Twitter Censors Shakespeare Scholar for Quoting Line from Henry VI, Part 2

English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), circa 1600. Original Publication: People Disc - HO0058 (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Silicon Valley giant Twitter censored a Shakespearean scholar in Britain for quoting a famous line from the Bard’s Henry VI, Part 2.

An associate professor at the University of Nottingham in the English Midlands, Peter Kirwan was warned by Twitter over using the platform for “abuse” for quoting the famed line “let’s kill all the lawyers”.

Posting in support of an upcoming production Henry VI, Part 2 by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Kirwan wrote on Wednesday: “Really excited for @NottsRebels taking the stage with the @TheRSC for today’s Henry VI press performances. Break a leg everyone, and do kill all the lawyers.”

The social media platform removed the post for violating its “abuse and harassment” rules, The Times of London reported.

“You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. This includes wishing or hoping that someone experiences physical harm,” Twitter told the academic.

Following the censorious act, the Shakespeare Bulletin — an academic journal for which the professor writes — told its followers that they should be “careful what you quote,” adding:  “Make sure you go and see @TheRSC and @NottsRebels in this apparently inflammatory production of the Henry VI plays which Must Not Be Discussed on the bird app.”

The full quote comes from Act 4 Scene 2 of the play, in which Dick the Butcher offers up the suggestion to Jack Cade, who led a popular rebellion against the King in 1450. Should Cade actually topple the regime, Dick the Butcher suggests as a plan of action: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

“Nay, that I mean to do,” Cade answers.

The comical line has seen varying interpretations from a recognition that in order to topple a regime, the bureaucracy must also be dismantled to demonstrating the ability of the state to withstand chaotic revolutions.

After becoming aware that they had embarrassingly censored Shakespeare, Twitter reinstated the post, stating: “We took enforcement action on the account referenced in error — this action has since been reversed.”

Despite having been on the wrong end of the stick of social media censorship, Professor Kirwan apparently urged the tech giant to impose more censorship on its users.

“This site routinely platforms racism, misogyny, transphobia, homophobia and much more hate it’d be good to see Twitter taking action on,” the academic wrote.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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