Woke culture comes for Shakespeare

William Shakespeare wrote his plays at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries. Over the years, people have tried to make Shakespeare more palatable for then-current audiences, either by putting the plays in new settings or getting rid of “objectionable” issues. Nothing, though, has ever equaled what Britain’s modern Globe Theater plans to do: It’s going to “decolonise” Shakespeare.

Shakespeare’s plays have lasted 500 years. Even in 21st century America, we still routinely used words and phrases that Shakespeare first wrote: “admirable,” “barefaced,” “hostile,” “sanctimonious,” “all that glitters isn’t gold,” “break the ice,” “clothes make the man,” “a laughing stock,” “It’s Greek to me,” “too much of a good thing,” and many more.

It’s true that much of Shakespeare’s language is hard to understand for modern people -- although, oddly, Americans may find Shakespeare’s English easier to understand when spoken as he would have spoken it, rather than as actors speak it today – but it’s still exquisitely beautiful. And while his plays’ values can be strange or even offensive, Shakespeare nevertheless had such a deep understanding of unchanging human nature that he always has currency. Whether it’s those stupid teenagers in Romeo and Juliet, the witty Beatrice and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing, or even Shylock’s ageless plea that others recognize his common humanity, he still can resonate with modern audiences.

At various times, people have tried to bring Shakespeare in line with their times.  In 1807, Thomas Bowdler created a cleaned-up Shakespeare, shorn of suicides, blasphemy, prostitution, etc., so that families could read it together without shame. His effort became so famous we still use his name as a verb for someone creating a mangled abridged version of an original work of written art. At around the same time, siblings Charles and Mary Lamb prepared a clean and simple version for children.

In our modern era, we’ve seen The Taming of the Shrew reworked as Kiss Me Kate, a brilliant Cole Porter musical; Richard III reimagined in a fictional 1930s fascist England; Much Ado About Nothing moved to small-town America at the end of the Spanish American war; and Macbeth transformed into a feudal Japanese tale in Throne of Blood. Shakespeare is almost infinitely malleable because, under the British renaissance trappings lies someone who understands people – how they behave in different circumstances and what motivates them, whether we look at people’s best or worst instincts.

However, it’s questionable whether Shakespeare will survive the latest attack, this one coming from the left, which seeks to “decolonise” Shakespeare’s plays:

The Globe Theatre has launched a project to ‘decolonise’ Shakespeare’s famous plays, while experts claimed his work is ‘problematic’ for linking whiteness to beauty.

The London theatre, which is a reconstruction of the Elizabethan playhouse where William Shakespeare wrote his work, has begun ‘anti-racist’ seminars to discuss ‘decolonising’ Shakespeare’s esteemed plays.

Experts claimed that the bard’s plays are ‘problematic’ for linking whiteness to beauty, while an academic said all of Shakespeare’s plays are ‘race plays’ as they all contain ‘whiteness’.

During the first seminar, academics debated A Midsummer Night’s Dream and said it included ‘problematic gendered and racialised dynamics’, the Telegraph reported.

[snip]

Dr Vanessa Corredera claimed the humorous and spectacular nature of A Midsummer Night’s Dream can work to ‘gloss over’ the ‘racialised dynamics’ within.

She explained: ‘In context with other plays and even the Sonnets, this language is all over the place, this language of dark and light… there are these racialising elements.’

The associate professor of English at Andrews University in Michigan also claimed that every Shakespeare play is a ‘race play’ as ‘whiteness’ is part of all of the works.

Shakespeare is rugged and has stood the test of time but we know what leftists do: They suck joy, life, and nuance out of everything. When they’re done, all that remains is grim, politically correct dust.

I can’t even begin to imagine what the Globe will have left once its censors have taken race, sex, violence, and gendered issues out of Romeo and Juliet, or approached mental health more compassionately in Hamlet. Wouldn’t it be lovely if a modern-day playwright of Shakespeare caliber could write something brilliant skewering the intellectual wasteland of leftism?

IMAGE: William Shakespeare by John Taylor; National Portrait Gallery; Public Domain.

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