"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown."

- William Shakespeare, "Henry IV, Part II"

That cautionary maxim from the tormented title character has endured for more than four centuries.

So why do so many folks want to endure the cranial strain that Charleston's next mayor will experience?

And lest you imagine that a mayor's authority is much more limited than a king's, keep in mind the near-monarchial powers wielded by Joe Riley as he expanded his realm during a protracted reign.

King Joseph's replacement is likely to face much stiffer resistance to mayoral will.

He - or she - also will face, among other severe challenges, divisive debates about downtown flooding, the proposed new cruise terminal, the completion of I-526, the plan for a bike lane on the T. Allen Legare Jr. bridge and ill-clad tourists running amok.

But as reported by electoral-expert colleague Robert Behre in Sunday's Post and Courier, names are proliferating for November's mayor ballot.

Already announced candidates (in alphabetical order): Businessman Dick Elliott, former City Council member Henry Fishburne, S.C. House member Wendell Gilliard, businessman John Tecklenburg and former City Councilman Paul Tinkler.

Expected to join the fray: City Council member William Gregorie and S.C. House member Leon Stavrinakis.

Other possible candidates: former Riley campaign manager Ginny Deerin, S.C. House member Chip Limehouse, City Councilmen Dean Riegel and Mike Seekings and former City Councilman Maurice Washington.

City Councilman Aubry Alexander said Monday night that he will not run. My former classmate at the late, great St. Andrews Jr. High and High (though he graduated from Middleton) would have topped the alphabetical lists on both first and last names.

Now, however, he's avoided the risk of moving into Riley's long shadow. Sure, the mayor has plenty of critics, some of them downright bitter. But he has an impressive record, too.

Maybe Riley even retains sufficient political clout to decree his successor via endorsement - and other means.

Then again, maybe not.

Regardless of where they stand with or on Riley, though, mayoral candidates should ponder what happened to those who replaced ...

Vince Lombardi: Won five NFL titles in his last seven seasons as coach of the Green Bay Packers. Replacement Phil Bengston then won only 20 games over the next three seasons before getting fired.

John Wooden (no proven relation to me): "The Wizard of Westwood" coached UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball titles in his last 12 seasons. Replacement Gene Bartow finished no better than third nationally in two seasons despite a 52-9 record, then gave up on spoiled Bruins fans and quit to start the athletic program at Alabama-Birmingham.

Frank McGuire: Coached South Carolina to an unbeaten ACC basketball regular season (1969-70), an ACC tournament title (1971) and an outstanding 283-142 overall record. After USC foolishly forced McGuire out in 1980, replacement Bill Foster (not to be confused with former Clemson coach Bill Foster) went a mediocre 92-79 before bolting in 1986 for Northwestern (the university in Illinois, not the high school in Rock Hill).

Ronald Reagan: George H.W. Bush, promoted by voters in 1988 from vice president to president, was merely the first in an ongoing series of Republicans who can't match the winning appeal of "The Great Communicator."

Adam West: Star of ABC's 1966-68 "Batman" series remains the best of all who have played the Caped Crusader. Michael Keaton was too grim in the 1989 "Batman" movie - especially when pitted against Jack Nicholson's fearfully hilarious Joker. Val Kilmer, George Clooney (seriously) and Christian Bale have fallen even shorter of West's lofty Batman standard. And Ben Affleck sounds woefully miscast for "Batman vs. Superman," due out next year.

But this season's new "Gotham" series on Fox features a terrific youthful - and creepy - Oswald Cobblepot (The Penguin in his formative years, as played by Robin Lord Taylor). No Batman - Bruce Wayne's still a kid.

From Gotham City fantasy back to Holy City reality:

Though Mayor Riley's a relatively small man, Mayor Whoever's Next will have big shoes to fill. That means those considering running for the job should also consider another time-tested maxim:

"Be careful what you wish for. It might come true."

Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is wooten@postandcourier.com.