We continue our consideration of Shakespeare’s Problem Plays with today’s offering on Troilus and Cressida as an introduction to problems in compliance. Today, we consider Troilus and Cressida and how the title character was portrayed as a fool but the main action is around the death of other characters.

The title characters of this play are not the main story, which takes place during the Trojan War. Troilus loves Cressida, who are both Trojans. Unfortunately Cressida is exchanged for another Trojan who has been captured by the Greeks. This part of the play concludes with Troilus going into battle in a very frenzied manner. Shakespeare seems to portray him as a hot-headed fool in love, but he does not die.

The main action of the play involves the Trojans, King Priam and his oldest son, Hector. On the Greek side it is Agamemnon and Achilles, with minor appearances by Ajax and Patroclus. It is the story of both Hector and Achilles being lured out to an ultimate battle. Achilles only does so after his lover, Patroclus, is killed by Hector. There is a lot of death in this part of the play, yet most commentators do not see it as the anchor to categorize Troilus and Cressidaas a tragedy. Of course, there are many deaths, including Patroclus and Hector, yet these come in honorable battle. Perhaps the final word should come from Wisam Khalid Abdul Jabbar, who said, in The Subversive Homeric Reality in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida, “Shakespeare sacrifices the tragic form, as it sets the characters in a normative direction, in favour of a tragedy of thought.”

We recently saw the tragedy of the victims of Larry Nassar go to a new level when Michigan State University (MSU) Interim President John Engler said (on the record) to the Editorial Board of the Detroit News, “There are a lot of people who are touched by this, survivors who haven’t been in the spotlight. In some ways they have been able to deal with this better than the ones who’ve been in the spotlight who are still enjoying that moment at times, you know, the awards and recognition. And it’s ending. It’s almost done.”

This is not the first time Engler has played the fool in this horrific tragedy. He has consistently attacked, belittled and demeaned the victims of Nassar’s abuse. Kim Kozlowski, reporting in the Detroit News last summer, “Calls mounted Thursday for interim President John Engler to resign from Michigan State University in the wake of emails in which he suggested that the first gymnast to publicly accuse Larry Nassar of sexual abuse might get a “kickback” from her attorney for “manipulating” other victims.”

Engler has led the destruction of any goodwill MSU might have engendered by its commitment to compensate Nassar victims with a $500 million pool of money. Yet, as Matt Kelly wrote in a Radical Compliance blog post entitled “Another Compliance Lesson from Michigan State, “The crisis at MSU is, foremost, a crisis of mistrust. People tried raising alarm about Nassar for years, MSU leaders didn’t listen, and today everyone is skeptical that the university will start listening now. Considering the smear Engler made against a victim only a few months ago, the skepticism isn’t unfounded.” In “Michigan State Reorgs Compliance Again”, Kelly wrote about the University’s effort to so obscure any compliance function as to make it basically non-functioning. What does that tell you about MSU’s commitment to ethics? Unfortunately everything you need to know.

Perhaps the best way to sum all this is up is as a tragedy.

Tomorrow Measure for Measure.

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