Summer means it’s time for free performances in our parks by Seattle Shakespeare, GreenStage and other companies. Shakespeare when I was growing up back East meant difficult literature enlivened by sword fights; but here it’s like living in a vast Elizabethan stage.

Perched on Seven Hills like Caesar’s Rome, we live among Tudor-style buildings, drink in Olde English pubs, are served Italian coffee by lovely goth girls with Celtic tattoos, pass manly men in kilts, smile as our local Jesteress Raven Scott skips past, or shake our heads sadly at bearded madmen raving in their personal rainstorms.  

Just another day on Capitol Hill.

But not even the Bard is spared from our bitter partisan civil wars.

While on a visit to New York last month, I was exposed to the outrage unleashed when the venerable Public Theater staged a Shakespeare in the Park production of “Julius Caesar.”

The Roman dictator, often costumed in modern dress, was there in a business suit, long red tie and orange wig, and his assassination scene was interpreted as foul play by conservative; corporate sponsors like Delta fled, and even Shakespeare companies with no connection to it got roasted by internet trolls. 

Yet the show went on.

For generations, conservative critics like Harold Bloom, David Brooks and Garry Wills, have hectored us endlessly about the importance of the Bard; yet even progressives who want to load more diverse ammo into the Western Canon share their love for his work.  

Shakespeare labored at the dawn of the brave new world of reason, science and democracy, while being inspired by the Renaissance and classical antiquity. Now we have come full circle, and those revolutions are again in question.

Forced in his time by sponsors and censors to tip his hat to princes and their prejudices, Shakespeare found a matchless tool to speak truth about our humanity that reaches down to us today — language, the elevated language of poetry. As a teacher of the Queen’s English to immigrants, I can testify also to how much our common tongue was enriched with his new words and expressions.  (I’ve used at least eight; find ‘em if you can!) 

Might we calm our current civil strife a bit if we elevated our language today?  

Conservatives and Liberals: The answer to what you deem “bad Shakespeare” is simply more Shakespeare.  GOP activists: Fund your own productions. Perhaps General Patton as “Coriolanus” or, since the assassin Booth’s delusion was that he was Brutus, has any production ever cast a Lincoln-like Caesar, with General Grant as his Antony? Or the Clintons in “Richard III meets Lady MacBeth”?  (Wait..that’s on Netflix with Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, right?)  

Of course, progressives will then be tempted to mount “King John” as a bumbling businessman, or more works that highlight heroic women, like Hero in the upcoming “Much Ado.”  If planned with time for true discussions, such plays could be opportunities for real explorations of power and identity, instead of bootless scream fests.

Comics, critics and pundits: New rule, Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson et.al., is no more profane political insults; henceforth and forever they must be in Elizabethan iambic pentameter. Calling our leader a “corrupt blowhard” may be satisfying, but it’s so much more elegant to proclaim  “Avaunt, thou straw-patted prating plunderous unpresidential plutocrat!” Wit should trump vulgarity. 

Alt-right vs. anarchists: The vendetta between hot-blooded Black Bloc and Proud Boy bravos is escalating from fists to knives and guns. This way madness lies.

If you must get physical, get yourselves some wooden swords and have at each other at the renaissance fairs, under instruction and supervision of the Society for Creative Anachronism or theatrical swords masters.nThen, lay on MacDuff, whilst the rest of us munch on turkey legs and cheer. Glory for all, and no one gets killed or handcuffed.

Campus speech: Typically, teen activists invite a fire-breathing provocateur, which only ignites a pitched battle over free speech rather than a discussion of issues; it’s akin to Antony being left alone to whip up the mob. Campus administrators, are you powerless to compel campus groups to pair such visiting pundits in a formal debate? Yes to an Anne Coulter, but only if she crosses rhetorical swords with a Naomi Klein.  Download the 1965 James Baldwin v. William Buckley debate at Cambridge for a perfect example.

Academic moderators trained in philosophy and history could then steel their student snowflakes against ad hominem attacks, non sequiturs and other logical fallacies used by today’s pontificating pundits — lessons the young Shakespeare himself learned as a student of the Latin and Greek classics. 

Finally, our millennials who delight in contests of nerd knowledge are invited to challenge their political or tech company rivals in Shakespearean trivia contests or sonnet slams. Surely there are brewpubs willing to host such epic battles of wit; losers buy the ale.

Steven Beck, a New York transplant since 2015, is a retired city planner and occasional English teacher. Seattle-ized is his column about adjusting to life here.