On June 16th, 2017, the New York Public Theatre staged a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. This production would use modern costuming. Julius Caesar wore a long coat and red tie. Political tensions were running high. The election of Donald Trump and the campaign leading up to it had cleaved America’s soul in two. One young woman, possessed by the spirit of this division, sat in the second row of the theater. A then unknown Laura Loomer was fiddling with her phone. The play was about to reach its bloody apogee at the start of Act III. She gets up from her seat and strolls onto the stage. Her nasally voice rings through the theater: “Stop the normalization of political violence against the right! This is unacceptable!”

A couple of hours later, she’s sitting with a reporter from the New Yorker in a diner. She is completely absorbed in her phone. She doesn’t even look up from it to answer a question from a curious waitress who overheard their conversation. Her and a few of her friends buzz excitedly about the reaction on Twitter. Jack Posobiec, another dopey right-wing e-celeb, sums up the mood when he says, “This is gonna go down as the greatest production of Julius Caesar in history.” An equally clueless Loomer responds, “I redefined Shakespeare tonight.” My my. No one redefines Shakespeare, because Shakespeare has already defined all of us. If only Ms. Loomer had attended a performance of Twelfth Night instead, she would have known the consequences of what she had done.

The main antagonist of Twelfth Night is Malvolio, whose name means something like “ill will” in Italian. He is stuck-up and self-absorbed, but, most importantly, he can’t stand merriment, good cheer, or art. In Act II, Scene III, he comes upon Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, and the Clown drinking, carousing, singing songs, and just generally having a good time. He won’t have such things and puts a stop to it straight away. The drunken revelers don’t take kindly to this and hatch a plan for revenge. They will forge a letter to fool Malvolio into thinking his mistress, Olivia, is secretly in love with him. In Act II, Scene V, they plant the letter in the garden and Malvolio comes along shortly. When he is by himself, he indulges his imaginative fantasies. He strolls around the garden imagining himself a lord issuing commands to his underlings. So imagination is alright in his book, but only when used by him to his own ends. God forbid anyone else use their imagination to the benefit of others.

He finds the letter, which is as vague a declaration of love as can be and it assigns no name to the beloved other than the letters “M,O,A,I.” The vagueness of the words is no obstacle to Malvolio. He says “M,O,A,I; this simulation is not as the former: and yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for…” and crush it he does. He twists the meaning of the letter until it fits his own purposes neatly. He believes that the letter is no less than a certain declaration of love for him by his mistress. His crimes against art and imagination cannot go unpunished. In Act III, Scene IV he appears unto his mistress Olivia and makes a complete fool of himself chasing after this imagined love. Olivia, believing him to have gone mad, has him locked away. He nearly goes mad in the dark, isolated prison, but he is freed at the end of the play. He confronts his mistress and learns of the prank that has been pulled on him. In typical Shakespearean fashion, the clown delivers the wisdom of the play: “ …and thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.”

The whirligig of time that has brought Miss Loomer to the present has been a series of publicity stunts like her interruption of Julius Caesar and bannings from nearly all social media platforms, save backwaters like Gab. She was banned from Twitter in 2018 for a tweet directed at Ilhan Omar. She was then banned from GoFundMe and Venmo in short order. In 2019, she was banned from PayPal. Then she was banned from Instagram and Facebook, completing the banning from all major social media platforms. After this, a distraught Loomer appeared on the Alex Jones Show. In the video clip, she is crying hysterically about how her life has been ruined and asking what people are going to do about it.

An unfortunate turn of events, but such is what happens when one tries to fight against Shakespeare’s omnipresent, all-powerful spirit. For we are all Shakespeare’s characters, and if you oppose his art you are, most certainly, a Malvolio. Let this be a warning to all would be moralizers and Philistines: stay out of the theatre or risk a curse on ye!