Martin Bright

It’s Truly Shakespearean Now

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I'm just back from seeing Jude Law's Hamlet at the Wyndham's Theatre. I'll leave judgement on the quality of the production and performances to those more qualified than myself. But  it was certainly a very clear, no-nonsense retelling of that most terrible of stories.

Since the point was first made about Gordon Brown being a character from a Shakespearean tragedy, it's been a fascinating parlour game to identify which tragic hero he most closely resembles. Like Lear, he must have imagined himself betrayed by at least one ungrateful daughter this week and he has always had the vaulting ambition of a Macbeth. He also shares Hamlet's gift for indecision.

But as I was watching tonight, I felt the play was more relevant as a picture of Labour's wider tragedy under Brown. In this scenario, Gordon Brown is the usurper king, Claudius, who has gained the throne by pouring poison in the ear of the rightful occupant of the throne.

As I sat through the final scene of devastation, with corpses strewn across the stage as the consequence of Hamlet's failure to act until too late against the corrupted monarch, I couldn't help thinking of the younger generation of Cabinet ministers who have singularly failed to move against a leader they know is bringing a blight on their party. Like Hamlet, the responsibility is their own and, like him, their tragedy is that they know it.