I suppose this had to happen sooner or later. Now that progressive activists and BLM have rounded up all the founding fathers and Confederate leaders for cancellation, they were eventually going to have to dig even further back in history for fresh targets. So why not Shakespeare? According to the teachers who founded the group #DisruptTexts, that’s certainly a fine idea. They believe that the Bard of Avon should either be removed from school curricula entirely or rebranded in a way that dumps significant criticism on his work as a symbol of white supremacy and colonialism. I know. (Washington Times)
For the new breed of teachers, William Shakespeare is seen less as an icon of literature and more as a tool of imperial oppression, an author who should be dissected in class or banished from the curriculum entirely.
“This is about White supremacy and colonization,” declared the teachers who founded #DisruptTexts, a group that wants staples of Western literature removed or subjected to withering criticism.
The anti-Shakespeare teachers say fans of the plays ignore the author’s problematic worldview. They say readers of Shakespeare should be required to address the “Whiteness” of their thinking.
One teacher from St. Paul, Minnesota is quoted as saying she gives her students Marxist theory when reading “Coriolanus.” Another high school teacher from New Jersey bragged that she issued “toxic masculinity analysis” to her students when reading Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare died in 1616. England was certainly a colonial power at that point, but the vast majority of Shakespeare’s work wasn’t rooted in any sort of celebration of colonialism or “whiteness.” He wrote about royal families and common people. What these activists are angry about is the fact that Shakespeare was white and male. So that means he has to go.
I’ll confess to not being a huge fan of the Bard’s work. I had to read it in school, but I just never found it particularly compelling. I was never a fan of poetry and his plays were written in an earlier form of English that didn’t exactly roll off the tongue of a kid who grew up working on a farm. But he’s part of history and a basic knowledge of the classics never hurts anyone looking for a well-rounded education.
As far as some lack of “cultural sensitivity” on Shakespeare’s part goes, give me a break. He was a product of his times and the society he grew up in, just like all the rest of them. If these teachers want to point to any specific examples in Shakespeare’s body of work that are supposedly offensive, I’d be happy to take a look. But the fact is that they are trying to judge a man who has been dead for more than 400 years against standards that have only been summoned out of thin air in the past generation.
If you really want to criticize Shakespeare for something, try solving the mystery of whether or not he actually wrote all of his plays and sonnets. There’s been a simmering debate for a very long time over who the true author of those classic works actually was. If you could somehow prove that he either stole the work of others or if history has incorrectly attributed some of the work to him, then you might have a reason to cancel him. But it just seems unlikely that a mystery that old is ever going to be definitively solved.