By J. Peder Zane
Real Clear Wire

“Revenge of the Princes” is the hot new show drawing wide audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

Combining the classic Shakespearean themes of regicide and patricide with our contemporary idolatry of narcissism and victimhood, “Revenge” is not unfolding on Broadway or the West End; a real-life adaptation is being live-streamed into our homes as two separate but entwined psychodramas. While the tickets are free, the cost may be more than anyone can imagine.

The English version stars a man named Harry; the American edition, a man named Hunter.

Both are the second sons of powerful fathers – one a king, the other a president – reared in the shadow of their golden siblings. Harry’s brother, William, is in line to be king; Hunter’s brother, Beau, was being groomed for greatness before his death from cancer in 2015. Harry and Hunter adored their brothers, but chafed under their shadows. Harry underscored his pain by titling his recent memoir, “Spare.” Hunter, while still married to his first wife, slept with his brother’s widow after Beau’s death.

Harry and Hunter have led their lives in a discomfiting limbo of privilege and powerlessness. They have enjoyed riches beyond our wildest imagination, but everything they have is based on their birthright. Harry’s royal cage, which would never allow him to be his own man, is an organizing principle of the British monarchy. Hunter’s handcuffs were more oblique as he has had to hustle to cash in on the only advantage he had going for him: his name. “I don’t think there are a lot of things that would have happened in my life if my last name wasn’t Biden,” he told an interviewer.

While this status scarred both men, they also suffered from a profound childhood tragedy: the deaths of their mothers in car accidents. Harry was 12 when his mother, Princess Diana, died while fleeing the paparazzi in Paris. Hunter was almost three and a passenger in the car when his mother and infant sister were killed on a rural Delaware road. We don’t know if this pain is why both men turned to drugs at different points in their lives – though Hunter’s struggles were deeper and more problematic than Harry’s. But their psychological wounds still feel fresh.

That material serves as the prologue for “Revenge of the Princes,” the tangled, tortured past that suggests the “super-objective,” as Stanislavski put it, of our key players – the reason, that is, why they are both trying to burn down their family’s houses.

Although the English are often credited with a subtlety their American cousins supposedly lack, Harry has lit his matches in broad daylight. Through his book, Netflix series, Oprah sit down, and innumerable other interviews, he has described his family as a nasty, green-eyed lot who suffer, at the very least, from unconscious racism. He, along with his wife, Meghan Markle, have been on a years-long crusade to undermine and perhaps vanquish the centuries-old monarchy for this simple reason: They were mean to us.

Hunter has provided himself more cover for his acts of arson. He did not go directly to the press with the information so damaging it may yet derail his father’s presidency. He kept the evidence that he was trading on his father’s name to receive millions from foreign companies and governments on a laptop that he abandoned at a Delaware repair shop in 2019. Perhaps Hunter just forgot it; he was struggling with his addictions at the time. But it doesn’t take Sigmund Freud to see that the failure to retrieve this smoking gun over many months may have been intentional. The same might be said of his sister Ashley, who left her personal diary – which included memories of inappropriate showers with her father – at a halfway house where she stayed following a stint in rehab. It, too, was discovered and published.

While Hunter’s motivations are not clear, there is no doubt that his laptop poses the single greatest threat to his father’s fortunes. A text he wrote in 2019 is the best evidence we have so far that his father may be lying when he says he did not profit from his son’s dealings. "I hope you all can do what I did and pay for everything for this entire family for 30 years," Hunter wrote his daughter Naomi. "It's really hard. But don't worry, unlike Pop [Joe Biden], I won't make you give me half your salary."

An email from the laptop in which Hunter states that he paid his dad $49,910 per month to rent his beach house, suggests, but does not prove, one way the money was transferred. Again, Hunter is an unreliable witness. But this sure looks like political dynamite.

Hunter has also engaged in more direct acts against his father. The president loves to brag about the Biden family values: their honesty, integrity and loyalty. Nevertheless, his son has reportedly never seen the little girl he fathered with a former stripper. He refused to pay child support for now 4-year-old Navy Joan until a judge ordered him to, and is now asking a court to deny her use of his last name. Given the ease with which this scandal could have been avoided – a dash of family values is all that was required – one has to wonder if he wants this shameful publicity.

The last act of “Revenge of the Princes” has not yet been written. Perhaps there are more surprising plot twists and crueler cuts to come. But Harry and Hunter have struck their matches and we are all entranced by the flames.

J. Peder Zane is a RealClearInvestigations editor and columnist. He previously worked as a book review editor and book columnist for the News & Observer (Raleigh), where his writing won several national honors. Zane has also worked at the New York Times and taught writing at Duke University and Saint Augustine’s University.