The year was 2002, and Rudy Giuliani was in London.

As the recently retired mayor of New York City (his term limit had just expired), Giuliani was there for a special ceremony: he was becoming an honorary knight.

London’s Lord Mayor publicly praised Giuliani at the time, humorously comparing him to a bag of tea: “You can only tell their strength when you put them in hot water.” And then, referring to Giuliani, he concluded, “You sir, are a fine brew.”

Two decades later, Giuliani is once again in hot water, but this time the brew resembles something more likely to be found in a cauldron than a teacup.

The New York Times reported this week Giuliani has “racked up” potentially insurmountable legal bills related to an array of investigations and lawsuits.

Giuliani is being sued by a former work associate for allegations of sexual harassment and assault. Giuliani categorically denies the allegations, but numerous media outlets have reported on transcripts of Giuliani’s conversations in which he makes infuriatingly vulgar, sexist and antisemitic comments.

According to Giuliani’s lawyer, the former mayor also appears to be “Co-Conspirator 1” in the most recent indictment of President Donald Trump for efforts seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

And finally, in July, a disciplinary panel in Washington D.C. recommended Giuliani be disbarred. “By prosecuting that destructive case Mr. Giuliani, a sworn officer of the Court, forfeited his right to practice law,” the 38-page document stated in reference to Giuliani’s claims of “massive election fraud” without supporting evidence.

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Rudy Giuliani was once lauded by Oprah as “America’s Mayor.” He was flawed, certainly. But he was once a respected public servant — an honorary knight in Britain. Now he’s become the brunt of jokes from one of Britain’s most irreverent comedians, Sacha Baron Cohen.

It’s a story as tragic as King Lear wandering in the woods, half-mad, cursing the heavens, devoid of introspection about his follies that have contributed to his plight.

“It has a Shakespearean element about it ... It does have that kind of tragic tale that is being told in front of us, so we’ll have to all watch — and no one wishes him ill, but he’s gotten himself where he is,” the former White House counsel to President Nixon, John Dean, said recently on CNN.

Dean has become a well-known critic of Trump and a frequent pundit on left-leaning cable news. But the tragedy of Giuliani isn’t a partisan matter — it’s a painfully human one.

Giuliani cleaned up crime in New York and comforted the country after 9/11. He’s no longer that man, but he can become a better man. A man of honor and dignity. He can clean up his life, take responsibility for any poor choices and strive for the kind of contentment that transcends ephemeral carnal comforts.

Giuliani has called his faith “a personal discussion,” but he’s not shy about his upbringing as a Catholic. Over the years he’s been known for attending Mass in New York City.

And every tragedy carries through lines of mercy.

In King Lear, after the once prideful monarch is brought low, he encounters his loyal daughter who he recklessly cut off from inheritance. He struggles to recognize her, but when he finally does, his conscience is pricked and expresses his shame.

If she had poison for him, Lear says, he would willingly drink it.

But in a moment of mercy, his daughter forgives him.

This moment of contrition and compassion doesn’t change the tragic ending to the play, but it helps redeem Lear. A great leader, now abased, finds a way out from under pride.

It’s the kind of tale that could only happen to a king in Shakespeare. But I’m still hopeful it’s also the kind of story that could happen to a former mayor in New York City.