Poor Mercutio. A prime example of a man hurt most by the quarrel to which he's not part. Some have said the Shakespeare character's death in Romeo and Juliet is the point at which the classic story ceases to be an Elizabethan-aged story of two hormone-driven teenagers. In other words, it's the point at which things get serious. It's no longer funny. It's no longer adorable. It's serious.
I can't help but feel for him. I feel, in a way, we're just a few steps behind his fate.
"Mercutio's soul is but a little ways above our heads," as Romeo said.
The presidency has been funny — from "covfefe" all the way up to pizza and burgers at the White House. It's no longer that. It's serious.
If you're unfamiliar, Mercutio dies in the middle of a duel meant to be between the titular Romeo and a cousin of Juliet named Tybalt. Mercutio's not actually part of the squabble between the factions, but he quickly becomes so tired of the two men's approach — Tybalt in want of a violence to defend his family honor, Romeo in want of no fight so peace can be had between the families — that he decides he's going to end it himself.
For many years, we've complained about the ineffectiveness of our political system. We've joked that if the opposite of a pro is a con then the opposite of progress must be Congress. It's been that way, dare I say, since the beginning. The real issue between Tybalt Romeo was a lack of trust, which led to a lack of communication — partisan politics if you will. So, we like Mercutio, decided to take matters into our own hands.
"O calm, dishonourable, vile submission," we cried, and drew our pens in the voting booth — after all, they're mightier than the sword, according to another Englishman.
We elected our rapiers and now they're locked. The government is shutdown. Ideals of border security remain unmoved. The Democrats won't take up any bill unrelated to reopening the government, and now the Senate Republicans blocked a bill to temporarily reopen the Department of Homeland Security. The record-shutdown continues, and government employees can't pay their bills. Backpay doesn't do you much good if you already lost your heat, your health or your home. The shutdown has only covered about about 4 percent of the president's days in office, but it's enough to make a big difference to the working families in his employ.
"'Tis not so deep as a well nor so wide as a church door, but 'tis enough," as Mercutio would say.
You see, while Romeo and Tybalt are struggling with their politically and personally polarized differences, it's Mercutio who pays the price. He's stabbed by Tybalt's sword as it misses its intended target in Romeo's chest.
"A plague on both your houses," he shouts at the two, one his enemy and one his friend.
In my own interpretation, it's at this moment Mercutio realizes these two houses, be they of Congress or of fair Verona, have cost him greatly even though he's a part of neither. The line itself reads to me as if it's full of regret. As if he realizes he wouldn't be dying if he'd never allied himself with a Montague or a Capulet. Yet, while we lie on the cobbled Italian pavement in an ever-widening pool of taxpayer cost, the shutdown continues. We're promised an end from both sides — a compromise, but we bleed together. For how long, we don't know.
"Ask for me tomorrow, and you'll find me a grave man," Mercutio says in a last attempt at humor.
Indeed, a plague on both our houses.