I discovered Shakespeare relatively early in life. My oldest sister had a miniature leather-bound set of Shakespeare’s plays, and I found those tiny, cunning little books completely irresistible. Eventually I got around to reading the words inside those little books, and once I got the hang of the style and learned to decipher the meaning of the odd new words and phrases I found, I was hooked.
Most girls seem to latch on to Romeo and Juliet right off the bat, but my favorite was always Much Ado About Nothing. I loved the stinging repartee between Benedick and Beatrice, but the story of Claudio and Hero always frustrated me.
To my way of thinking, Claudio was a complete blunderer, hopelessly naive and with more than a little contempt simmering beneath his sweet, simpering surface. Why in the world would he — would anyone — take the word of Don John, an acknowledged stinker that could be thrown farther than he could be trusted? It still leaves me a bit befuddled but hey, I know a plot point when I see one, and I can ignore a gaping plot hole when the rest of the story is so delicious. When the story becomes reality, however, I’m not quite as forgiving. I tend to feel the same type of frustration whenever I see people who should know better take a ridiculous fake scandal, manufactured completely from whole cloth (and threadbare cloth at that), and run with it. It’s clear these folks have not studied their Shakespeare.
American politics is full of Don Johns, malcontents who love nothing more than stirring the pot, making up stories and causing trouble for their target of the moment, be it Bill Clinton back in the 90s, John Kerry in ’04, or Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in ’08 and today. As it is, so it ever was. What is so frustrating is that there are so many Claudios around, ready to jump at any scandal put in front of them, regardless of how tenuous it may be and regardless of the character of the person presenting it to them. The main thing that drove me crazy about Claudio is the same thing that makes me yell at my television today when these invented scandals pop up: Claudio knew what Don John was, and had almost fallen for one of his tricks earlier in the play and would have been completely taken in had not Don Pedro straightened out the situation right away. And yet what does Claudio do just two scenes later? He falls for Don John’s tricks again, and this time takes his comrades down with him. This is a man who practically begs to be played with, and Don John is only too happy to oblige. It seems there are many in American politics and the press who fall into this sad category.
Of course there are also plenty of henchmen ready to carry the water for their masters — every major network and news channel has at least one in their organization. But when these schemers, these Don Johns and Borachios and Conrades are exposed, it seems to make little difference. They just move on to the next inflated injustice, be it Benghazi or the IRS or Umbrellagate.
Ultimately though it’s the public who end up playing the part of Hero in this pathetic farce. Hero, the wronged maiden who, despite being publicly shamed and scorned by the man who claimed to love her, never questions his eagerness to believe a lie and takes him back, willingly and unquestioningly. It’s the American people, forsaken by those entrusted to represent them and those whose duty it is to tell them the truth, that suffer the consequences of these ridiculous manufactured “scandals”. Sadly in this version, all the other characters seem to have forgotten about poor Hero. We get no epitaphs no apologies. There is indeed, much ado. The ‘nothing’ however, isn’t quite as nothing anymore, and certainly not when it’s happening to you.