"All the world's a stage, and all men and women merely players: they have their entrances and their exits, and one man in his time plays many parts." — Shakespeare's "As You Like It"
Pundits will opine about angry working-class voters and pollsters will re-examine their flawed models. Left-wing writers will decry a racist and xenophobic Middle America and right-wing radio hosts will rejoice in the end of socialist President Obama and the defeat of crooked Hillary Clinton. Political science professors will discuss a United States of changing demographics and sociologists will dissect Americans' reactions to those changes.
A million opinions will be offered and countless verdicts will be rendered on the 2016 presidential election. I offer a different take on explaining the great political comedy — some would say tragedy, all would say history — of this epic election: read Shakespeare.
The plays of Shakespeare are full of mighty characters: Great kings, neurotic princes, scheming ladies, jealous rivals, star-crossed lovers. Flawed men and ambitious women play their parts in comedies, tragedies and histories full of political intrigue and warring factions. Pride, greed, ambition and lust meet honor, sincerity, hope and love. The human drama plays out with words and wit greater than any modern convention or cable debate.
Want a leader who thinks too much? Read Hamlet. Interested in a political couple with unbridled desire for power? Study Macbeth. Curious how jealousy can ruin a man? Ponder Othello. Want to watch political backstabbing and assassination? Enjoy Julius Caesar. Tired of meaningless rhetoric? Laugh and be inspired reading the speeches found in the three plays of King Henry. You will find more parallels and insights into modern politics than you can imagine.
This election offered a cornucopia of potential Shakespearean characters and plots. The Bard would have had a field day. I'm not sure what wit and wisdom "little Marco" or "lyin Ted" would depart, but I have a feeling Jeb Bush's character would offer an energetic soliloquy when King Donald was almost undone by a crude tape with cousin Billy Bush. Billy Bush was dynastic revenge in its finest on King Donald, an orange haired character as great and flawed as any Scottish king Shakespeare could create.
Beware the Ides of October, especially with minor fools. Part of the great genius of Shakespeare is the role that small characters play in the lives and plots of the main characters.
Take, for example, the unbelievable typecast Anthony Weiner. Who could imagine that the disgraced sexual clown former husband of Clinton's closest aide, Huma Abedin, would come back in such a pivotal role with 11 days before the election?
Throughout Shakespeare, as in real politics, we find the fool. The fool entertains but he also teaches. The fool makes us laugh, but he can also provide insight into the character of the main actors, and be far more important than we originally imagined. Could Shakespeare have created two better fools than Billy Bush and Anthony Weiner?
I will be honest about my own political views. I'm a Minnesota populist who liked Gov. Jesse Ventura (another great role-player Shakespeare would have loved) and voted for Trump. I went to college and lived in the Washington, D.C., area during President Clinton's administration.
I always thought of Hillary Clinton as Lady Macbeth: Cold and calculating, the steely, scheming political wife who would lie and kill to get her way. Yet, seeing her give her excellent concession speech, I have to admit I had a different take. For the first time in two decades, I liked her. I saw a young Prince Hal, sincere and sensitive, holding unto the belief that politics and people could change the world. And there standing behind her? That old lovable rogue, William Jefferson Falstaff himself, looking like he'd spent a sleepless night down at the Boars Head Inn.
Sincere Hillary, who wants to change the world and with whom nobody wants to have a beer. Old Bubba, ever the mischievous cad who everyone likes to party with. Yet to become King Henry V, Prince Hal must part with the lovable old rogue Falstaff. In the final act of Henry IV, part 2, Prince Hal upsets the audience but ensures his maturity when he declares to the old rascal, "I know thee not old man."
Hillary never could say goodbye to Bill and all the scandal that came with him. Seeing him stand behind her during her concession speech, sad pain in his eyes, was utterly Shakespearean. All along I thought it was her pride, greed or ambition that might defeat her. It was her loyalty to Abedin and Bill that cost her most.
People wanted something different, they wanted real change. Hillary Clinton could never become queen because she could never escape her greatest fool, who was also her ultimate foil.
The human drama called politics reminds us that politicians are real people. Pride, greed, ambition, lust and loyalty influence the events of real men and real women. Elections are shaped as much by the economy and larger social forces as they are by human weakness and family drama.
Major events and wars shape election results as much as minor characters and unforeseen irony. As the country looks to explain this dramatic election, people will search on Google and watch videos on YouTube. People will seek explanations from talking heads on CNN before flipping to FOX News for another opinion.
I would suggest picking up a volume of the collected works of William Shakespeare. There is little we will witness that the Bard didn't examine many centuries ago. Who better to sum it all up than the moody Prince Hamlet himself, "Though this be madness, yet there is method in it."
Cain Pence (no known relation to Vice President-elect Pence) is a Minneapolis-based writer. He is a graduate of Georgetown University. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.