William Shakespeare, one of the most famous writers of all time and a symbol of Anglophone literature, has been put under fire due to alleged promotions of discriminatory practices in his works.
In her article for the School Library Journal, librarian Amanda MacGregor countered Ben Johnson’s veneration of Shakespeare by saying that the work of the famous Englishman is strikingly narrow-minded and for that matter abounding with ‘racism, misogyny, homophobia, misogynoir, anti-Semitism, and classism’.
Many teachers across the country agreed with MacGregor’s outlook.
One of these teachers is Jeffrey Austin, who serves as the head of the English language department in a Skyline High School in Michigan.
Austin contended that the idea of Shakespeare’s work representing universal human values should be put into question.
He described the identification of the dominant values present in Shakespeare’s work with something universal as potentially dangerous for society.
What’s the issue with Shakespeare?!
Claire Bruncke, who worked as a language arts teacher in a rural school in the State of Washington, said that she managed to agree with her principal about removing Shakespeare from the curriculum due to the focus of his works on men who are white, cisgender, and heterosexual.
The former teacher emphasized that she became more confident about her decision when her students positively responded to the introduction of writing labs and other readings as a substitute for Shakespeare.
In a similar fashion, Cameron Campos introduced a curriculum full of Indigenous authors to her grade 11 and 12 students.
Even though the curriculum of Foothills Composite High School in Alberta, Canada, where Campos teaches, mandates the study of Shakespeare, Campos managed to teach Larissa FastHorse’s Thanksgiving Play instead of Shakespeare due to the disruptions in the system of provincial examination.
Other teachers chose to keep discussing Shakespeare in their classroom, but from a different perspective.
Romeo and Juliet, the story on toxic masculinity?
For example, Sarah Mulhern Gross, who teaches the English language at High Technology High School in Lincroft, NJ, opted to concentrate on the analysis of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of toxic masculinity.
Nazareth Area High School teacher Brittany Greene, on the other hand, decided to focus on the violence aspect in the same play.
She juxtaposed the play with Long Way Down, a work of Jason Reynolds that focuses on similar topics.
Regardless of her hard stance, MacGregor acknowledged that Shakespeare’s works present a magnificent use of language that is at the same time full of puns, sharp wit, and original characters. Ayanna Thompson, a Shakespeare expert from the Arizona State University, was much more relentless toward the famous playwright.
She went so far as to say that students would not lose anything by not studying Shakespeare at all, adding that the Englishman’s work was largely used as a ‘tool’ to assimilate people of color in England’s empire.
Yet, even Thompson did not find Shakespeare’s removal from the curriculum as something that must be done.
She said that it would be best to advance the study of Shakespeare by supplementing the curriculum with more contemporary authors such as Amiri Baraka, August Wilson, Toni Morrison, and W.E.B. Du Bois.