakespeare didn't write histories about might-have-beens. For that matter, he didn't write histories that ended well.
That's why, when I watch the GOP debates, I think Julius Caesar. Not only did Julius learn to beware the Ides of March, but he learned, however belatedly, that when a group of smiling politicians line up behind you, their main purpose may be to stab you in the back. Some might see this as politics as usual, a harmless game of stab the frontrunner. But eventually all these back stabbers will have to really get behind the nominee. Will they be able to sheath their knives at that point? (Et Tu, Mitt? Uh, Cain? Uh, Bachmann?)
Though Perry is far from the frontrunner right now. He may not know what to do in a national debate, but he knows the secret to winning elections in Texas: dress cowboy, shoot the occasional coyote while jogging (not dressed cowboy), keep the opposition guessing what you're going to do next, and dress cowboy. For some reason, that doesn't play well in New York City. But like many of the characters in Shakespeare, Perry seems to be a bit out of his element. (Think Nick Bottom.) Some might say in more ways than one. But I wouldn't stoop that low just for a punch line. (Et Tu, Noe?)
While Shakespeare's comedies end with marriage, his tragedies end in death, usually with a high body count. Not so in the current GOP televised debates, where no one is willing to lay down and play dead, no matter how much they are bloodied. The debates have only one thing in common with Shakespeare, and it's not the witty repartee. Despite the death toll in Hamlet or Macbeth, Shakespeare's plays actually contain more dialogue than action. Today, screen writers follow Elvis's advice in Viva Las Vegas: "A little less talk, a little more action please."
A little less talk, a little more action seems to be the goal of both the Tea Party and the 99%s currently starring in that off, off, off Broadway play, Occupy Wall Street. They're tired of the endless talk, and want action. At question will be whether Perry, or any of the GOP candidates, can become more than bit players. If all the world's a stage, it's hard to elbow your way into the spotlight in a primary debate.