Should we draw an analogy between Shakespeare’s tyrants—Richard III, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and King Lear—and Donald Trump? In Shakespeare and Trump, Jeffrey Wilson applies literary criticism to real life, examining plot, character, villainy, soliloquy, tragedy, myth, and metaphor to identify the formal features of the Trump phenomenon, and its hidden causes, structure, and meanings.
Wilson approaches his comparison prismatically. He first considers two high-concept (read: far-fetched) Shakespeare adaptations penned by Trump’s former chief political strategist Steve Bannon. He looks at University of Pennsylvania students protesting Trump by taking down a monument to Shakespeare. He reads Trump’s first 100 days in office against Netflix’s House of Cards. Wilson also addresses the summer 2017 Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar wherein an assassination of a Trump-ian leader caused corporations to withdraw sponsorship.
These stories reveal a surprising—and bizarre—relationship between the provincial English playwright and the billionaire President of the United States, ostensibly a medieval king living in a modern world. The comparison reveals a politics that blends villainy and comedy en route to tragedy.
“‘What means that trump?’ Jeffrey Wilson sounds the Shakespearean resonances of the presidency, from controversial productions to what he terms ‘politicitation.’ Animated by a frank, searching voice, Wilson’s book energetically chronicles our dramatic moment—and how it might end.”—Scott Newstok, author of How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education
“ As Wilson illustrates, the political drama that has unfolded since 2016 is tragedy, comedy, and history rolled into one—and the consequence, in part, of a failure in the humanities to instill the moral and civic lessons that bind us. Serving as a corrective, this book reveals how understanding our present moment through a Shakespearean lens offers the possibility of healing and redemption—not only for the bitter political divide among Americans but also for the American democratic experiment itself.”—Asha Rangappa, Senior Lecturer at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, Yale University
Table of Contents
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Bannon’s Shakespeare
2. Public Shakespeare: The Bard in the 2016 American Presidential Elections
3. Cultural Affirmative Action at Penn: Protesting Trump by Protesting Shakespeare
4. Villainy and Complicity in Drama, Television, and Politics: Shakespeare’s Richard III, House of Cards, and the Trump Administration
5. Twenty Questions about the Public Theater’s Trump-Themed Julius Caesar