Henry V, which opens this Friday at New Theatre, is one of William Shakespeare's most memorable plays featuring arguably his most noble and heroic character, the valiant King Henry.
But Henry seems to be the exception in a long line of Shakespearean characters who were complete and total assholes. Amoral, power-hungry, sadistic, and downright despicable, they constitute a surplus of assholishness throughout the Bard's multitude of plays. Here now is a list of the six biggest ones. Why six? Why not five or ten? Because it's a sufficiently asshole number, that's why. Here we go!
6. The Duke of Cornwall (King Lear)
The Duke of Cornwall is a cruel and brutal SOB with seriously flawed people skills. When the Earl of Kent fails to give him the proper deference, Cornwall puts his ass in stocks. RESPECK! And when the Earl of Gloucester invites King Lear to a sleepover, Cornwall gouges his eyes out. Asked to explain why he ripped the Earl of Gloucester's eyes from their sockets, the Duke of Cornwall essentially responds, "Because I felt like it. Come at me, bro!" The Duke of Asshole is more like it.
5. Edmund (King Lear)
Edmund is the bastard child of the Earl of Gloucester, so one could argue he was born to be an asshole. Edmund hates his older brother, Edgar, because he's the rightful heir to their father's throne (whom Edmund also hates). So, as any good asshole in this predicament would do, he resolves to get rid of Edgar by making him think he's going nuts. He also tries to manipulate King Lear's daughters to fall for him and then fight with each other. Edmund even attempts to fool the audience into sympathizing with him with his famous "Why bastard?" speech early in the play. But it doesn't take long for his true colors to be revealed. We're on to you, asshole!
4. Lady Macbeth (Macbeth): She manipulates her husband to go all stabby on King Duncan and then tries to cover up the murder by planting false evidence at the scene, implicating the king's servants. This sets off a serious chain reaction of really bad shit, starting with Mr. Macbeth killing the servants, their families, their friends, and anybody who ever sold them shoes at the mall. He becomes King of Scotland but can't enjoy himself because he's all paranoid and guilt-ridden. Meanwhile, Lady McAsshole sort of disappears into the background and becomes a spectator to her husband's mental breakdown.
Al Pacino's 1996 documentary 'Looking For Richard' featured scholars who couldn't explain why King Richard was such an asshole.
3. Richard III (Richard III)
King Richard is a fugly hunchback. He uses this as an excuse to throw his hat into the asshole business. And business is a-boomin'. He has his brother locked up in the Tower of London on a bad rap, has his nephews' heads chopped off, kills a girl's husband and father-in-law and woos her into marrying him, and has a guy who doesn't like him arrested on trumped-up charges. But in the end, Richard's horse runs off during a battle and he goes all, "I'll give anyone all my shit for a horse!" But no one helps him and an enemy soldier stabs him in the face and he dies. Serves you right, asshole!
2. Claudius (Hamlet)
Everyone has the asshole uncle in their family. But Hamlet's Uncle C. takes the asshole cake. This jagoff murders Hamlet's dad and then marries Hamlet's mom so he could be king. Then he pays a couple of assholes to rub out Hamlet himself, because why the hell not. They're not the cleverest of assholes because their scheme involves Hamlet either drinking poisoned wine or getting pricked by a poisoned sword. Hamlet's mom inadvertently drinks the bad wine and dies. Hamlet then stabs Claudius with the sword and makes him drink the wine. Hamlet, who is wounded by the poisoned sword, eventually dies too. So an entire family gets needlessly wiped out because some asshole wanted to be king.
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1. Aaron the Moor (Titus Andronicus)
Tamora Queen of the Goths is banging Aaron the Moor on the side. She then asks Aaron to exact revenge on her husband Titus and his family after he kills one of her sons from another marriage. And, boy, is this asshole quite the go-getter in the revenge-exacting department. Aaron gets Tamora's other sons to kill Titus's son and then rape Titus's daughter. He also cuts out the poor girl's tongue and cuts off her hands so she won't rat them out. He frames Titus's other two sons for the crime. Then he tells Titus that in order for him to get his sons back from jail, he must cut off his own hand. Titus obliges. Titus eventually does get his two sons back -- sans heads. Oh, and when Tamora gives birth to Aaron's love child, he kills the midwife and runs off into the woods with the baby. When he finally gets caught for all his wrongdoing, he says his only regret was not doing any of this shit sooner. What a fucking asshole.
William Shakespeare's Henry V opens this Friday at New Theatre (4120 Laguna St., Coral Gables). Showtime is 8 p.m. Tickets cost $40. Call 305-443-5909 or visit new-theatre.org.