Delta Airlines and Bank of America withdrew funding on Sunday from New York City's Public Theatre in response to criticism of its current production of Julius Caesar. In the staging, Gregg Henry plays the Roman ruler as a Donald Trump-like figure (complete with ridiculously long red ties). Needless to say, he gets assassinated.
The airline's decision is troubling, as well as baffling to anyone who knows the play: Shakespeare portrays the killing of Caesar as a disastrous act that only leads to greater tragedy. If there is an obvious political message here, the production is telling its (presumably) Trump-loathing audience, "You might want to get rid of him, but be careful what you wish for."
Meanwhile, a somewhat strange ritual that occurred in the White House Monday morning suggests Caesar is not the closest Shakespearean monarch to our current president. As the Washington Post's Ron Charles noted a few weeks back, that would be King Lear.
The regular cabinet meeting began with the embattled chief executive singing his own praises, followed by a similar declaration from each secretary. To a Shakespeare fan, the event instantly brought to mind the opening scene of Lear, in which the retiring monarch divides up his kingdom between his daughters, but insists they flatter him first.
One of them, Cordelia, refuses to participate, and gets cut out of the will, as it were. The CNN account suggests that role was played Monday morning by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who "used his speaking slot to praise U.S. troops."
Be careful there, James. Remember Lear's admonishment to his silent daughter: "Nothing will come of nothing." In this context, that sounds suspiciously like a threatening Twitter message.
But Trump had better be careful, too. Lear's need for intense ego gratification made him ease to manipulate and marginalize. The president could benefit from the advice of a brutally honest Fool.