The author of “War Horse” notes that only 10 plays should ever be included in his “Tales from Shakespeare” and that he has selected those most likely to appeal to young readers.
A Sunday Times claim that he “refused” to include The Merchant of Venice in a forthcoming Shakespeare anthology for children due to anti-Semitism has been refuted by Michael Morpurgo.
The newspaper described the former Children’s Book Award winner’s “21st-century sensibilities” as the reason that prevented the play’s inclusion in Tales from Shakespeare, his retelling of 10 Shakespeare plays for children ages six and up. The Merchant of Venice is famous for Shylock, the Jewish moneylender who asks merchant Antonio for a pound of flesh if a loan is not repaid by his deadline.
Morpurgo was quoted as saying, “The play may be anti-Semitic… I felt this was Shakespeare’s play, and I couldn’t honestly say that.”
It’d be offensive.
But the author of “War Horse” and “Kensuke’s Kingdom” denied the framing of the decision on Monday, speaking to the Guardian, denying that he is shying away from tough children’s topics.
Such nonsense is the notion that I censored this.
I chose the 10 plays I love the most, and I thought that young kids would react to them,’ he said. The Merchant of Venice, to be frank, isn’t a play that I like.
I didn’t refuse to record the match, no one told me to do so, I sat down quietly and determined what I was going to do with 10.
This is totally false and a knee-jerk reaction.
The novel, which will be released next year and will contain only 10 of Shakespeare’s plays, Morpurgo said, centered on plays that “have very strong storylines, and plays that kids would most likely see in the theater or learn about in school.”
Beginning Jan. 8, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances of his retellings will be made available to schools around the UK free of charge. for five weeks.
There are some plays, and one of them is The Merchant of Venice, that I didn’t think would appeal to eight-year-olds. Indeed, there was some fear that this would be the first time a Jew would be read by an eight-year-old.
A story that the Nazis used to show in a bad light the Jewish people—not that’s something you place in front of an eight-year-old as the first example of an exceptional community that contributed and suffered so much to the world,’ he said. “That’s not to say there’s no merit in the piece.
But this is not censorship; kids will come to this play later when they have a sense of what Jewish people have undergone over centuries.”
“The point of this project is to bring Shakespeare to the eyes, ears and hearts of the children of our time,” said Morpurgo, who grew up reading Charles and Mary Lamb’s retellings, also entitled Shakespeare’s Stories, published in 1807. “You have a writer and the RSC trying to encourage children to go to the theater – I don’t see how that’s offensive or censorious.”
The Sunday Times quoted Chris McGovern, chairman of the Real Education Movement, who called the decision of Morpurgo an instance of “the dead hand of political correctness.”
Not confronting great literature is cowardly. Of course, in Shakespeare, there will be plenty to take offense at…. Kids don’t want to be shielded all the time from great literature.
An eyebrow or two could have been raised if I had proposed staging Titus Andronicus for elementary school students.
It doesn’t do that for me, and I’m 77.
It’s almost as if anything you do is regarded as holy writing in connection with Shakespeare, and that’s the question. He was a people’s guy, and his plays were not just for the classroom,’ said Morpurgo.