Wednesday, December 2, 2015


To revisit the lectures of Auden
on the plays of Shakespeare is e-
nough to make anyone wonder, if
we devote enough time to the lit-
erary opportunities of everyday 
life. A thank-you clavicle, a 
billet-doux groin, and the corpus
of our output seems reduced to a
redundant cycle of hi, it's me
But apart from everything else
there is to recommend it, a gift
for explaining things can be
thrilling, for making us aware
of our reach.

The most percipient analysis
I've read of the present tussle
among the Republicans, for the
nomination for the Presidency,
lies in the lecture Auden gave
at The New School, April, 1947,
on Coriolanus (1604). I've ad-
being among those power plays
that almost make one aggrieved
to be so indebted. Like any par-
tisan, then, I like sharing my
time with someone who's of the
same opinion, and Auden is al-
most as irritatingly good as a
companion as Shakespeare is as 
an irritant.

He helps me understand the dif-
ference between Donald Trump
and his rivals, timid as they
are to be seen as his detract-
ors. And I regard this differ-
ence as not covering them with
glory, which is to say, with
much chance of stopping him.

We read this difference less
in their features than in the
responses of the crowd; and it
is particularly telling of the
rivals of Mr Trump, that they
have shaped themselves in the
image of the crowd to whom he
appeals. They "demand the priv-
ilege of rule before they have 
learned to rule themselves," 
and of course the first and
the most exposed of these
chameleons has been the one
draped in the loudest protes-
tations of being his own man.
ly to be first; he calls for
religious discrimination in
that war and in its disposal
of the displaced, merely to
be first, and as Shakespeare
says, has "licked the sweet
which is their poison."

Eerily, his detractors have
not noticed a blinding dis-
tinction between Mr Trump,
and all their imitations of
his followers. He wants to 
build things. He proffers a
vision one can visualise. He
palpably rewards their reach,
giving focus to its energy.

"They loot," Auden writes,
"act constantly out of fear
and greed .."  Above every-
thing else, "they're associ-
ated by appetite and passion,
not, mind you, by desire."
Yet nothing is more glaring,
than that Trump is disdain-
ful of fear and greed, and
is singularly the voice of
desire. It gives his vulgar-
ity an authentically lustful
ring. They revel in the af-
firmation of his insults. Of
all the pack, he is the one
who will feed their hunger, 
even to humiliate, and makes 
a palace of their need. 

It isn't necessary to ques-
tion his methods - fortress-
es here, forces there, vic-
tories everywhere - to be
quite drenched as it is, 
in the overspray of their
spittle. He has found a way
to tranform the impulse to
destroy by making it grandi-
ose. Everyone else in his
train is a piker. He will
build towers to gladden the
most hideous of fantasies.
And all his rivals do, is 
complain of the climb.

Donald Trump has discerned
the difference between au-
thority and desire, and he
is winning because there is
no such thing as being wrong
in a fantasy, no validation
stronger than denunciation.

He's a cynic, to be sure; 
but he is no con man, nor 
even a negligent ideologue. 
He's a hustler, and he's hot.

W.H. Auden
Lectures on Shakespeare
Princeton University Press, 2000©

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