Without a doubt, the United States of America in 2020 is showing the world what a “republic” looks like when it degenerates into democracy, understood in Plato’s derogatory sense of the term. One of Western civilization’s most brilliant European white males, Shakespeare, has left us some memorable scenes about what “government of the people, by the people, for the people” looks like when things go wrong. It’s not a pretty picture.

In the second part of his historical trilogy Henry VI, Shakespeare anatomizes insubordination, placing before us every kind of rebellion and political vice: domestic betrayal, military wrangling, clerical maneuvering, dynastic ambition, aristocratic sedition, and plebeian insurrection. King Henry’s wheedling wife Margaret seconds her paramour Suffolk in his hankering for power; the Dukes of York and Somerset quarrel over who shall put down the uprising in Ireland; Cardinal Beaufort, Archbishop of Canterbury, tramples upon faith and honor as he vies for the Protector’s coveted authority; York privately seduces noblemen to uphold his fabricated right and plans the undermining of King Henry’s government by Jack Cade; Bedminster, Suffolk, and other peers of the realm tensely await the opportunity to gain from the misfortune of their fellows; unreasoning laborers and farmers, led by an angry bricklayer, slay the innocent, burn down houses and bridges, and acclaim Cade their king.

The chaos of passions described above succeeds in disrupting the state only when the ponderous mass of peasants is set in motion by its ambitious superiors. The regnant party and the traitors must create directed forces from the unformed raw energy of the people. The commoners are the instrument of the nobles, the toys of their dangerous play.

Praise the Lord

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