British politics this week like the mad scenes in King Lear

Boris Johnson’s Brexit ploy has always been innately absurd

British prime minister Boris Johnson has been accused of "playing games" in parliament by a member of the public - who spoke with an Irish accent - while walking on the street in Leeds. Video: BBC/Reuters

The great American humourist James Thurber recalled in his memoir a local character from his childhood in Columbus, Ohio: the Get-Ready Man. “The Get-Ready Man was a lank unkempt elderly gentleman with wild eyes and a deep voice who used to go about shouting at people through a megaphone to prepare for the end of the world, “GET READY! GET READ-Y!” he would bellow, “THE WORLLLD IS COMING TO AN END!” His startling exhortations would come up, like summer thunder, at the most unexpected times and in the most surprising places.”

Thurber’s favourite memory of him was his invasion of a production of Shakespeare’s suitably apocalyptic play, King Lear. “The Get-Ready Man added his bawlings to the squealing of Edgar and the ranting of the King and the mouthing of the Fool, rising from somewhere in the balcony to join in. The theatre was in absolute darkness and there were rumblings of thunder and flashes of lightning offstage. Neither father nor I, who were there, ever completely got over the scene, which went something like this:

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