Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre ‘Decolonising the Plays of Shakespeare’

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Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London has received backlash for boasting of its efforts at “decolonising the plays of Shakespeare” via a programme of “Anti-racist Shakespeare webinars”.

Shakespeare’s Globe, which works primarily out of a reconstruction of the iconic Globe Theatre built by William Shakespeare’s own playing company in the 1500s, suggested that the webinars, supported by Cambridge University Press, were an answer to its own rhetorical question: “What does it mean to read Shakespeare through an anti-racist lens?”

The theatre, which declared that it is “anti-racist and believes Black Lives Matter” in June last year, will put on the first webinar “to discuss issues of race and social justice in A Midsummer Night’s Dream” on May 20th, hosted by Farah Karim-Cooper.

Karim-Cooper, a professor of Shakespeare Studies at King’s College London who “curated the Globe’s first Shakespeare and Race Festival” in 2018, appears to have strong views on a variety of issues, expressing relief when Sadiq Khan was re-elected as Mayor of London and tweeting about “the inanity of Brexit” and “the monstrosity of Trump”, “white privilege”, “white male mediocrity”, and the “heavy hand of white supremacy” in academia, among other things.

Shakespeare’s Globe says its webinars “will attempt to show how Shakespeare’s society, his language and his theatres are preoccupied with race and racism”, but it has received pushback from those opposed to the so-called “decolonisation” of British culture and the removal, renaming, or “recontextualision” of various historic memorials, buildings, and places.

“Shakespeare’s Globe Theater ‘committed to decolonising’ his plays. They ‘will attempt to show’ how they are ‘preoccupied with race and racism’ (whether they are or not). Sounds like projection to me,” suggested Robert Poll, of the Save Our Statues campaign.

“[I]t’s the so-called “anti-racists” who are preoccupied with race, not the bard,” he accused.

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