European press relishes drama of Tory leadership contest

Combo picture of newspaper front pages featuring photos of Boris Johnson
Image caption European newspapers savour the political turmoil unleashed in Britain by Brexit

European commentators have enthusiastically seized on the references to Shakespeare being used by their UK colleagues to describe the crisis now engulfing the Conservative Party leadership.

Among those lining up to offer their readers Shakespearean analogies are papers in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Hungary.

One Italian pundit, however, writes that yesterday's events put him more in mind of a spaghetti western, while a German commentator comes up with a rather more esoteric literary reference.

'Shakespeare at its worst'

The French daily Le Figaro notes that "the succession race at Downing Street begins in an atmosphere worthy of a Shakespearean drama, where dramatic turns of events and betrayals occur at a frenetic pace".

Image copyright Le Figaro
Image caption Le Figaro

A commentary by Nicol Degli Innocenti in Italy's Il Sole 24 Ore says that a number of Conservative MPs are not impressed by Michael Gove's "unloyal behaviour" and have compared him to "Macbeth (Shakespeare again!) killing King Duncan on the orders of his wife. Mrs Gove is in fact regarded as the Lady Macbeth of the piece, with a decisive role behind the scenes."

Image copyright Il Sole 24 Ore
Image caption Italy's newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore calls Gove a "faithless friend"

The Italian news website Il Sussidiario notes that "Gove stabbed Johnson in the back, as in a Shakespeare play".

Spain's El Mundo carries an editorial headlined "British politics, Shakespeare's authentic drama", in which it says: "Amid the deep turmoil that has engulfed the UK since the triumph of Brexit at the referendum, its leaders look more than ever like characters out of a Shakespeare play. Betrayals, passionate hatred, envy, personal ambitions… all the ingredients so deftly handled by the great playwright are present."

The Hungarian news website notes that British domestic politics have "turned into a Shakespearean drama" as a result of the Brexit referendum.

Image copyright Napi
Image caption Napi: "They've admitted it: The Brexiteers didn't want Brexit"

France's left-of-centre daily Liberation describes Boris Johnson's decision to step aside from the leadership race as "Shakespeare at its worst".

German literary critic Bernhard Schulz also takes issue with the quality of today's political drama. In a piece for Der Tagesspiegel headlined "Et tu, Michael Gove?", the paper's arts editor laments the fact that Shakespeare's dramatisation of the story of Julius Caesar "has now returned as a farce".

Image copyright Der Tagesspiegel

"Spaghetti western"

Fabio Cavalera, writing in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, offers a different analogy: "Sleep-inducing British politics suddenly offers a scenario straight out of a spaghetti western (in Westminster they are talking about a Shakespearean tragedy, but they are being either too nice or naive), with 'wicked' gunslingers (Boris Johnson) and bounty killers (Michael Gove) who gun them down in the final scene."

Mr Cavalera concludes that "if it weren't for the fact that all this could have serious consequences for the whole of Europe, it would be laughable".

Meanwhile, the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine reaches for a more arcane literary reference. "The unbearable lightness of political being" is how it headlines a piece about Mr Johnson's decision to step aside from the Conservative leadership race, in a reference to the philosophical novel by Czech writer Milan Kundera.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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