By GARETH SEBOUHIAN
Shakespeare had a habit of using fools or jesters in his plays to articulate a message, mood or social narrative. The fool became the wise man, the teacher, the philosopher - who could say things that the other subjects could not or would not.
As Mark Edmundson wrote in the New York Times in 2000, "Shakespeare's fools are subtle teachers, reality instructors one might say, who often come close to playing the part of Socrates, himself an inspired clown, played on the streets of Athens. They tickle, coax and cajole their supposed betters into truth, or something akin to it."
How is this relevant? Well, I happened to watch Clint Eastwood's performance at the Republican National Convention and couldn't help but think: is this the part of the fool? With that in mind, I evaluated his speech and come close to believing this actor and director knew full well what he was up to, and did a splendid job at it.
For, especially during Shakespeare's time, the fool was an esteemed actor. He had to be. He must use his wits to scorn or chastise those in power who could have off his head with a gesture. Think about this: he came before the king and told him to copulate with himself. What other person could do that at the king's own inauguration, but the fool? And get them all to applaud!
Eastwood took the stage, hair disheveled, his voice fluctuating in pauses and abrupt starts - like the aged grandparent at Thanksgiving who begins one story without finishing the first one. Now Mr. Eastwood has an impeccable eye for detail, as evidenced by his brilliant directing. In "Unforgiven," for example, he had his haircut using sheep shears for authenticity. And at the RNC, I think he did the metaphorical equivalent. He played the fool before an adoring crowd and held up a mirror and said, "Where are the thinkers here? I will play the doddering ventriloquist and you won't even know I'm insulting you." An example is the conversation between the King and his fool in Act 1, Scene 4 of King Lear.
FOOL: That lord that counsell'd thee/To give away thy land,/Come place him here by me,/Do thou for him stand./The sweet and bitter fool/Will presently appear:/The one in motley here,/The other found out there. LEAR: Dost thou call me a fool, boy? FOOL: All thy other titles thou hast given away, that thou wast born with.
Who but the fool could call fool a king and king a fool? Perhaps Clint Eastwood. Using an empty chair to simulate a non-present President Obama, Eastwood began to enact a ventriloquist bit without the dummy so he didn't have to be concerned if his lips moved or not. And if people are suspect at my premise that Eastwood said for Romney to go copulate with himself, that it was Obama who said that? Really. If I take a puppet to a dinner party and the puppet says to the host that his wife is a fat promiscuous pig, should the husband be upset with me or the puppet? That's how I saw Eastwood that night, playing the fool with a grin.
As he endorses Romney as a businessman he actually says, "quote unquote stellar businessman."
When someone uses quote unquote as a phrase to qualify, it usually portends sarcasm, i.e. means the opposite. Watch what happens when I do it. Hey, I heard you're a quote unquote Christian. See. Means you don't really live up to those tenants. I'm not implying Eastwood would vote for Obama. I think this was bigger than that. I think he says we are all silly and stupid - no matter what "party" to which we belong.
As he said, "Politicians are employees of ours. And, so, they're just going to come around and beg for votes every few years. It's the same old deal ... .We don't have to be mental masochists and vote for somebody that we don't really even want in office." Guess what? Remember the primaries? They tried everyone else but Romney first just to see if there was life out there, and unfortunately, there wasn't. Which is why Clint clinched it at the end using his most famous phrase. He asked the audience if they wanted to make his day. To which he said, "Go ahead ... ." And the audience shouted, "Make my day!"
Remember Clint was holding his gun on the enemy when he asked that .. and he got the entire audience to become the enemy. Who is the greater fool?
Gareth Sebouhian is a Dunkirk resident.