His plays harbor problematic depictions and characterizations

The Lorena Germán – Jess Cluess contretemps has nudged my curiosity, so I looked for more.

Way back last July:

Oy. You mean, like Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Virginia Woolf, Willa Cather, Edith Wharton? For example?

Fast forward to today and she’s being bullied in the usual fashion.

So how about this DisruptTexts crew of educators?

Here’s Lorena Germán on how (and why) to disrupt Shakespeare.

We knew that suggesting educators disrupt Shakespeare would be a challenge for many. We were pleased to see the openness to the idea and the willingness to engage. But then again, it could be because we’re “preaching to the choir” and we acknowledge that educators hesitant to challenging thinking around the use of Shakespeare in our schools chose not to engage. The chat surfaced some valid points and great thoughts around the reasons for replacing and/or critically interrogating Shakespeare. Here are some of our thoughts around Shakespeare and his pedestal:

We believe in offering students a wide variety of literature and access to playwrights other than Shakespeare. That is valuable, restorative, and productive.

No kidding. Do any schools say Shakespeare and only Shakespeare should be on offer? University students who major in English literature will take one or more Shakespeare course(s), but primary and secondary schools mostly don’t specialize that way.

We believe that Shakespeare, like any other playwright, no more and no less, has literary merit. He is not “universal” in a way that other authors are not. He is not more “timeless” than anyone else.

Nope. Wrong. Wrong in the “no more” part. He does have more “literary merit” than most. You’d have to read him and/or see him on stage/film to see how and why though. It’s not a myth; he really is as good as he’s cracked up to be. This is all the more interesting because he came from such an unremarkable background. He wasn’t an earl or even a knight, he wasn’t rich, he didn’t go to Cambridge or Oxford, he started out as a player (an actor), who had to go on the road when plays were banned in London because of the plague (sound familiar?), which was considered very raffish and low-class indeed.

We believe he was a man of his time and that his plays harbor problematic depictions and characterizations.

That “harbor” is sly – as if he were hiding a fugitive Nazi in his basement. Anyway – Othello? Shylock? They’re not as straightforwardly “problematic” as you’d expect from a 16th century country boy. And then there’s the women question, on which he is startlingly original and different from his rivals.

Overall, we continue to affirm that there is an over-saturation of Shakespeare in our schools and that many teachers continue to unnecessarily place him on a pedestal as a paragon of what all language should be. Though we enjoy reading some of the plots in his plays and acknowledge the depth and complexity within many of his plot arcs and characters, we also find that educators are often taught to see Shakespearean plays as near perfection, his characters as “archetypes”, and to persist in oj indoctrinating students into a false notion of the primacy (and superiority) of the English language.

Oh we enjoy some of his plots; how generous. That passage is illiterate and stupid, and this group should not be allowed anywhere near any curriculum decisions.

We do not see these same problematic approaches in other plays where whiteness and the male voice are not centered…So, let us be honest, the conversation really isn’t about universality, nor and this isn’t about being equipped to identify all possible cultural references. This is about an ingrained and internalized elevation of Shakespeare in a way that excludes other voices. This is about white supremacy and colonization.

I’m not persuaded. You know why? Her words are not up to the job. Language is a vital tool for persuasion, in fact it’s pretty much impossible to persuade without it, unless you consider a fist under the nose “persuasion.” Exposure to rich, complicated language just might be a path to important fields of learning and work.

26 Responses to “His plays harbor problematic depictions and characterizations”

Leave a Comment

Subscribe without commenting