So this week, we've read The Merchant of Venice (Sh.) and The Jew of Malta (Marlowe). I guess the thing that got me thinking about the seminar today was, what right do we have to censor?
The texts have, apparently, been banned from being taught in the US, and many teachers refuse to teach the texts worldwide. In this, are they also refusing to recognise Shakespeare as an anti-semitic? Or perhaps more importantly, can we recognise, and should we recognise Shakespeare in this way? It would be pretty damning to accept this for our national playwright, the legend that is Shakespeare. Can we discard his views as merely fitting to the contemporary popular ideologies, and erase all blame?
If yes, why is it that we change the offensive words/actions/phrases in his plays? Why is 'villian' thrown in place of his prejudices?
Sure, I understand that this is done so as not to offend and to fit our modern viewpoints. Fair enough. But, if we truly accepted Shakespeare's views as merely contemporary, why are we so keen to erase them? It was suggested that Shakespeare is thought of as a humanist and as so this was done so as not to confuse the less educated general public. Surely we cannot exercise so much intellectual snobbery as this?
It is true that the plays do not need the racism and offensive stuff, but do we have the right to edit to censor? I don't know. Who tells us what is offensive? The way women are treated is pretty offensive, the Christians are mocked also – why is it that we do not censor this?
We can therefore only have difficulty when confronted with Merchant or Malta – you cannot avoid the racisim there, its the play itself. It is almost certainly problematic, particulary given what has happened between Shakespeare and today. If its 'ok' to put on these plays, why is it that we feel the need to censor Shakespeare in other places?
(Avoiding reading Pamela…)