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"The 'History Plays:'
Use Shakespeare to
Fight the Jacobin Mobs"

by Stuart Rosenblatt
October, 2001

This article originally appeared in the New Federalist newspaper, October 1, 2001 (Vol. XV, No. 27), and is reprinted here with permission.

EIRNS/Fletcher James
William Shakespeare statue in New York City's Central Park, build in 1864 on the three hundredth anniversary of the Bard's birth.

In this period of disintegration of the postwar Bretton Woods economic system, of the destabilization of the U.S. government and others by raw terror, there has arisen also a new, global Jacobinism, in the form of the so-called anti-globalization movement. The same species of mob action is also what those behind the ongoing attempted coup in the United States, intend to use.

There is nothing new about this movement; it is as old as history itself. Predatory Jacobinism, the use of enraged rabble, aroused mobs to carry out insurrections on behalf of oligarchical families, dates back to the ploys of the Roman Empire. Citing manipulated and radicalized "popular opinion," one faction of the elites plots to overthrow another, and install an even more decadent government. Usually, the end result is the imposition of a fascist dictator of the Roman imperial model.

In his groundbreaking work, "What Is Fascism Really?" (in the September 17, 2001 issue of New Federalist), Lyndon LaRouche lays bare the essentials of the fascist movments historically, and of their most recent revivals, identifying the destruction of sane republican government, the use of rabble-induced terror, the imposition of the fascist leader who enforces the conservative revolution in law and culture. He specifies the French Revolution as the model for modern fascism.

In that bloodletting, the sansculottes of the French Revolution were a mass battering ram used by British intelligence chief Jeremy Bentham to wreck the bona fide French Revolution of the Marquis de Lafayette and Jean-Sylvain Bailly, itself an extension into France of the earlier American Revolution. Instead of that conception, the Jacobin mobs deposed the friends of Benjamin Franklin, imposed the Reign of Terror, and cut off the heads of the allies of Lafayette: The heads of sympathizers of Franklin and Washington were chopped off first. Thus the population, the real target of the oligarchs, was transformed into a mindless mob willing to support the instrument of their own destruction.

The horrors of the Jacobin uprising in 1789 France, and today's new Jacobinism, were presaged in the powerful dramas of William Shakespeare, among them Julius Caesar and Henry VI: Part II. These plays precisely warn of this evil trick of the oligarchy. In Henry VI, Shakespeare is not merely reporting, he is warning the people and the republican leaders of his day—and ours—on how this intelligence operation is used. It were wise to heed his lesson today. - The Plantagenets and Henry VI -

As LaRouche has stated, the history plays of William Shakespeare were written, among other things, as a mirror for the English people to study the depradations of the Plantagenet family that so longed ruled England (1133-1457)—and of the people's own behavior—to in the hope that they wouldnever repeat their terrible and destructive errors. He counterposed the rise of the Tudors, especially Henry VII, to the Plantagenet nightmare of continuous civil wars of revenge and destruction—in particular, the Wars of the Roses, the savage battles between the closely related Houses of York and Lancaster, both descended from the Plantagenets.

At the time that Shakespeare was writing his plays, England itself was being taken over by the decaying Venetian empire of the late 16th century, in the deployment of accomplices of Paolo Sarpi and other intelligence agents to overthrow the court. This process of takeover had been underway for over 75 years, and was nearing its culmination. By exposing the Plantagenets and their ally, the House of Anjou, historically pawns of the Venetians, Shakespeare sought to educate his countrymen to the dangers that abounded.

In the play Henry VI: Part II, Shakespeare recounts the deployment of a Jacobin mob (foreshadowing the French Revolution), operating under the leadership of one Jack Cade for the fell purpose of overthrowing Henry VI (1421-1471) and placing Richard, Duke of York, on the throne (as Henry VI's grandfather had come to the throne, by driving from it Richard of York's ancestor). Historically, Jack Cade did lead a revolt that destabilized the government; in the play, Shakespeare takes the artistic liberty of attributing evil intent to Richard of York. in deploying the mass uprising for his own treacherous purpose. Perhaps Shakespeare knew something he thought important to report.

The play opens as various factions position themselves for power in the court of Henry, a weak ruler who only recently came of age (he came to the throne as an infant upon the early death of his father, Henry V). Neither of the two factions in the government was any good; they were locked in mortal combat, first verbal and then physical, for control of the crown.

The King was run by the Lancastrians and married into the House of Anjou. The enemy of Lancaster was the closely related family of York, headed by the Duke Richard, who was equally mischievous. At the end of Act III, Scene 2, York is sent out of the country by the Lancastrians, allegedly for the purpose of quelling rebellion in Ireland. Meanwhile, the House of Lancaster hopes to cement its control over Henry through control of his wife, Mary of Anjou, and other courtiers. York seizes the opportunity to gather an army he will never relinquish, but will use for his own sinister purposes.

In this enterprise, while he is fighting in Ireland, Richard of York enlists the services of Jack Cade, a local rabble-rouser, to stir up trouble in the countryside against Henry, and foment insurrection. All the elements of modern Jacobinism are present in Cade's rebellion, whose sole purpose is to smooth the way for Richard's return and his grab for power:

York: Now, York, or never, steel thy fearful thoughts,
And change misdoubt to resolution:
Be that thou hop'st to be, or what thou art
Resign to death; it is not worth the enjoying.
Let pale-fac'd fear keep with the mean-born man,
And find no harbor in a royal heart....
My brain, more busy than the laboring spider,
Weaves tedious snares to trap mine enemies.
Well, nobles, well; 'tis politcly done,
To send me packing with an host of men:
I fear me you but warm the starved snake,
Who, cherish'd in your breasts, will sting your hearts.
'Twas men I lack'd, and you will give them me:
I take it kindly; yet be well assur'd
You put sharp weapons in a madman's hands.
Whiles I in Ireland nourish a mighty band,
I will stir up in England some black storm
Shall blow ten thousand souls to heaven or hell;
And this fell tempest shall not cease to rage
Until the golden circuit on my head,
Like to the glorious sun's transparent beams,
Do calm the fury of this mad-bred flaw.
And, for a minister of my intent,
I have seduced a headstrong Kentishman,
John Cade of Ashford,
To make commotion, as full well he can,
Under the title of John Mortimer.
In Ireland have I seen this stubborn Cade
Oppose himself against a troop of kerns,
And fought so long....
By this I shall perceive the commons' mind,
How they affect the house and claim of York.
Say he be taken, rack'd, and tortured,
I know no pain they can inflict upon him
Will make him say I mov'd him to those arms.
Say that he thrive, as 'tis great like he will,
Why, then from Ireland come I with my strength,
And reap the harvest which that rascal sow'd;
For Humphrey being dead, as he shall be,
And Henry put apart, the next for me.
—Henry VI Act III, Scene 1

With these ominous words, Richard departs for Ireland; bloody intrigues unfold at court as his allies proceed to remove his enemies, one by one. In Act IV the setting is Blackheath, where riotous Cade is asssembling his mob of commoners on behalf of York. The dialogue captures the ugliness of populist revolt, and also mob rule's vile attack on anyone who aspires to an intellectual pursuit. Contrary to the fantasies of most populists, Shakespeare's famous reference to the lawyers ("kill them first") is in fact a brutal attack on the dumb populists, and a defense of practitioners of the law, whatever their shortcomings. At least they were literate.

Cade: We John Cade, so termed of our supposed father— ...
For our enemies shall fall before us, inspired with the spirit of putting down kins and princes....
My father was a Mortimer,—
My mother a Plantagenet,—...

...Be brave then; for your captain is brave, and vows reformation. There shall be in England seven halfpenny loaves sold for a penny; the three-hooped pot shall have ten hoops; and I will make it a felony to drink small beer. All the realm shall be in common.... there shall be no money; all shall eat and drink on my score; and I will apparel them all in one livery, that they may agree like brothers, and worship me their lord.

Dick: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.

Cade: Nay, that I mean to do. Is not this a lamentable thing, that of the skin of an innocent lamb should be made parchment? that parchment, being scribbled o'er, should undo a man?...
—Act IV, Scene 2

As they take London, Cade rushes his troops on toward London, and once inside the capital, he assumes a posture that presages the evil Robespierre. Here he escalates his attack on all literate people and concludes with the execution of Lord Say. Like many of the others, Say is innocent of all—save his ability to read and think. Cade beheads the man and parades his skull, and that of his son, on poles. The scene is a nightmare played out repeatedly by the followers of Robespierre and Saint-Just, 300 years later, or Pol Pot, in our own day.

The Clerk of Chatham is brought forward for examination:

Smith: The clerk of Chatham: he can write and read and cast accompt.

Cade: O monstrous!

Smith We took him setting of boys' copies.

Cade: Here's a villain!

Smith Has a book in his pocket with red letters in 't.

Cade: Nay, then, he is a conjurer.

Dick: Nay, he can make obligations, and write court-hand.

Cade:...Come hither, sirrah, I must examine thee: what is thy name?

Clerk: Emmanuel.

Dick: They use to write it on the top of letters: 'twill go hard with you.

Cade: Let me alone. Dost thou use to write thy name? or hast thou a mark to thyself, like an honest plain-dealing man?

Clerk: Sir, I thank God, I have been so well brought up that I can write my name!

All: He hath confessed; away with him! he's a villain and a traitor.

Cade: Away with him, I say! hang him with his pen and ink-horn about his neck.

The rioting and vagabondage continues, and Cade expands his war against the royal armies. The commoners Cade approach London, whereupon Cade's lieutenant Dick issues the following demand:

Dick: If we mean to thrive and do good, break open the jails and let out the prisoners!

Cade: Fear not that, I warrant thee. Come, let's march toward London.

As they take London, Cade (again, premonitions of Robespierre) executes various people and calls for burning all records of the realm: "My mouth shall be the Parliament of England" (Act IV, Scene 5).

Once in London, Cade presides over the trial of Lord Say,

Cade: (After being read the indictment/attack on Say as having betrayed the realm by supposed financial deals with France.) Well, he shall be beheaded for it ten times. Ah, thou say, thou serge, nay, thou buckram lord! now art thou within point-blank of our jurisdiction regal....

I am the besom that must sweep the court clean of such filth as thou art. Thou hast most traitorously corrupted the youth of the realm in erecting a grammar school: and whereas, before, our forefathers had no other books but the score and the tally, thou hast caused printing to be used, and contrary to the king, his crown and dignity, thou hast built a paper mill.

It will be proved to thy face that thou hast men about thee that usually talk of a noun and a verb, and such abominable words as no Christian ear can endure to hear. Thou has appointed justices of peace, to call poor men before them about matters they were not able to answer. Moreover, thou hast put them in prison; and because they could not read, thou hast hanged them; when, indeed only for that cause they have been most worthy to live....

Say: (comments in Latin)...'tis "bona terra, mala gens."

Cade: Away with him, away with him! he speaks Latin!

Say mounts his defense based on justice and prayer: ...Large gifts have I bestow'd on learned clerks, because my book preferr'ed me to the king, and seeing ignorance is the curse of God, Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven, unless you be possess'd with devilish spirits, you cannot but forbear to murder me....

Although admitting in an aside that Say's speech moved him, Cade orders the murders of Say and his son, and calls for their heads to be paraded around the city on poles. - The Tyrant Triumphs -

Cade is finally defeated militarily by allies of the king; fleeing to the countryside, he is killed by a supporter of Henry. However, the damage has been done, and the drastically weakened government is soon confronted by the triumphant return of Richard. York enters London from the Irish war at the head of an impressive army, and confronts the king on his alleged perfidy.

The play comes to an end with Richard in open revolt against the King, whom he drives from the field and throne. It also marks the appearance of his evil son, the notorious Richard III, as a major combatant in the overthrow of Henry VI.

The struggle would rage on, the final phase in the fratricidal mayhem that was the Wars of the Roses, which ended only with the overthrow of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, by Henry Tudor—Henry VII.

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