So often in a universe of official Washington’s backroom deals and slippery allegiances, there is fair foul, and fair foul. But the intraparty drama that unfolded here this week was almost without precedent in modern history: The speaker had not been elected for so many ballots since 1859, when the country spiraled toward civil war. To make sense of the absurdity, Washington’s chattering class — not to mention the thousands of Americans who turned to C-SPAN to follow the tragedy on the Hill — found themselves falling back on the timeless works of William Shakespeare.

“If I Were McCarthy,” Robin Young tweetedThe co-host of NPR’s “Here and Now” set in motion, “I’ll check my tea for hemlock,” a reference to the poisonous herb used to make the witch’s brew macbethThe sad downfall of Ruth Marcus added of Washington Post: “Macbeth must kill and keep on killing in order to moderate his ambition. McCarthy must admit and admit even more to his own undermining.

Like the Scottish hero, McCarthy’s preferred method of consolidating power was to keep the characters in his caucus happy. It did this by bowing to the pressures of its most defiant members, even when their demands were not in the best interests of the party – or the country.

Other Shakespearean parallels abound. Although Young and Marcus chose macbethit was hard not to think about it Julius CaesarShakespeare’s most famous betrayal of all time.

We watched as the same 20 legislators (later six and then just one) stabbed a staunch McCarthy on the floor of the House, consumed by the belief that a long, four-day vote to stop the 57-year The only possible way out was by having the old GOP leader become a tyrant.

We wondered if a reliable right-hand man like Steve Scalise would suddenly “At Two, Brute?” moment, announcing his own bid for the speakership. (Jim Jordan of Ohio sang McCarthy’s praises as he nominated him for speaker on the second ballot, only to become a contender for the gavel when Matt Gaetz nominated him in short order.)

Then There Was Comic Relief – Much Like Tension Breakers Julius Caesar — of the Democrats take out popcorn machine As the hours and days went by yawning. As he lobbed bags of popcorn through the halls of Congress, he reminded the audience of the puny cobbler from the play, the “fixer of bad soles.”

Trying to find a one-to-one comparison between real life and the page may be futile. No One Shakespeare’s play may best capture this week’s bedlam. There is a little Bard in all of this.

Shakespeare’s works may be most instructive because of his tragic heroes, characters with naked ambition who have fallen from grace in more ways than one, by the final act. Did McCarthy’s King Lear, who relied on the empty words of those who quickly turned their backs on him, ultimately lead to his untimely and lonely demise? Is he instead Hamlet, staring into the eyes of a skull at arm’s length, the ghost of Donald Trump seeking revenge? Or do we return to Macbeth, the ambitious and charismatic court insider who could not see the daggers in the smiles of men?

In the midst of all this theatrics, it’s easy to forget that offstage, there are real-life consequences for the House’s failure to elect a leader. On this depends the swearing in of all 435 members of the House (without whom the No House of Representatives), the exchange of intelligence between the White House and the Speaker (Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would become president in case of incapacitation) and steady flow of casework which hill staff manage for everyday components. Any bill passed by the local DC council cannot become law, “The rest of the world is watching” to see if we can “get our act together”, Biden told reporters, calling the saga “shameful”.

But if Shakespeare’s hard-to-understand iambic pentameter has endured for more than 400 years, it’s also because his words are imbued with one constant that has haunted humanity at every turn of history: power.

And it was power that McCarthy wanted and power that a tenth of the House GOP caucus wanted to take away from him. The 20 insurgents, who included some members of the Tea Party movement, had little discussion on policy issues with the newcomers, focusing instead on achieving procedural maneuvers. Among the reported concessions: Rabble-Rusher could trigger a no-confidence vote to dethrone McCarthy with only one Republican say-so; Debt-maxing growth has to be combined with austerity measures; And hard-conservatives would be guaranteed three seats on the powerful House Rules Committee. The agreement means McCarthy will begin his term drinking from a poisoned cup.

As Henry IV knew, uneasy is the head that wears a crown—or in this case, the hand that holds the gavel.

going in January 3rd, when the Congress was supposed For resuming the business of governance, long profiles of Kevin McCarthy in the national press described him variously as “outgoing and personality,outgoing“Another One” BroadcastSunny nature, Even before he decided to murder King Duncan, Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most infuriated heroes, was equally likable. These profiles also made the additional point that the 57-year-old former Young Gun will stop at nothing to fulfill his darkest and deepest desires. “Stars,” said Macbeth once when he was trembling with shame at his own zealous designs, “hide your fires.” At least the guy was self-aware.

Since McCarthy’s arrival in the House in 2007, his Republican colleagues have watched with a certain measure of surprise as the reshaping took place. He used to be the adult in the room — someone who was willing to bow out of the speaker’s race in 2015 when it became clear he had no way forward. He was once a shrewd salesman, remembering the names of his co-workers’ children. And he was a deal-maker who enjoyed a healthy flirtation with the other side, enough to earn him the admiration of some California Democrats.

Then came Trump, and McCarthy opted to travel a less bipartisan road en route to the speaker’s gavel, bowing instead to the more boisterous, reactionary elements within his party. Soon, Trump was calling him “My Kevin” and introducing him only The Best Starburst Candy Air Force One Had To Offer, After Trump voted to overturn the results of the 2020 election on January 6, 2021, McCarthy privately wanted her to resign, reportedly telling other Republican leaders, “I’ve had it with this man.” However, on January 28, he visited Mar-a-Lago to make amends. And he continued that dance last February, when he endorsed Liz Cheney’s primary opponent, Harriet Hegeman, in Wyoming, a show of loyalty to the former president.

On the morning of January 3, as the caucus sat in a closed-door meeting that preceded the first ballot, McCarthy became more and more convinced that he was the rightful heir to the speakership, thundering, “I earned this charitable job.” But as he led his foot soldiers into battle, like many of Shakespeare’s commanders, his once-loyal subjects broke ranks. The House Freedom Caucus rebels knew that unless they could run a House without rules may thrive in the chaos of the U.S., they may thwart McCarthy’s chances.

“I don’t care if we go to the plurality and elect Hakeem Jefferies,” Gaetz declared at the meeting, according to McCarthy. He then proceeded to the House floor, where another act was about to begin.

One wonders: isn’t it all a bit reductive, to compare some suits to literal soldiers waging war on an emperor from the comfort of their seats? some Seasoned theater critics certainly think so, urged Washington commentators to turn the page on the Shakespearean references and stop drawing metaphors. (In 2017, when Shakespeare in the Park featured Trump as Caesar the same week that Scalise was shot at a Virginia baseball field, conservative commentators and Donald Trump Jr. said the liberal arts had gone too far.) Was.)

But reader, lend me your ears. we turn to whole of Shakespeare’s works so that we may understand the themes that rhyme with one another, the obstacles that rulers stumble over, and the tides that ebb in the affairs of men. (And women.) Bardologists agree. Aaron Posner, professor of theater at American University, says the plays occupy such a treasured place in our collective imagination because they hold comprehensive lessons on power: “What you’ll do to get it, you’ll do what you do to hold it.” what to do, and [how] The only bad thing is to lose it.”

Elise Stefanik’s first nomination speech features a bit of Romeo’s cheesy balcony monologue. “Seasoned legislator, a seasoned leader, a friend to many of us, a proud conservative with a tireless work ethic, Kevin McCarthy has earned the Speakership of the People’s House,” she said, echoing his words.

is a little Julius Caesar Same in this saga, but not in the way you might expect, says Samantha Wire Bello, creative director of the DC-based Shakespeare Theater Company. As we talked, he broke down the script and read from a scene in which Caesar leaves the Senate and Casca and Brutus are each calculating whether or not it was safe to confer with the other.

Maybe it was Matt Gaetz, who was pulling his aide aside on the House floor, who said, “You pulled me by the cloak; Will you talk with me?”

It could be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, standing next to him impossibly, who replied, “Tell us what happened today, that Caesar looks so sad.” (Ocasio-Cortez later revealed that she was assuring Gaetz that Dem leaders were not plotting a side deal to appease McCarthy.)

or are we really talking othello, The thorn in Othello’s side, a dash of Iago, appears in the behavior of Laurent Boebert. “I rise to cast my vote for a member No Freedom Caucus, but for Kevin,” she taunted during a vote on Thursday. The two members on his left shot incredulously.

“…Kevin Hearn of Oklahoma,” she finished, as the House erupted in sound and fury and points of order.

After midnight, Friday became Saturday and the whole house looked like a stage. Its players find their place, as Getz does in the well, with a personal plea from McCarthy to, please, please stick to the script. at 12:37 p.m., after 15 intermissions and 1,482 minutes of acting and at least one moment of physical restraint prevent potential boutMcCarthy became the 55th Speaker of the House.

But if one outcome is certain in Shakespearean tragedies, it is that the tragic hero always meets his demise. Indeed, some insiders worry that McCarthy will be a “weak speaker” given up so much procedural power — and his political principles — for a title.

In Shakespeare’s theatre, Weir Bello suggests a possible comparison. Richard IIIwhere the king, finding himself surrounded by hordes of enemies on the battlefield, laments his impending doom.

“My Home, My Home, My Kingdom for the House!”

Nothing can undo the fact that, to so many of his detractors – and to so many losses – McCarthy may have indeed struck a death knell with that tainted cup, each gavel, on Friday evening. Can

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