Should allegations in this article that Shakespeare was a thug and a gangster in any way diminish our respect and admiration for his work? Is it necessary or inevitable that we would regard him differently?
The question of how a person’s previous behaviour should affect our response to later opportunities and achievements is of great relevance. Political opponents advertise the misdemeanors and indiscretions, the sins and crimes… alleged or proven… personal or public… of each candidate. No stone is left unturned. While potential voters watch the negative hate ads and the political pundits analyse every innuendo, ad nauseum, we are left to ask, does this really matter? Just what is a “good reputation” and what is its value?
Should evaluation of candidate’s fitness for office be based on private personal behavior and previous business or career decisions? Or should it be based on training, experience, qualifications for the public responsibilities of the office? Can the two be separated? Would you choose a “good” person over someone with neither training nor experience? Would you choose a “genius” of dubious character? (Yes, I am playing the devil’s advocate here… It is never a clear either/or decision! But play along for the sake of argument.) What if you have to choose without having enough information (Sarah Palin!) or if the criteria contradict each other (most of the Republican candidates now jockeying for position)?
Ironically it is Iago, the arch villain in Othello, who says:
Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.
Suppose it could be proven true that Shakespeare really was a thug and a gangster. Would this diminish your respect and admiration for his work? Would it matter?