The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Friday, September 21, 2012

Coriolanus and the Popular Touch

Ann Romney on her husband's Republican critics:
“Stop it! You want to try it? Get in the ring. This is hard and, you know, it’s an important thing that we’re doing right now and it’s an important election and it is time for all Americans to realize how significant this election is and how lucky we are to have someone with Mitt’s qualifications and experience and know-how to be able to have the opportunity to run this country."
It's especially worth listening to for the firmness of Ann Romney's tone, the dismissiveness with which she responds to fellow Republicans. (Audio at the link, or here). She's like a dowager giving instructions to the help.

Which brings me to a point about both Mitt and Ann Romney; they're aristocrats. That doesn't always translate to what has been called, to my mind quite fairly, Romney's "disdain for workers." Think Theodore Roosevelt, who enjoyed the company of ranch hands, his "Rough Riders," and newspapermen, and supported workers' rights as President and in the Progressive Party platform.
But the Romneys, ironically less genuinely aristocratic in terms of their background than TR (or FDR for that matter), have attitudes more like members of the ancien regime than even Winston Churchill would allow himself. (And Churchill had a strong ethic of noblesse oblige that blunted his aristocratic sensibilities.)

The unease and artificiality that mars so many of Romney's public performances (though not, interestingly, the fundraiser speech that has caused Romney so much trouble this past week) may be a product of this aristocratic expectation of deference--Mitt Romney is trying to play the part of a tribune of the people, but it's simulated; Ann is not even trying. They seem as if their first instincts are those of Coriolanus, in Act III, sc. 2, where he needs to obtain votes to be confirmed as consul:
Menenius Agrippa. O sir, you are not right: have you not known
The worthiest men have done't?
Coriolanus. What must I say? 1475
'I Pray, sir'—Plague upon't! I cannot bring
My tongue to such a pace:—'Look, sir, my wounds!
I got them in my country's service, when
Some certain of your brethren roar'd and ran
From the noise of our own drums.' 1480
Menenius Agrippa. O me, the gods!
You must not speak of that: you must desire them
To think upon you.
Coriolanus. Think upon me! hang 'em!
I would they would forget me, like the virtues 1485
Which our divines lose by 'em.
Menenius Agrippa. You'll mar all:
I'll leave you: pray you, speak to 'em, I pray you,
In wholesome manner.

Coriolanus. Bid them wash their faces
And keep their teeth clean.
[Re-enter two of the Citizens]
So, here comes a brace.
[Re-enter a third Citizen] 1495
You know the cause, air, of my standing here.
Third Citizen. We do, sir; tell us what hath brought you to't.
Coriolanus. Mine own desert.
Second Citizen. Your own desert!
Coriolanus. Ay, but not mine own desire. 1500
Third Citizen. How not your own desire?
Coriolanus. No, sir,'twas never my desire yet to trouble the
poor with begging.
Third Citizen. You must think, if we give you any thing, we hope to
gain by you. 1505
Coriolanus. Well then, I pray, your price o' the consulship?

First Citizen. The price is to ask it kindly.
Coriolanus. Kindly! Sir, I pray, let me ha't: I have wounds to
show you, which shall be yours in private. Your
good voice, sir; what say you? 1510
Second Citizen. You shall ha' it, worthy sir..
Coriolanus. A match, sir. There's in all two worthy voices
begged. I have your alms: adieu.
Third Citizen. But this is something odd.
Second Citizen. An 'twere to give again,—but 'tis no matter.

Alas, Coriolanus is a tragedy; it doesn't end well.

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