D. J. Enright: All’s Well That Ends, or, Shakespeare Unmasked

I’m afraid he’ll have to go.
He won’t pass muster these days.

Black men he didn’t like: he made them
Proud and gullible and jealous and black
(Good fighters, but otherwise out of their depth).
He didn’t like women, but neither
Was he a frank and manly homosexual.
‘Woman delights not me: no, nor man neither…’
As for Jews, his complaint was that they were
Interested in money, were not Christians, and
If you pricked them they bled all over the place.
They deserved to have their daughters make
Unsuitable marriages.

(Put like that, Jews sound like a lot of us.
I shall have to rewrite this bit.)

A very dangerous man.
Think of all the trouble caused by that
Thoroughly offensive play of his, Coriolanus.
One night it wounded the feelings of the fascists,
The next it wounded the feelings of the communists.

He was anti-Scottish: it took an English army
To settle the hash of that kilted butcher
Macbeth. He made jokes about the Welsh, the
French, the Danes, the Italians, and the Spanish.
He accused a West Indian (or possibly Algerian)
Of trying to rape a white girl unsuccessfully.
If it wasn’t a base Judean he displayed
As criminally careless with pearls, then
It was an equally base Indian. Thank God
He hadn’t heard of the Australians!

To be sure, he was the servant of his public,
A rough unlettered lot, who rarely washed
And dwelt in the polluted alleys of London
Or the corners of slippery palaces. There wasn’t
A drama critic of independent mind among them.
Even so, he must bear most of the blame.
He could have stayed in Stratford and led a
Quiet and useful life.

Worst of all, he believed in good and evil,
And mixed them in a deliberately nasty
And confusing way. A shifty character,
He pictured the human condition as one of
Unending and uneasy struggle, not to be
Resolved in haiku or even a television
Debate. He made difficulties, he made
Much ado about nothing.

Now that we’ve stripped him clean
Of his poetry, we can see him plain.

Plainly he’ll have to go.

from The Faber Book of the Theatre (1993) (p. 242-3)


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