[SPOILER ALERT] There’s a UK General Election taking place tomorrow …
Setting aside my own lefty, ‘soft’ eco-warrior credentials, and using mostly contextual information or material from the plays (because, as Bill Bryson gently reminds us over the course of 200-odd pages, we know next to nothing about the man) I thought it would be fun to see how Shakespeare might have voted.
And, regardless of my – or your – political beliefs, for the love of God, please VOTE tomorrow, if you’re entitled to. Never mind the hackneyed cliché: ‘people died so you could‘ argument – you have absolutely no right to complain about what happens over the next 5 years if you didn’t even make the smallest effort to effect a change …
Anyway, I visited isidewith, and tried to answer the questions as someone who died 401 years ago … here’s a selection of the conundrums I was faced with, plus the (firmly tongue-in-cheek) result …
Section 1: Social Issues
I thought it relatively easy to answer questions on abortion, but suddenly was confronted with ideas around homosexuality and gender equality where we diverged. I mean – ‘Should businesses be required to have women on their board of directors?‘ If you haven’t seen the BBC’s ‘Upstart Crow‘, the character of Kate hilariously demonstrates how this might be a non-question, with her pathetic machinations to get on the stage, let alone become a shareholder.
Elsewhere in this section, I was asked about women wearing niqābs in public. We might be highly suspicious of foreigners (not much has changed for some people), but without veils, without women being disguised (and the associated ‘bed-tricks’ this enables) we’d have no fun in Much Ado or Measure For Measure. So I clicked YES!
Section 2: National Security
With all the foreign plots to assassinate Queen Bess after she was excommunicated, it was easy to answer – as Shakespeare – in the affirmative when asked about killing terrorists abroad. Oops! The ‘laptops on planes’ question clearly gave me pause for thought, until I saw the ‘N/A’ option …
Section 3: Environmental Issues
Fox Hunting? Yeah! Doh! — said the man who probably enjoyed a bear-baiting as much as anyone else …
Emissions? Fracking? Again, I had to forcibly vote in someone else’s shoes here – I think WS would certainly support fracking if it brought more oil. Any poisoning of the water table, or earthquakes could, after all, be attributed to witches …
GM crops? I decided against – mostly thinking of Coriolanus, and episodes in Shakespeare’s life when he may have personally profited from crop shortages …
Section 4: Economic Issues
Minimum wage? Absolutely! Then we can charge the groundlings 2d, not 1d!
Tax evasion, and taxes on the rich? Hmmmm. The richer Shakespeare got, as his career progressed, I couldn’t see him voting for this: turkeys, Christmas, etc.
Section 5: Domestic Policy
In a climate of censorship, and given the Treasons Act of 1571 – where public discussion of the succession was banned – I decided to disallow monitoring of phone calls / emails (‘whatever they are’, says Shakespeare).
On the other hand, it was a no-brainer to oppose the abolition of the monarchy. Given the dreadful concerns about what came next, and the fear of civil war evidenced in 3HVI especially, I rated this as a major concern. A LOT more concerning, in fact, than issues on drug use, given the recent introduction of tobacco … 🙂
Section 6: Healthcare
I mostly abstained on this section. I mean, it would be nice not to have to pay for leeches or urine-tests, I guess, but otherwise …
Section 7: Education
By this stage, I tried to avoid the growing voter-fatigue. I clicked in favour of free education, and a standard curriculum. It’s what he would have wanted, I think.
Section 8: Electoral Issues
My first reaction was to flippantly say “What’s an election?” Then I remembered the settlements of power in Macbeth and Hamlet, and general concerns about succession. I found an imperative to answer the question: ‘Should foreigners, currently residing in the United Kingdom, have the right to vote?’ What, Catholics? Nooooooooo!
Section 9: Criminal Issues
This felt easy. Shakespeare lived in a zero-tolerance society. And let’s not forget what happened to the rapists in Titus Andronicus. ‘Voting rights for prisoners?‘ Oh puuuuuuuuuur-lease.
Section 10: Foreign Policy
“Of course we should withdraw from the European Union”, said Will over my shoulder, practically frothing at the mouth. “I mean, they don’t even worship God properly! I’d like to order a double-helping of Brexit on toast, whatever that is. And if I get a tummy ache in the morning, I’ll blame it on the sack.” You poor, deluded playwright, I thought as I clicked ‘YES’.
Section 11: Transport
“Do you support the construction of a high speed railway (HS2) connecting London to Birmingham?” Are you kidding me? I come from Stratford-upon-Avon! What’s a railway, by the way? Some more hilarious commentary on Will’s trips home in the BBC Upstart Crow series, by the way …
Section 12: Immigration
I was tempted to answer ‘no’ to questions about the deportation of immigrants, on the basis that 400 years ago the crowd would bay for their blood instead. But banishment was a feature of several plays – think Margaret in 3HVI, and Richard II. I reluctantly passed over the opportunity to attend more public executions …
Section 13: Science
Whilst the nuclear energy question was one to abstain, I had to declare firmly in favour of vaccination against preventable diseases, for perhaps obvious reasons. Then at least the theatres might stand a chance of being open all summer.
I anxiously awaited the results …
Will. Oh, Will. Can we ever be friends again? You horrible bastard! I mean, BNP? Above even UKIP? Christ …
Does all this prove anything?
EDIT: although it did prompt an email within about 2 minutes from a close friend, entitled: ‘Your blog is really nerdy, man.’ I’ll take that as a compliment, James. 🙂
But it was an interesting and fun exercise – at least for me – into what has and hasn’t changed since Shakespeare died, and another spurious opportunity to get inside Shakespeare’s head.
It also begs the question – can you like the works of someone who has radically different views from you? I’ve seen lots of commentary against Kipling, for example, that dismisses his work on the grounds of his perceived ‘racism’. Personally, I believe people are products of their times, as well as their upbringings. I’m completely with Stephen King, despite my disappointment in Will:
‘It is the tale, not he who tells it.’