To go or not to go, that is the politically correct question….

So Sir Michael Morpurgo is refusing to include The Merchant Of Venice in a new book adapting Shakespeare’s plays for children under 16 because the portrayal of Shylock is too offensive. See this link

Well, let’s be honest, there are precious few Shakespeare’s works that won’t offend someone. Everything of his that I endured at school offended me simply because I couldn’t stand him! I wanted Chaucer. OK, there’s no accounting for it, and some grey cells are definitely from a different planet. Mine are clearly from some planet as yet undiscovered, because I still think Chaucer’s better.

So yes, Shylock is an unpleasant sterotype, but then many of the Bard’s characters are. Should we censor them all? Where do we draw the line? If we damn every shrewish woman in Shakespeare, that’s about half his works gone in a blink. He had a go at everyone and everything, and he wrote in Tudor times, for heaven’s sake. It’s a slippery slope if we start putting modern values on everything from the past.

3 comments

  1. Totally think Michael Morpugo has got it wrong here. Sherlock is not cast as “a Typical Jew” – he is a man more sinned against than sinning, REACTING misguidedly to the harsh judgements of the society of the time. It shows his weakness and his common humanity, and it is ultimately HIS tragedy because he has lost his daughter, his money by which he set too much store, and is forced to deny his faith – his last refuge and consolation. It should make US think… And I reckon that’s what Shakespeare was trying to do…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. While we see Shylock as “more sinned against than sinning”, this was not the case with Shakespeare’s audience (we no longer think it a great “mercy” that he has to convert to save his life, for example). It would have been great to use as a “teaching moment” … addressing the anti-Semitism head on (and the “cheap, money-loving Jew” is still used to whip up hatred and violence) I think it is good that someone is at least factoring it into his thought processes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, I very much agree Esther, it should have been included BECAUSE of the anti-semitism, to illustrate it and as you say to make it a teaching point and show how Shakespeare’s own audience would have viewed it, compared to attitudes today and to warn against going backwards to those views. Is he going to leave out Othello too, because he’s the Moor of Venice… ?

    Like

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