TBT: Life, Liberty, and Trivial Pursuit

"Now is the winter of our discontent."

Richard III's opening line.

His closing line was something like . . . "My kingdom for a horse."

Shakespeare knew how to bring a man down.

I read today that Richard III was the first Shakespeare play performed in pre-revolutionary America, giving today's date March 5th, but in the year 1750.

I find that slightly hard to believe. It's possible it was the first 'documented' performance, but I seriously doubt the New Worlders went without Romeo or Juliet for 150 years.

Kind of funny, though, to think that the audience that night, turned in a democratic revolution 26 years later. If you're not familiar with Richard the III, don't panic, it's basically about a guy who usurps the throne by villainous means, kills a few princes, tries to marry for more power, gets knocked off his horse and then stabbed to death.

It's basically the entire plot of Star Wars viewed from the Emperor's perspective. Except the Emperor never bothers to marry, and Darth Vader is the horse in question.

Richard is often portrayed as being deformed, but when his bones were found last year under a parking lot on England, it turns out he just had a bit of scoliosis. Another interesting tidbit is that Richard III's portrait is often used for the cover of Machiavelli's "The Prince", but we'll get to that in a bit.

March 5th, 1770, exactly twenty years after the the curtain went up on the hunchback king, the Boston Massacre occurred.

British soldiers shot down five American rioters and were subsequently found Not Guilty of murder because they had a really good lawyer.

His name was John Adams.

Yes . . . that John Adams.

He probably wasn't old enough to have seen that first showing of Richard III, but I'm sure he was familiar with it, as I'm sure he was familiar with Machiavelli's "The Prince", which is basically the bible for tyrants.

Richard III has been denoted as being a Machiavellian play. And "The Prince" has been sitting on my piano begging me to read it for about three weeks now.

The book, is actually Volume 23 of The Great Books of the Western World, and it contains not only "The Prince" but also "Leviathan" which is it's exact opposite.

The bible for tyranny right next to the bible for democracy.

"Leviathan" was written by a fella named Thomas Hobbes.

Which is the only reason the book caught my eye. I wanted to read the book by the guy who inspired my favorite comic strip character.

Mr Hobbes wasn't just the mold for a stuffed tiger with sensible things to say . . . he also wrote the words "Life, Liberty, and Property" which was echoed in our own "Declaration of Independence" as

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Thomas Jefferson chose to skip over the whole sticky subject of 'property' because . . . you know . . . slaves.

For the record though, I was not able to get through more than a few paragraphs of Leviathan because the language was way too dense and I've certainly never seen so many semi-colons in my life. But the broad strokes of his pen are all over our constitution and subsequent laws, so I can honestly say that the work is one of greatness without having read it.


I haven't read The Prince either.

Nor have I read Richard III (though I did study a monologue or two)

I also haven't read John Adams's biography and I even shamefully couldn't get through the HBO mini-series that was based on it. I know it's serious stuff, but is it really so hard to write a joke once in a while?

I have seen Star Wars though.

Many many many many times.

And I plan to see it again.

And I have read all of Calvin and Hobbes,

so I'm closing in.

exit stage left.

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