Shakespeare on Trial

My friend Amelia Hamilton has for you a frightening tale of political correctness run (predictably) amok:

Dana Dusbiber, an English teacher at the largest inner-city high school in Sacramento, wants to stop teaching Shakespeare all together. Why? Because he’s white, and because he’s a man. As she wrote, “What I worry about is that as long as we continue to cling to ONE (white) MAN’S view of life as he lived it so long ago, we (perhaps unwittingly) promote the notion that other cultural perspectives are less important.”

She acts as though, by teaching the work of one white man, she will somehow be prevented from teaching the work of any women or writers of color. (Strictly speaking, “white” people are also people of color, but that’s a discussion for another day). This, of course, is simply not true.

Shakespeare still matters, even if it’s not politically correct to say so. In 1989, a production of Othello staged in apartheid South Africa spoke to black and white audience members. In 2005, a production of Love’s Labour Lost in Afghanistan had men and women performing together, at great personal risk, for the first time in decades. In the USSR, Hamlet was a popular tale of how an oppressive state can hurt the individual.

So it’s not just western white men who have studied, and benefitted from, the work of Shakespeare.

Read the whole thing, please.

I didn’t “get” Shakespeare until an enterprising English teacher (white, male, but possibly gay) showed his 9th grade students, including yours truly, Roman Polanski’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. Those words and phrases I’d found impenetrable on the page came alive for me on the screen, and I’ve been a fan ever since. Shakespeare holds up because his characters and themes are timeless — appropriate to all peoples at all times. We still laugh at his jokes, we still weep at his tragic endings. Shakespeare’s good guys are still good and his bad guys are still evil, because Shakespeare understood human nature better than almost any writer before him — and human nature is immutable.

It’s also no exaggeration to say that Shakespeare invented much of modern entertainment, whether it be drama, comedy, tragedy, or poetry.

To excise him from the Western Canon is to destroy the Western Canon — no exaggeration. Which is exactly what small minds like Dana Dusbiber intended to do.

When you see Dusbiber, or her many cultural-political allies trying to ban Shakespeare, or subvert republican government, or bring the churches to heel, or to destroy anything timeless and immutable — their motives should be perfectly clear to you.

They intend to make us mutable, subject to the political exigencies of the moment. Their means are subversive; the goals are totalitarian.

So if the schools won’t do it, it’s up to us to teach our kids Shakespeare ourselves — like Fahrenheit 451‘s Guy Montag if necessary, exiled into the abandoned countryside with our memorized books in our skulls.

And don’t think I’m exaggerating or being coy about this. Culturally and politically, the likes of Dusbiber hold the upper hand in a country gone mad with political correctness. We’re on a path already not just to remove the Confederate battle flag from a statehouse where it should never have flown, but to chuck the history of the Confederacy down the memory hole.

Who says Shakespeare isn’t next?