Arts & Entertainment

Shakespeare and the Redundancy of Conservatism

By Alan Bickley

Shakespeare is much overrated, and I am no fan of his plays. It goes without saying that he is inferior to the Greek dramatists. In terms of plotting, he is inferior to Marlowe. In terms of language, he is comically inferior to Cranmer and the authors of the Authorised Version. However, just as Anglican priests should feel obliged to preach the Thirty Nine Articles, whether or not they believe in them, so theatres subsidised by the taxpayers should have some regard for the text of Shakespeare.

Not so the Royal Shakespeare Company. For all it gets at least £15.4m a year from the Arts Council – plus whatever it rakes in from less direct public subsidy – its management has decided its main object is less the competent performance of Shakespeare than the usual ruling class propaganda that the poor should be made cold and hungry to change the weather. Erica Whyman, the Company’s artistic director, has commissioned a rewriting of The Tempest as ruling class propaganda:

Textual changes will flow from the directors’ interpretations, too. “Our Tempest will be foregrounding the play’s interest in the climate crisis,” she adds, revealing that this version will rename the goddesses Juno, Cere and Iris as Earth, Rain and Fire.

As said, I have no taste for anything by Shakespeare, whether or not rewritten, and my tax money wasted on Miss Whyman’s salary is nothing beside what goes unaudited to the Zelensky régime in Kiev. But this news story reminds me that I have written nothing on politics for months, and it prompts the following reflections on the salvageability of our institutions….

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