Jack Cade – a precursor fascist

LEDA CATUNDA, Mundo Macio, 2007, acrylic on canvas and voile, 187x290cm.
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By WALNICE NOGUEIRA GALVÃO*

Notes on the saga of British royalty, according to Shakespeare

Political leader who mesmerizes the masses and leads them to disaster - for others and for themselves, like Hitler, the Leader – it was called in antiquity demagogue, or "leader of the people". But the word lost its meaning and weakened.

We don't have a good synonym in Portuguese, but in English there is a perfect one: rabblerouser, i.e. "raiser of the rabble". And Shakespeare gives us one of them, and a remarkable one, in the play Henry VI.

The Bard, as is known, wrote a saga of British royalty, inquiring into the nature of power, the conduct of state affairs, the ties that are tied or untied between the monarch and the man who inhabits him; and so on.

Some are more renowned than others. Famous is the friendship between Hal, the heir presumptive, and his accomplice Falstaff, disowned by the prince when he was king, in Henry V and in the two parts of Henry IV. Orson Welles even added a bit of The Merry Wives of Windsor to live Falstaff. In the film, he becomes his double due to the corpulence, stentorian laughter and petulance of bon vivant, while being mocked by Hollywood.

A little less famous is the existential insecurity of Richard II, which wavers in doubts about its legitimacy.

Henry V, which deals with the Battle of Agincourt, a resounding victory of the English over the French, brings a beautiful royal meditation on the price that the poor pay for glorious wars that decimate and mutilate them.

King Lear it presents a sovereign who exercises his will to anathematize an innocent woman, his daughter Cordelia.

Macbeth it shows how the ambition of command does not hesitate in the face of the worst crimes. And, if Macbeth has too much desire, the protagonist of Hamlet he has little desire, his hesitations depriving him of the legacy of the crown.

And finally, to top it all off, Richard III, one of the most despicable figures to step onto the stage, whose rise to the throne we follow through all the sordidity, perfidy, swindles. Even children, in this case the two little princes, are killed. A valuable version is preserved on film, with Lawrence Olivier.

Em Henry VI, king who lived between 1421 and 1471, a dark character called Jack Cade, a rabblerouser complete. We soon realize that we know him personally, our time having brought people like that to the Brazilian and world scene. In terms of the grotesque and not the tragic, it would result in Pere Ubu, by Alfred Jarry, parody of Macbeth.

Jack Cade calls and leads a “March on London” (Il Duce Mussolini, forerunner of the fascist dictators of the XNUMXth century, led a victorious “March on Rome”) to seize power. His acolytes are the dregs of society, an unspeakable rabble. Soon they occupy London Bridge and block access to the city. Jack Cade gives orders: “Let's fight! Burn the bridge, and while you're at it, the Tower of London too! Come on, let's go!"

Shakespeare gradually builds up the profile of the leader. The accusations he makes against opponents, sending them without trial to summary beheading, are also known to us: knowing how to read; appoint justices of the peace; speak sentences with noun and verb; found a school for young people; print books… An example: “And, contrary to the king, the crown and dignity, he created a paper factory!” Sound familiar?

Jack Cade wants to be king, claiming noble blood and wearing stolen armor. disseminates fake news, such as the treachery that Lord Saye had sold the province of Normandy to the Dauphin of France, a crime of high treason.

A grim fate awaits Jack Cade, putting an end to the wrongs he has done and led a horde to do, while he himself secretly thinks only of money, loot and plunder, of extortion for his own gain. In its truculence, it is seen that the resemblance is not mere coincidence...

Such a remote historical example is valid for the realization that success can be ephemeral and defeat fatal, along with its ilk. Despite the discouragement when we verify that they persist until today among us. It is a pity that some of these criminals get away with it and die in bed, covered in riches and honours. But Mussolini was lynched and his body hung by the feet in a public square, to general execration. Well said Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria: No pasarán!

*Walnice Nogueira Galvão is Professor Emeritus at FFLCH at USP. She is the author, among other books, of Reading and rereading (Sesc\Ouro over Blue).

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