British children’s author omits ‘Merchant of Venice’ from Shakespeare anthology, citing anti-Semitism as one reason by the Forward

British children’s author omits ‘Merchant of Venice’ from Shakespeare anthology, citing anti-Semitism as one reason

(JTA) — A popular British children’s author omitted “The Merchant of Venice” from his adaptation of William Shakespeare plays for young audiences.

One reason: anti-Semitism.

“Yes, there was some worry that this might be the first time an 8-year-old reads about a Jew,” Michael Morpurgo told The Guardian on Monday about the decision not to include the play in the “Tales from Shakespeare” anthology for children older than 6.

“A story that the Nazis used to portray Jewish people in a bad light – that is not something you put in front of an 8-year-old as their first example of an extraordinary group that has contributed so much to the world and suffered so much.”

Morpurgo, the author of “War Horse” and “Kensuke’s Kingdom,” was quoted by The Times of London as saying that “The play can be antisemitic … I did feel this was Shakespeare’s play and I could not tell it honestly. It would be offensive.”

He told The Guardian that The Times had played up the weight of anti-Semitism in his decision.

It is “not a play I enjoy myself. I didn’t ‘refuse’ to include the play, no one told me to do it – I sat down quietly and decided the 10 I would do,” he said. Calling his decision censorial is “completely wrong and a knee-jerk reaction,” he added.

The play is about a merchant who fails to pay back a large loan to a greedy Jewish moneylender named Shylock.

Author omits ‘Merchant of Venice’ from anthology

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

British children’s author omits ‘Merchant of Venice’ from Shakespeare anthology, citing anti-Semitism as one reason

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close