Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shakespeare at Large

Exit, Pursued, With a Beer

Steven Slater, the flight attendant who jumped ship this week, has become an international sensation and, to many, a hero. His dramatic exit down a JetBlue emergency chute, holding a beer, easily competes with the greatest of Shakespeare’s stage directions, including his most famous, The Winter’s Tale’s offing of Antigonus: Exit, pursued by a bear.

Slater, like the best of Shakespeare’s characters, did not go quietly into that good night. When he went, he went BIG. Does this make him a hero, or a disgruntled psychopath-in-the-making?

Op-Ed pages are bursting at the seams with this debate, but the terms themselves are a red herring. Sure, Hamlet was a little unbalanced when he jumped into Ophelia’s grave crying “This is I, Hamlet the Dane!”; and Anthony definitely pushed the boundaries of “normal” when he told the Roman Empire to fuck off and melt into the Tiber because he was in LOVE and didn’t want to hold up his third of the deal; and, yes, King Lear went a little bat shit—okay, a lot bat shit— when he ran into a storm and decided to get naked with the regular folk. But the point is, when they went, they went ALL IN.

Shakespeare wasn’t interested in heroes and psychopaths. He was a drama queen. And he would have loved Steven Slater. He probably would have written him his very own play: A Midsummer Flight's Scream.

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