ANTI-IRISH RACISM IN SHAKESPEARE SERVED A COLONIAL MILITARY PURPOSE
The literary historian, James Shapiro, has a fascinating article in the Irish Times on William Shakespeare’s aversion to Ireland and the Irish. In many ways the 16th century English playwright and poet was the codifier of the racist stereotypes that define Irish characterizations in British – and anglosphere – writing to the present day (albeit building upon the works of his predecessors, right back to Gerald of Wales and the publication of the partisan Topographia Hibernica in 1188). The portrayal of Irish men as drunken, slow-witted, quick-tempered killers in the likes of FX’s television series, Sons of Anarchy, or the recent season of Netflix’s Daredevil, can be traced to an original theatrical source in Henry V’s quarrelsome clown, Captain Macmorris. Some four centuries after Elizabethan England’s wars in Ireland the propaganda born out of that bloody era continues to determine the portrayal of the Irish – from buffoon to brute – in English language comics, books, television shows and movies.
“In the late 1980s, when I began research on what turned…
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