Shakespeare|and the Morons

     I got a blistering letter from an author in response to a recent column in which I wrote, with the delicacy and verve that so distinguish my effusions, that the 17th Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere, could not actually be the author of the plays and poems of Shakespeare because, on the evidence provided, Edward de Vere could not write his way out of a paper bag.
     In response to the response, all I can say is that the author – whose book I enjoyed immensely – surely would never have written such things about me if he knew how much I enjoy them.
     My concern today, however, is not, “Who was Shakespeare, really?” It is an instructive parallel, or rather the opposite of a parallel, between Shakespeare and today’s U.S. popular, for want of a better word, culture.
     Consider Shakespeare: surely the greatest dramatist in the history of the world. Yet we know so tantalizingly little about him that people can devote their professional lives to trying to prove that he did not exist. Through the centuries, scholars and cranks have seemed unable to accept that apart from his tremendous literary talents, Shakespeare appears to have been – pardon me for saying this – sort of a normal guy.
     He did his work, which was writing and acting in popular plays, and he saved his pennies and pounds and invested them, so as to provide for his children and grandchildren. He did not appear to be concerned about becoming famous.
     He became famous after his death because he did his work so well.
     Now consider U.S. popular culture today. This consists in great part of people frantically seeking to become famous – demanding it, insisting upon it. It consists of people acting like morons in the hope that by doing so they will become famous.
     I offer you the two morons who claimed their son had flown away in a balloon, though they knew he had done no such thing.
     I offer you all the people who volunteer to appear on, and all the people who watch what has become known as “reality” TV.
     I really do offer you these people. Please take them away.
     The very name “reality TV” is moronic. Professional entertainment producers interview people and make them audition for a moronic show; they set up some phony, moronic situation; they film the morons in that phony situation; other morons watch it on TV, interrupted by commercials for chemicals that scour your toilet or give you a hard-on; and they call this reality.
     I understand that “reality” TV shows are cheaper to crank out than shows with real actors performing scripts written by people who, presumably, have a modicum of talent, and therefore would demand to be paid for it. But I do not understand the attraction of watching people act like morons. If I want to do that I can read the political news.
     That’s reality.
     Americans are not only acting like morons, and watching morons on TV, and admiring morons, and wishing we could be bigger morons, we are, as a nation, acting like a bunch of bitter drunks. The sort of man who sits on a barstool whining about what he shoulda had, and complaining about the people – foreigners, likely – who got the breaks he shoulda got.
     This has become what passes for our national conversation.
     Morons can’t hold an interesting conversation.
     Morons may not always get what they deserve, but morons do not want what they deserve – they just want. All the time. And when they don’t get it, immediately, they whine.
     Of all the memorable characters in Shakespeare, I do not recall any whiners. Perhaps there were fewer of them back then.

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