Turn the suspicion inward, buddy

The campaign to make everyone stupider continues.

The “disproportionate representation” of William Shakespeare in the theatre has propagated “white, able-bodied, heterosexual, cisgender male narratives”, according to researchers in an £800,000 taxpayer-funded project.

Funny how they never mention class, isn’t it. Could that be because they are all, to a person, bourgeois as fuck?

But that’s not the real issue. The real issue is that Shakespeare is not “disproportionately” represented. His representation is proportionate, because he was better than anyone else. He just was; sorry if that hurts the feelings of people who aren’t as good at their jobs as Shakespeare was at his.

The researchers want to challenge the “normative trend” in “classical theatre” arising from “the disproportionate representation of William Shakespeare in scholarship and performance”.

In response they are mounting a production of a comedy by Shakespeare’s contemporary John Lyly, Galatea, which features characters disguised as the opposite sex. The researchers say the play offers “an unparalleled affirmative and intersectional demographic, exploring feminist, queer, transgender and migrant lives”.

Um. Have these people even seen or read any Shakespeare? At all? He features characters disguised as the opposite sex in some of his plays. Hello, Twelfth Night? As You Like It? They’re all about characters disguised as the opposite sex.

They say the play “has almost no stage history since 1588”, adding that “Diverse Alarums”, the name of the project, “will transform this state of affairs with a unique combination of methods, ranging across early modern studies, practice-as-research, audience studies, qualitative research, trans, queer and disability studies”.

I wonder if it has ever crossed their minds that that could be because it’s not all that good? That if it had been all that good it probably would have had a stage history after 1588? That neglect is not always a mistake? That good things are better than bad ones?

It’s not some kind of weird put-up job or conspiracy of the bosses that Shakespeare can still find an audience. It’s because he was so damn good at his job. Ben Jonson discovered this to his own surprise when he read the First Folio. He had seen Shakespeare as a rival and as over-rated by the company (The Queen’s/King’s Men), but when the First Folio was published and he whipped through it he had to admit the guy had a talent.

Writing for the website Before Shakespeare, Andy Kesson, the project’s principal investigator, said that “masculinity and nationalism were crucial motivating factors in the rise of Shakespeare as the arbiter of literary greatness” and that “[w]e need to be much, much more suspicious of Shakespeare’s place in contemporary theatre”.

No, we really don’t. That would be a suspicion too many.

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