Race-focused activists come for Shakespeare
Shakespeare has long been dismissed, with others in the Western canon, as a dead white male. Now, there’s another, worse charge against the bard — he created the concept of whiteness.
Yes, instead of standing in the line of literary giants such as Dante, Chaucer, and Goethe, Shakespeare is to be associated from now on with the likes of the 19th century French apostle of scientific racism Arthur de Gobineau, George Wallace, and — why not — the Oath Keepers.
If you’ve wondered if there’s anything that race-obsessed activists, bureaucrats and academics can’t ruin, the answer is “no,” as they begin get to work in earnest trying to tear down a towering genius who has had an immense — and profoundly edifying effect — on our culture.
According to a new volume, “White People in Shakespeare,” the immortal playwright was engaged in “white—people—making.” The contributors to the book aren’t surprised by “the fact of
Shakespeare’s global, representational power existing, almost in tandem with a global white cultural supremacy.” Indeed, it only renders “more unremarkable or invisible a unique alliance of white people and Shakespeare.” Q.E.D. It’s pretty much a direct line from the Globe Theatre in the 16th century to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Although “it’s quite likely very few if any those assembled at the Capitol on that day thought of Shakespeare” — perhaps the most unassailable statement in the volume — it was still “white people’s Shakespearean theater on a grand scale.”
The new book, written about favorably in The Atlantic, is hardly an outlier. A couple of years ago, “The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race” was published. (“The collection invites the reader to understand racialized discourses, rhetoric, and performances in all of Shakespeare’s plays,” the promotional material explained.)
If these people have anything to say about it, Shakespeare’s reputation will undergo another turn, from being considered less fashionable than other playwrights in his own time, to being rarely performed after his death, to being rediscovered and ascending to the status of a giant in the 19th century, to becoming toxic in the 21st century for allegedly setting the predicate for the white supremacy that blights the West to this day.
And here poor old Will probably just thought he was writing some plays and sonnets.
Shakespeare’s racial interpreters are trying to take an author of incredible complexity, whose brilliance involves creating rich, multi-layered characters and raising moral questions, rather than providing ready answers to them, and reduce him down to one thing. There couldn’t be anything less in accord with the spirit and fact of Shakespeare.
But it makes as much sense to try to argue the literary racialists out of their take on Shakespeare as to try to convince a Marxist of the usefulness of capital markets. For them, to be white or not be white is the only question.