In the news today I found an article that began, “A JEWISH school tumbled down national league tables after pupils refused to answer questions on Shakespeare because they believed he was antisemitic.” A lengthier article on the same subject also sheds more light.
Read the articles, form your own opinions first. Were these students right to stand up for what they believe in this case? Or are they making a mountain out of a molehill? Do you think it’s a big deal? Some don’t even believe that Jews are presented negatively in the form of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, but that’s another story. Let’s make the same deduction that the students did for the moment.
I think if you believe something, the best thing you can do is stand up for it and accept whatever comes your way because of it. In this case, they didn’t get good scores on their standarized test.
Then again… what was the point? So Shakespeare may have been Anti-Semitic. I’m sure 90-something percent of England was at the time as well so shouldn’t they avoid all accounts of British history from that era? Shakespeare wasn’t too kind to blacks either, so how do we deal with that in this case?
I respect those students for voicing their opinion (and rebelling against a portion of standardized testing… I’m not a fan of those) but I don’t think avoiding Shakespeare – or any other author, historian, and artist, for that matter – because of their beliefs is really a good idea. Shakespeare may have been a writer “for all time,” but his ideas in many cases were a product of his time, and what he wrote appealed to his audience. I think that if we accept it as a product of its time there’s less chance of finding it offensive and more chance of moving on with our lives.