More outrageous even than "mission accomplished" is the absurd claim that, during 2006, our very own president, George W. Bush, has read fifty-three books. It's a fool's game to try to re-invent the class dunce as an intellectual, but they're trying.
There's some incriminating videotape floating around the "internets" in which POTUS, heretofore known to devour only the box scores, boasts that he's an "ek-a-lek-tic" (his pronunciation!) reader. Not only has he been laying into Camus, he's also read "three Shakespeares." He's both full o' shit and unidiomatic. Native speakers of English don't say "three Shakespeares"; they say they've read "three Shakespeare plays." Next the Great Decider will tell us he's just hustled over to the Kennedy Center where he listened to three Bachs.
The White House press office has supplied the names of two of the plays to which Bush lays claim -- Hamlet and Macbeth. Was there a third play? If there was, it's name, like the third murderer and the fabulous WMDs, is lost to history.
If W. had actually turned the pages of Hamlet and Macbeth, he might have noticed that in both plays, a bad man has become head of state by extralegal means. Claudius poured a bit of poison into the ears of Hamlet's father and Macbeth stabbed Duncan. Neither ruler thrives in his ill-gained position, and neither has been able to repent his evil deed. Claudius can't bring himself to pray and Macbeth's way has fallen into the sere and yellow leaf. Fat chance that our unelected president would notice the parallel to his own situation -- or that he would be moved to repentance and renunciation. In the world of literature, there's justice: Claudius is run through with a sword and Macbeth is beheaded. No such luck in real life.
And what about the mysterious third play that the Uniter claims to have read? If he were looking for parallels to his own career, he could flatter himself by reading one of the three plays that dramatize the life of King Henry V, in which a scapegrace prince reforms, gives up alcohol and screwing around, and becomes the conqueror of France. The parallel is inexact, because Henry enjoyed some traits of character that George distinctly lacks: courage, eloquence, and the willingness to endure the same hardships as the soldiers who serve under him. A better parallel to George II is the succeeding Henry-- Henry VI-- a pious, immature, weak man unable to control his powerful advisers.
In truth, the character in the thirty-seven "Shakespeares" whom Bush most resembles is neither Claudius, Macbeth, nor either of the Henrys, but Lepidus in Anthony and Cleopatra. Shakespeare depicts Lepidus as a man who's happened into a position far beyond his natural abilities. He's way over his head in the Second Triumvirate, not at all of the stature of the heroic but flawed Anthony or the efficient, masterful Caesar. Even the servants recognize that Lepidus is simply bush-league. One of them tells the audience that "to be called into a huge sphere, and not to be seen to move in't, are the holes where eyes should be, which pitifully disaster the cheeks." This is a bit of Shakespearean obscurity certainly beyond the budding intellectuality of incurious George. It means simply that Lepidus must fill a position as huge as a Ptolemaic sphere, but he can't because he's tiny and makes no impression at all, and as a consequence his circle is as vacant as an eye-socket that lacks an eye. Shakespeare does not think well of Lepidus and soon allows him to be carried off the stage, drunk. So much for morally and intellectually pitiful men who try to play with the big boys!
Bush might be even less than a Lepidus, who, when he's not drunk, speaks plainly enough. Perhaps a better comparison is to one of Shakespeare's braggart soldiers, like Parolles in All's Well That Ends Well, or to one of the malapropizing clowns -- as for example Much Ado About Nothing's Dogberry. Dogberry is given to such Bushlingo moments as "is our whole dissembly appeared" and "be vigitant." And other illiteracies. But it was beyond even Shakespeare to imagine a world in which a clown could become head of state. To him, such a reversal of the natural order would have been unthinkable.