Today, we come to bury Caesar, not to praise him...
We have witnessed the final act of a tragedy that would be the
envy of Sophocles, Aeschylus, or Euripides.
As with any good tragedy, it begins with a man of middling
character. A man who crossed the Potomac to do war upon his
Likening himself after Achilles, our Caesar is overcome with
pride, his hamartia.
He is tortured by his enemies... by The New York Times...
by the gods.
Exhibiting a level of hubris that would make Ajax blush, Caesar
rails against his fate. At his zenith, he experiences a dramatic
reversal of fortune.
And now, the chorus has reappeared to sing its exode...
Classical Wisdom for Modern Minds
You will recall our mandate. We believe classical wisdom can
ring true for modern minds.
And my word... if ever there was a need for a classical
perspective, it's now.
through unprecedented times," squawk the well-dressed media
Our response, as the
kids would say, is: LOL!
Never before have so
many people believed so many impossible things.
They believe that today's scallywag politicians are somehow more
scallywaggish. They believe that "fake news" is a new
phenomenon. And they believe that our sorrows are somehow unique
As we're fond of saying, there has never been a disaster so
disastrous, no calamity so calamitous, and no idea so idiotic
that it didn't happen at least once over the millennia.
The ancients had their plagues. They had their riots. They had
Speaking of Caesar...
Much has been made of the fall of Caesar Trump.
ever-lasting shame," says Chuck Schumer.
overflows with strongly-worded opinion pieces after the
barbarians stormed the gates and laid waste to the Curia Julia.
And if you are looking for such a piece, dear reader, then you
will surely be disappointed.
All the same, let's take up the topic... and examine the tragedy
Working Title Films
Reuters/The Fiscal Times
Like philosophy or democracy, theatrical tragedy is a tradition
passed on to us from the Classical Greeks.
The zenith of Greek tragedy came during the fifth century, when
men like Sophocles, Aeschylus, and Euripides put quill to
parchment and gave the world tragedies like Oedipus Rex, The
Oresteia, and Medea.
A full examination of the Greek tragic corpus is beyond the
scope of this letter. But for interested readers, Classical
has spilled mountains of ink on
these playwrights and their works.
Suffice to say, the Greek tragic tradition remains one of the
most enduring legacies of the Classical age. You can still find
these performances in well-funded theaters, in shabby
off-Broadway productions, and in any bookstore worth its salt.
The definition of a tragedy was given by our good friend
Aristotle, when he writes in Poetics:
A tragedy is the
imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having
magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and
pleasurable language;... in a dramatic rather than narrative
form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to
accomplish a catharsis of these emotions
Broadly speaking, a
tragic character has the following characteristics:
They are a
person that is neither wholly good or evil
They have a
tragic flaw (hamartia),
usually excessive pride (hubris)
against the injustices done upon them
experience a reversal of fortune
It is worth noting
that these characteristics were not unique to the classical
canon. Oedipus is a tragic figure. So is Antigone.
But so is Jay
Gatsby... and Darth Vader.
And so is Donald Trump...
The Tragedy of Trump
We pause only briefly to acknowledge that we are not the first
to make this observation.
It was perhaps best argued by professor emeritus and Senior
Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, Victor
Davis Hanson. Readers are encouraged to catch up on the
But let's continue the thread...
Donald Trump is not a paragon of virtue, clearly. But neither
were the tragic Greeks.
The rage of Achilles is a recurring theme in The Illiad. The
opening lines of the epic even invoke the muses to sing of the
wrath of Peleus' son.
The hubris - excessive pride - of Ajax is well documented in
Sophocles' Ajax when the titular character believes he does not
need the help of the gods to win the honor of Achilles' armor.
The wrath of Trump is (or was) on full display by a casual
perusal of the man's Twitter feed. Like Achilles, he is not
content to slay his enemies honorably.
He feels compelled to
drag their corpses around the walls of Troy.
"Crooked Hillary"... "Pocahontas."
You get the idea...
Like Ajax, our Caesar rails against the gods for the injustice
done upon him (I won that armor by a landslide!).
And then comes the reversal of fortune...
The barbarians climb the walls and storm the halls of Congress.
Our elected rascals were sore afraid. They lay the blame
squarely at Caesar's feet.
His allies abandon him.
"Count me out,"
says Lindsey Graham.
"[A] man without a country,"
The vice president
uploads a picture of Caesar's enemy as his Twitter cover photo (et
tu, Mike Pence...?).
The tech oligarchs ban him. The media oligarchs chastise him.
The political oligarchs try to oust him (even though he's
already gone). The PGA Tour
ditches his golf course!
The gods have so thoroughly humbled Caesar.
Like Orestes tormented by the furies, he seems destined to
wander Palm Beach County alone... outcast... and tortured.
We can imagine even now the righteous indignation welling up
inside our dear readers.
They are - perhaps even as we speak - summoning their outrage
and preparing a strongly-worded letter to the editor (please
address it to
And at the risk of sparking more outrage, we make another
A recurring characteristic of tragic characters is their
recognition of some ignoble wrong. The tragic man (or woman!)
then tries to rectify this injustice, which is followed by
personally disastrous - and predictable - consequences.
Antigone - from Sophocles' play of the same name - recognized
the injustice of denying her brother Polynices' funeral rites
after he is killed in the Theban civil war.
In defiance of Creon, she buries her brother. The woman is
sentenced to death before she ultimately takes her own life.
Euripides' Orestes recognized the injustice of his father's
murder at the hands of his mother, Clytemnestra. He kills her,
and is pursued by the furies as punishment.
And in America?
Why is it that
the population cannot afford
an unexpected $500 expense without going into debt?
Why is it that opioid addiction, depression, and "deaths of
have been rising since the 1990s?
What might be the consequences of the countless
manufacturing jobs that were shipped overseas and never came
And why is it that villages up and down the Acela
corridor... in the hills of Appalachia... and in the nooks
and crannies of Middle America are now hollowed-out ghost
Oh, dear reader.
These are dark and troubling questions. A more
philosophically-minded group of statesmen might have thought
soberly about such things.
But the oligarchs (political, media, or otherwise) seemed
uninterested. After all, there were advertisements to be aired.
Horses to be traded. Lobbyist donations to be accepted.
And lo, it was in such squalor that the little people turned to
their Big Man, their Achilles, their Ajax.
He promised - in rough and reckless ways - to bury Polynices, to
avenge Agamemnon, to make the forgotten men and women of a lost
America seen again.
And now, in the final act, fate has done its gruesome work on
The goal of tragedy - in the words of Aristotle - is to evoke a
"catharsis," a cleansing of the soul through a purgation of fear
Tragedy forces a
mirror to our soul and screams: look!
in the words of professor
what snags in our being, the snares and booby traps of the
past that we blindly trip over in our relentless, stumbling
And as the curtain
closes on the greatest performance of modern politics, we can't
help but wonder if ever there was a story that was more
...or more tragic.