Letter: Insidious disease that the Government is spreading

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The Independent Online
Sir: I fully agree with James Fenton (17 January) that is hard to take Michael Portillo seriously as a rising moral philosopher of the right, when he clearly does not understand Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida - if, indeed, he has read the play rather than (as one suspects) copying Ulysses's speech from some book of quotations. However, Mr Fenton omits to mention a further irony.

Shakespeare's source here was Sir Thomas Elyot's Booke Named the Governour (1531), but while Elyot intended his arguments about 'order' and 'degree' to be taken at face value, Shakespeare - perhaps something of a 'new cynic' himself - did not. After all, why else should Shakespeare have put the speech in the mouth of such a devious and opportunistic character as Ulysses, who is in fact seeking to exploit these commonplaces for his own political ends?

Plus ca change.

Yours faithfully,


Brighton, East Sussex

17 January