“I hope MacTrump will help people laugh at something they would normally cry over.”
As the tides turn and impeachment inquiries fill the news, MacTrump arrives at just the right time. Between the whole Ukraine mess and embarrassing moments on the world stage, a potential Shakespearean fall from grace is ripe for parody.
Power struggles, bitter rivalries, betrayals and a dash of comic relief are all hallmarks of a Shakespeare play and America’s current political landscape. Known for his Shakespearean adaptations of pop culture, author Ian Doescher has teamed up with former Obama staffer Jacopo della Quercia (real name Giacomo Calabria) to explore the current presidency with MacTrump: A Shakespearean Tragicomedy of the Trump Administration, Part I (Quirk Books).
Written in the style of Shakespeare, this clever satire wittily fictionalizes the events of the first two years of the Trump administration.
No one thought that MacTrump–Lord of MacTrump Towers, Son of New Yorktown—would ascend to the highest position in the kingdom. Yet with the help of his unhappy but dutiful wife Lad MacTrump, his clever daughter Dame Desdivanka, and his coterie of advisers, MacTrump is comfortably ensconced in the White Hold as President of the United Fiefdoms, free to make proclamations to his subjects through his favorite messenger McTweet.
The authors told us more on how the book came about:
Both of you have written works inspired by Shakespeare; Ian is the author of the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series and the Pop Shakespeare series, and Jacopo wrote License to Quill. What do you find so appealing about the Bard and his work?
Jacopo della Quercia (JDQ): Shakespeare was one of those rare artists who essentially created his own genre. It didn’t matter if he was writing comedy or tragedy, plays or poetry. If something is “Shakespearean,” you know precisely what you’re in for: great characters, captivating villains, and all that’s right and wrong about humanity. His primary components are so timeless that they leave the door wide open for artistic license and reimagination. You could turn Hamlet into a lion or Macbeth into a shadow puppet without their struggles losing an ounce of humanity.
MacTrump is your first collaboration together. How did you connect and come up with the idea?
Ian Doescher (ID): I read Jacopo’s novel License to Quill, a spy thriller starring William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Afterward, I wrote to Jacopo to tell him how much I enjoyed it, and Jacopo replied saying that he’d been a fan of my books too. A friendship naturally blossomed.
JDQ: I blame Ian for all this. Had he not sent me that email, we probably wouldn’t be sitting here. In this case, Ian’s words could not have come at a better time. I was searching for someone fluent in Early Modern English after writing License to Quill and shared several ideas with Ian, MacTrump among them. A few months later, we had our book written before we had even met each other!
Jacopo della Quercia is a pseudonym for a former Obama staffer. Can you tell us a little bit about your time working for Obama?
JDQ: I started as a volunteer for then Senator Obama’s 2008 primary campaign in Pennsylvania. After Obama secured the nomination, I was made an Obama Organizing Fellow and then a Field Organizer in the Philadelphia suburbs. It was exhausting work. Obama staffers typically worked over 100 hours a week, but it was a fantastic experience.
How did this experience influence MacTrump?JDQ: I should probably mention my campaign work is the chief reason I write under a pseudonym. Working on the campaign familiarized me with countless aspects of politics that aren’t taught in schools, such as what happens at inaugural balls, how certain politicians treat their staff, who’s looking out for whom, how to sniff out a spy, etc. I peppered MacTrump with these details whenever appropriate to make its world sound as believable and lived-in as our own, even when the situations in the story strayed far from real life.
What do you hope people take away from the book?
JDQ: The past two years have meant a lot of different things to people throughout the world. We don’t necessarily expect our book to change their votes or values. Instead, I hope MacTrump will offer them a fascinating and entertaining new perspective of the world. We wrote this book to show how William Shakespeare might have viewed the United States today.
ID: I hope MacTrump will help people laugh at something they would normally cry over. Our book may help people process the first two years of the Trump administration through the lens of comedy rather than tragedy.
MacTrump is a nice blend of a history play and a satire. Why do you think it’s important to utilize these two forms of writing to create a commentary on the Trump administration?
JDQ: Satire provides a perspective that otherwise would be lost if we wrote a straight history. Furthermore, I imagine Shakespeare would have had a lot to write about the U.S. government and the American people, especially as an Englishman. How would he portray us: as cherished siblings or crazy cousins? How would he critique and/or lampoon us? How would he utilize our national symbols, be they the bald eagle, Yankee Doodle, or Lady Liberty? What would he have thought of Hollywood, American literature, or Game of Thrones?
ID: Regarding history plays, MacTrump feels like one of Shakespeare’s histories because of the large cast of characters and the constant political machinations. There’s a mix of the comic, the tragic, the inspiring, and the ridiculous that is found in Shakespeare’s histories, too.
Twitter is a huge part of the Trump presidency and it is represented in MacTrump in the character McTweet. How do you think Twitter has changed the view of the American president?
JDQ: Twitter changed the view of the American president the moment it let Donald Trump disseminate his racist, tasteless, baseless claims about President Obama’s birth certificate. That said, Twitter is just a messenger, and one that Democrats can wield just as effectively as any Republican.
The names you’ve given each senator and key player in Trump’s orbit are hilarious. Was there a formula to renaming real-life figures?
JDQ: Our chief aim was for our characters to be recognizable as public figures and their respective Shakespearean equivalents.
ID: Other names fit too perfectly not to use them, like Mar-Iago. There were cases when Jacopo and I went back and forth trying to come up with the right name, the Republicons and Cleosandria O’Cassio probably being among the most difficult.
ID: We both have writing projects we look forward to finishing. I am working on the next installments of the Pop Shakespeare series, due out in 2020.
JDQ: I’m writing two smaller works at the moment: one academic and one flash-fiction.
MacTrump is available for purchase.
About the Authors
Ian Doescher is the New York Times bestselling author of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars and the Pop Shakespeare series. He lives in Portland, OR, with his family.
Jacopo della Quercia is the pseudonym for a former Obama staffer. He is the author of The Great Abraham Lincoln Pocket Watch Conspiracy and License to Quill, a scholar with Humanities New York and a history writer whose work can be found in Reader’s Digest.