The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.0958 Thursday, 26 April 2001
Date: Thursday, 26 Apr 2001 04:50:34 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Boring Bard Barred
Many of you may have already seen this item, but for those who haven't,
Bard barred for being too boring
Chris McGreal in Johannesburg
Wednesday April 18, 2001
Generations of schoolchildren have been saying it for years but finally
it is official: Shakespeare is boring, unlikely and ridiculous.
At least that is the view of a committee of teachers appointed by the
education department of South Africa's most important province, Gauteng,
which wants to ban some of the Bard's works from state school reading
lists because they have unhappy endings, lack cultural diversity and
fail to promote the South African constitution's rejection of racism and
Julius Caesar never had a chance of making it past the sexism criteria,
with the committee condemning the work because it "elevates men". Antony
and Cleopatra and the Taming of the Shrew fared little better, both
being described as undemocratic and racist.
Hamlet was declared persona non grata on the grounds that the play is
"not optimistic or uplifting". But it was the "too despairing" King Lear
that fared the worst. "The play lacks the power to excite readers and is
full of violence and despair. The plot is rather unlikely and
ridiculous," the committee concluded.
Those that slipped through included Romeo and Juliet (presumably not for
its happy ending), The Merchant of Venice, (anti-semitism not being
considered racism?) and Macbeth.
Shakespeare was not alone. Gulliver's Travels is to be pulled because
its humour is deemed foreign to South Africans. Even the country's Nobel
laureate and Booker prize winner, Nadine Gordimer, is to be removed from
school libraries as her writing is allegedly "deeply racist," even
though three of her books were also banned by the apartheid regime.
The Gauteng education department, which includes Johannesburg and
Pretoria, is ready to ban Mrs Gordimer's July's People, which has been
set reading in schools for seven years, because it is "deeply racist,
superior and patronising. The novel seems one-sided and outdated".
"To be called a racist as a white South African and as someone who
stayed here through all of the worst time and as someone who identified
closely with the struggle - that is just very insulting," Mrs Gordimer
Some of South Africa's most prominent writers and artists plan to send a
letter of protest to the ruling African National Congress accusing it of
"political correctness gone mad".
Not the thing
Hamlet Not optimistic or uplifting. Characters not appealing to modern
pupils as royalty is no longer
King Lear Not exciting. Full of violence and despair. Ridiculous and
Julius Caesar Sexist because it elevates men
Antony and Cleopatra Racist and undemocratic
Othello Racist and sexist. A bleak and pessimistic tone
Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
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