In William Shakespeare’s ‘The Tragedy of King Lear’ much is made of the ageing king’s decision to divide his kingdom between his three daughters – Goneril, Regan and Cordelia, so that he can retire from matters of state, avoid being made Director of Football and spend his remaining days on the golf course.
The size of the shares that each daughter will receive is dependent on his perception of how much they love him. Everything goes well initially with Goneril and Regan who deliver the same high standard of sycophantic performance as John Terry or Frank Lampard when talking about King José in a previous tragicomedy that didn’t end well.
However, Cordelia has one eye on her next signing-on fee and claims that she has nothing to compare her love to so, basically, it all became a bit tricky, especially as we can hear her agent on the ‘phone in the background which just ramps up the tension. Obviously, this is the key moment in open play, after which things get feisty and Lear gets mad and goes mad.
Now, if we translate Shakespeare to Leicester City today we have quite a nice parallel. Claudio obviously favoured Vardy and Mahrez as two of the over-achieving eleven sons who seemed to contribute most to his work of fiction becoming a reality. In Act 2, having banished Kante from his kingdom – presumably, because he just wouldn’t sit still for a moment and take direction – we discover that maybe Danny Drinkwater is really Cordelia.
Danny has some good lines in this part, declaring, while gazing into the distance watching portly men on big horses chase foxes over field and fosse of the rolling Leicestershire countryside that, “we are very good at doing the simple things.” As the plot unfolds he admits, subtly, and turning his head into the moonlight so that the revelation is etched on his rounded face, “we have known him a few years and a few of us have known him a long time.”
Now, Cords (sorry, Danny) got very close, apparently, to playing for the great Duke Woy of Middlesex but failed the final audition. Two bit-part actors, Wilshire and Henderson, though not really fit, had something sinister over Woy (we don’t know what it was but scholars have suggested it might be something to do with a silent ‘r’) and were, incredibly, selected instead, while the audience was asked to suspend belief. We call this a sub-plot but one which Danny, unlike those horses, never really got over. So, as darkness descends and a mist comes down across the land, Danny makes his impassioned speech about the meaning of life in Leicester.
However, it isn’t Woy that Danny is referring to. It is the fool – a narrative device used extensively by Shakespeare to give us all an insight into what might really be going on. Usually, the fool is anything but foolish and, in this case, the point is cleverly emphasised by the fool and the writer being one and the same.
Craig Shakespeare – ‘Shakes’ to his mates on the Rep circuit – describes his greatest achievement in football as helping Walsall gain promotion to Division Two nearly 30 years ago. We discover in Act 3 that he has been plotting something similar in the English Midlands near Stratford ever since then, putting himself before his company of willing troubadours.
He chose to work with Nigel Pearson in order to preserve his cover as a loser but then keeps us guessing by appearing to work with Claudio. We really do not know what is going on until Craig announces, in a seminal moment that, “The human side is important. The players want to see you can talk to them.”
A man who also speaks while all around are looking for words? There you are then. Whereas Claudio looked the part but spoke in tongues, Craig looks like a caretaker but has seen fit to give himself some new lines to say.
One earnest scholar, Martin Keown (who is from Oxford but also played for about five minutes for Leicester, so he would know) thinks Craig is ‘out of order’ – a bit like the BBC lift he has been stuck in since 2004.
This could go either way and the plot – much like Ronald Koeman’s waistline (Olde English wasted lines?) – is sure to thicken before it is resolved, especially as the aforementioned Woy of Middlesex has recently appeared offstage at the King Power Stadium.