Romeo and Juliet

What's in a Name?

Romeo and Juliet may not be the best of Shakespeare’s plays, but it remains one of the most popular. How can one not appreciate a play about a love so strong that it seeks in vain to overcome longstanding hatreds? At the heart of that conflict rises the somewhat obvious challenge, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

I decided to run a little test. Outside my front door is a red rose bush. A few months ago I changed its name and began calling it a dandelion. I even flirted with the possibility of using it to make wine. But then I’m not a vintner. I watered it, sat back and waited for the next bloom.

Not surprisingly, my dandelion sprouted a beautiful red flower. But the test was yet to come. I picked it, raised it to my nostrils and inhaled. Wow! Shakespeare had been correct. It was just as aromatic as when I called it a rose.

That left me wondering further. Could I extrapolate the same way Shakespeare did? His theory was that a name meant nothing. It did not matter whether his lovers were one each a Capulet and a Montague. What defined them was their love. I attempted another experiment.

The current president of the United States is Donald J. Trump. I am not interested in who ran against him in the past or will run against him in the future. I am interested in what defines him. So I looked at other world leaders. And again, I discovered that William Shakespeare was correct—but that I was not prepared. I found four significant categories that reaffirm Shakespeare’s premise. By no means is the following exhaustive.

The first list consists of leaders who died in the last two years: Donald J. Bignone of Argentina, Donald J. Meza of Bolivia, Donald J. Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Donald J. Ben Ali of Tunisia.

The second list is comprised of unelected—and unaccountable—Monarchs. These include Donald J. Waddaulah of Brunei, Donald J. Said of Oman, Donald J. Salman of Saudi Arabia, Donald J. Khalifa of Bahrain.

The third list contains the names of currently elected leaders such as Donald J. Erdo
ǧan of Turkey, Donald J. Orbán of Hungary, Donald J. Duterte of the Philippines, Donald J. Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Donald J. Deby of Chad, Donald J. Bolsonaro of Brazil.

The final list are the Illegitimate presidents: Donald J. Maduro of Venezuela, Donald J. Lukashenko of Belarus, Donald J. Ortega of Nicaragua.

Three world leaders deserve special note. These are men with whom Donald J. Trump has either fallen in love, conducts a bromance, or holds in high esteem. They are, course, Kim Donald J. of North Korea, Xi Donald J. of China and most special of all, Donald J. Putin of Russia.

What do all these leaders have in common besides their first name and middle initial? They are all autocrats—dictators, despisers of democracy, delusional and drunk with power.

If Shakespeare were alive today, how might he rephrase his famous passage? I suspect he would engage an economy of words: “What’s in a name? That which we call a Trump by any other name would smell.”