June 14, 2020
Author: Ralph Berry

Shakespeare as always cues us in to today.  The Tempest opens on shipboard; the storm-tossed vessel is in deep trouble.  A distinguished passenger asks the question that matters: “Who’s in charge?”

 

“Antonio:

‘Where is the Master, Bosun?'”

Quite.  The Master is nowhere to be seen, having left matters in the hands of his capable Boatswain who is understandably testy.

Boatswain:

‘Do you not hear him?  You mar our labour.  Keep your cabins: you do assist the storm.’”

 

One does get the impression that Matt Hancock, who usually heads the trio that leads the TV news at 5 o’clock each day, is getting tired of his unrewarding role.  The big decisions are made by the Prime Minister, who has deferred making them on lockdown.  With modest reservations, people have been told to “keep their cabins,” or “self-isolate,” though grandparents are now permitted to see their grandchildren.  The new scheme is called a “support bubble,” which allows certain guests to stay overnight.  It came too late for Professor Neil Ferguson, who had to resign as a government adviser for doing just that five weeks ago.  He had welcomed his girl friend to spend the night at his home.  Since he was famed for his policy of “flattening the curve” of infections, he was suspected of flattening other curves as well.  Meantime Boris Johnson, who coined an alternative phrase, “squashing the sombrero,” has not repeated it.  Government does not like variations on its themes.

 

The Tempest is classed nowadays as a “romance.”  It ends with the sudden, unexplained restoration of normality.  Upon which the boatswain gives thanks for

 

“‘Our royal, good and gallant ship, our master

Cap’ring to eye her.’”

That is all the master has done, over five acts.  The Prime Minister must pray for the like fortune.