Bard Blog: Candidate Insults

As few of us would, William Shakespeare would relish today's political slugfest. It reveals raw human emotions and reactions, which fascinated the Bard. What's normally sublimated -- at least masked, for the sake of good manners, hangs out for all to see.

The Bard would love political debates, as being conducted across America nowadays, as he anticipated the verbal contest in Richard II: "Then call them to our presence - face-to-face and frowning brow to brow, ourselves will hear the accuser and the accused freely speak."

These "frowning brow[s]" turn nastier, after the debates, in the candidates' ads. And especially in the non-candidates' ads, those from interest groups non-partisan in legal status but vicious in tone.

Yet as nasty as our politic now appears -- "nastiest ever," I've heard but don't believe for a minute -- they're nowhere near as nasty as what Shakespearean characters fling at one another.

Compare some of these to what's said this political season:
• "You starveling, you eel skin, you bull's pizzle!"
• "You stock-fish, you bow case!" "You vile standing tuck!"
• "Thou boiling hutch of beastliness, thou swollen parcel of dropsies!"
• "Thou stuffed cloak-bag of guts, thou vanity in years!"
• "Thou arch-villain and double dealer!"
• "Thou bottled spider, poisonous bunch-backed toad!"
• "Thou rascally sheep biter!" "Thou pigeon liver!"
• "Thou clay-brained guts." "Thou obscene, greasy tallow catch."

All this mud-throwing leaves many decent Americans to wonder, "Is there no manners left?"
We conclude that all this is "a fine volley of words, gentlemen [and ladies], and quickly shot off."

Those of us supporting more civility in politics -- while still wanting the clash of ideas -- say, in the wise words of King Lear, "But mend your speech a little, lest it mar your fortunes."