Sunday, October 25, 2020

A Crisis of Accountability

“With great power comes great responsibility”


In 2002, when this was the tag line for a superhero movie, it was an obvious to everyone. Literal popcorn stuff. How times have changed. Over the past decade, in particular, the world has been suffering from an increasing accountability crisis, where instead of coming with great responsibility, power is increasingly used to avoid responsibility.


This is not a partisan thing- it happens from the most left wing countries to the most reactionary ones. Nor is it restricted to government. Many of the post-financial crisis business models, such as the gig economy and many debt repackaging schemes, involve taking profit while evading the associated risk.


I’m not entirely sure why this is happening now. In government, it may be related to the rise of strongmen in the wake of the Arab Spring failure and the alienation of Putin by the G7 in the earl-to-mid teens. Strongmen, almost by definition, use their power to repress criticism and avoid responsibility, and try to minimize their accountability. If they had actual accomplishments, then they wouldn’t have to use threats and lies to distract from their records.


The transformation of the internet into a disinformation superhighway probably plays a role as well, But disinformation is only a tool, not a payoff. However, it can distract from the rapid movement of ideas and capital, which allow grift to mutiply like never before.


But these aren’t the main problem. The main problem is the mindset that somehow, some one somewhere will clean up the mess left behind. Grifters assume that they can just move on to somewhere they can spend their ill gotten wealth. But even though we live on a big old planet, technology has shrunk it to the point where they can trash and loot all of it before they realize that there is nowhere left to go.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Henry VI, part one: The Joan of Arc cut

William Shakespeare’s history plays Henry V and Richard III are two of his, and English-speaking Theatre's, greatest plays. They are also among his best known works. Less famous, however, are the three Henry VI plays- these are basically the historical filler between the death of Henry V and the famous Winter of Discontent. 

The second two Henry VI plays are about the civil strife that hurled England into the War of the Roses; part one is about the loss of French territories, and is rarely performed except in conjunction with the other two parts. In fact, it may only partially be Shakespeare’s work; recent scholarship has suggested that it was co-written by Christopher Marlowe.

The play starts with the funeral of Henry V, and follows the feuding between various English factions as Joan of Arc cuts a swath through the English holdings in France. In fact, Joan is the most interesting character in the play. 

Shakespeare didn’t write a lot of great women roles. Women weren’t even allowed to perform during his career, so there probably wasn’t much demand. Still, his Joan is not too different to a modern heroine. As most Shakespeare plays these days are cut for length anyway, I tried to cut it in a way that highlighted Joan’s story, and not that of the hapless English.

In the full play, the one sympathetic Englishman of substance is Talbot. He’s a bit of a Mary Sue, and is actually quite dull, so most of the cuts relate to other people praising him. This makes him seem more vainglorious (he still praises himself), and heightens the tragedy of his son believing everything he says about his greatness.

The other cuts are extraneous sideplots and foreshadowing of the subsequent plays. This is Joan’s story, not the setup for the War of the Roses. When the Henry VI plays get combined, often those scenes are the only ones kept, so I can lose them. Aside from that, just a few of the more vitriolic jabs at Joan towards the end had to go to make her story consistent and compelling.

Of course, editing a Shakespeare play to highlight the French over their pathetic English adversaries might feel treacherous to the denizens of that island where, as Joan says, “May the glorious sun never reflex his beams.” So I decided to twist the knife by using as my reference the Folger Shakespeare Library version; an American edition of the text. 

So, in their entirety, the cuts to the Folger Shakespeare Library version of Henry VI, part 1, are as follows:

Act 1, scene 1: 

Cut lines 25-27

Cut lines 122-136 (Joan, not Talbot, is the focus of this edit)

Cut lines 141-142

Act 1 scene 2

Cut lines 13-24 

Cut lines 35-36

Act 2, scene 1:

Cut everything (including directions) after line 81

Act 2 scene 2:

Cut entire scene (Not Talbot’s play)

Act 2 scene 3

Cut entire scene (Not Talbot’s play)

Act 2 scene 5

Cut entire scene (setup for sequel plays)

Act 3 scene 3

Cut lines 58-59

Cut lines 78-80

Cut line 85

Act 3 scene 4

Cut entire scene

Act 4 scene 1

Cut everything (including directions) after line 78

Act 4 scene 2

Cut lines 31-34

Act 4 scene 7

Cut lines 40-44

Cut lines 48-51

Act 5 scene 3

Cut lines 10-11

Cut lines 14-22

Cut line 28

Cut “But Suffolk Stay” from line 192

Cut lines 193 to end of scene

Act 5 scene 4

Cut lines 7-8

Cut lines 10-16

Cut lines 18-19

Cut “Now cursed be the time” from line 26

Cut lines 27-34

Cut lines 38-39

Cut “Hath been” from line 50

Cut lines 51-53

Cut lines 61-85

Act 5 scene 5

Cut entire scene (this sets up the next play)