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Don’t be fooled by Boris Johnson’s clown mask | Letters


Rev Stephen Roe thinks we should turn to Shakespeare to outfox the PM, Angus Gellatly compares him to Benny Hill, and Ian W Sutherland explores an ancient Roman role model

The Shakespearean analogies to the Boris Johnson stance in government are very apposite in Edward Docx’s brilliant long read (The clown king: how Boris Johnson made it by playing the fool, 18 March). But we can draw other analogies, showing the deeper decay of truth brought about by the clown/fool role that Johnson adopts – Richard III, Iago in Othello and Edmund in King Lear.

These tragic antiheroes/villains use the stance of the fool as a subverter of the social order, and intermediary and interpreter of the action for the audience. They do it not to reveal truth, like the classic fools Feste and Lear’s Fool, but to gain power for themselves in the most cynical way – revealing their manipulation as they exercise it, daring the other characters and audience to doubt them. There are so many examples of this by Johnson; the most blatant must be “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead”. They invite listeners to collude in the lie, implying they will all gain from it, and equally be able to deny it at the same time. Truth dies. Let us study these plays to think how these malevolent twisters can be out-fooled, and truth be spoken and acted out.
Rev Stephen Roe
Chatham, Kent

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