Is Shakespeare Unfit for Schools?
As I was doing some research recently, I ran across an old newspaper article from 1999. This article suggested that, at least then, some people objected to the teaching of some of William Shakespeare’s plays in school.
It was a November, 1999 edition of The Savannah Morning News that told about a teacher at the Windsor Forest High School who required seniors to obtain permission slips before they could read “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” or “King Lear.” It seems the teacher’s school board had pulled the books from class reading lists, citing “adult language” and references to sex and violence. Ironically, parent groups–who have initiated many book-ban attempts–protested the school’s policy, which also included the outright banning of three other books.
And this was not the first time for such action. According to a 1996 Associated Press article, Merimack, New Hampshire schools pulled “Twelfth Night” by Shakespeare because a woman dresses as a boy in the book. Similarly, have argued for pulling the sonnets, because (unknown to many), most of them were written to a male lover.
Shakespeare has been no stranger to censorship. As early as the 1600s, Richard II was censored. The play’s first edition had a scene that showed the deposition of Richard II, which made Queen Elizabeth so angry she ordered that part stricken from all copies. Also, a passage in Henry V featuring a comic character named Captain Jamy was possibly censored during King James I’s reign, while a reference to a Scottish lord was also removed from The Merchant of Venice. Finally, passages referring to Denmark in Hamlet were censored as well, probably for fear of offending Anne of Denmark.
FORTUNATELY, 500 YEARS LATER, RESPONSIBLE PARENTS ARE KEEPING AN EYE OUT, TRYING TO ENSURE THE BARD’S RIGHTFUL PLACE IN OUR CHILDREN’S EDUCATION.