The Shakespeare canon would not exist had the deeds of its many characters — mad kings, rivalrous offspring, treacherous lords, treasonous courtiers — never been exposed or imagined. We would be deprived of understanding much of human nature had Shakespeare’s storytelling been restricted, by some supernatural force, to the fanciful and Arcadian, that is, no hatred, no tragedy, no “fall of man.”
But, as the bard said, “All the world’s a stage,” and the thing that animated any of Shakespeare’s tragic plays — jealousy, prejudice, love, revenge, egomania, lust for power — remains alive right here in 21st century Baltimore. For evidence look no further than to spectacles playing out in our courts: Angelos Agonistes and the Marilyn Mosby matter.
Let’s first address the latter.
Mosby, who lost her bid for a third term as Baltimore State’s Attorney, faces federal charges of perjury and mortgage fraud. She’s accused of falsely claiming financial hardship during the COVID-19 pandemic to obtain funds from her retirement account that she used to buy homes in Florida. At the time, Mosby was making nearly $250,000 a year as Baltimore’s top prosecutor. She’s also accused of making false statements on mortgage applications.
When the indictments were first reported a year ago, it sounded to me like an ordinary paper trail case — not exactly a who-dun-it. All defendants are entitled to the presumption of innocence, but the nature of the charges made me wonder how Mosby was going to defend herself. The case against her was the kind that frequently comes through the federal court in Baltimore — white-collar in nature, frequently ending with a plea agreement and a relatively snappy resolution.
Instead, Mosby declared she was “built for” the fight — like Henry V at the breach: “Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,” and all that.
Her first act was to claim she was the victim of racism, that prejudiced prosecutors were using minor violations of federal law to hound her out of office. Mosby hired an outspoken attorney, A. Scott Bolden, to make that case, and the two of them went on MSNBC to claim that Mosby was the victim of a racist vendetta.
Bolden continued to push that losing theme right into a potential contempt charge. And now, in Act 2, he and five other attorneys have pulled out of the case, leaving Mosby to be represented by the federal public defender here, James Wyda.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby to grant Mosby the benefit of a taxpayer-funded defense suggests that, despite her handsome salary as state’s attorney and her real estate investments, she already has burned a lot of money; she doesn’t have enough to afford an adequate defense. (Her husband, Nick Mosby, is the Baltimore City Council president, but his $135,000-a-year salary does not count in the calculation, under the federal guidelines for determining if you get a public defender.)
So Mosby is in a position of poor prospects. Her state’s attorney career is over. Her new attorney, Wyda, will play straight with her; I doubt we’ll see him grandstanding on the courthouse steps. If there’s a trial, Mosby risks being found guilty and maybe spending time away from her family.
Methinks the lady hath protested too much, but let’s see what happens in the next act.
As for Angelos Agonistes, I must ask: Is litigation the only solution to a problem these brothers learned from their now-incapacitated, high-powered attorney father?
I have asked before and will ask again: Don’t you fellas like baseball?
Here are the sons of Peter Angelos, majority owner of the Baltimore Orioles, in an ugly public fight over the team and the father’s law practice. They appear to be blowing — or have already blown — the opportunity to spend the rest of their lives in the blissful ownership of a baseball team. They’ve involved their mother in the struggle. And they’ve done this at a time when the team appears to be on the cusp of a new era of success.
Trust me, friends, I understand families. I have one myself. You can pick friends, but not brothers and sisters. And when money is involved — and no amount is too small for a petty fight, according to judges who’ve presided over disputes over estates — anything can happen. Brother turns against brother, daughters betray an addled father (see King Lear). Life can blow up on the front page of your hometown newspaper.
So I return to a lifelong bafflement: I have never understood the man or woman who, through hard work or privilege, attains a certain status — wealth, career accomplishments, celebrity, the high opinion of peers — and then loses one or all of those things because they let anger, greed or vanity consume them. And the good first impression presented to the public dissolves into unfortunate notoriety.
Cassio in Othello: “Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial.”
Just as it takes courage to admit wrongdoing and ask for forgiveness, it takes a strong heart to say, “I beg your pardon, dear brother.” Such would be, as Shakespeare put it, “an overture of peace.” That’s a phrase from “All’s Well That Ends Well,” and would that it could for the feuding Angeloses.