Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream given ‘misogyny & racism’ warning by Globe
William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains “misogyny and racism”, the Globe has warned theatregoers.
The 400-year-old comedy forms part of the venue’s summer programme and audiences are alerted to possibly upsetting content in the play which tells the tale of rebellious lovers eloping to a magical forest.
The content warning in online guidance also warns that the play, which is set to run from April 2023, contains “sexual references” and the “language of violence”.
The inclusion of a warning on preview material for the play comes after education experts at the Globe Theatre critiqued it for its misogyny, and as part of a series of “Anti-Racist Shakespeare” seminars intended to “decolonise” the Bard’s work.
The comedy is not typically viewed as a “race play” like Othello - which features a key non-white character - but academics claimed during a past Globe seminar that Shakespeare’s work creates a “dark/light binary” which casts dark or black as negative and white or fair as positive.
Use of language ‘racialising’
This use of language was said to be “racialising” and the racial divide was evident from the first line of the play: “Now, fair Hippolyta.”
The Globe’s seminar also highlighted the use of 400-year-old racial epithets as insults by certain characters in the play, including “tawny Tartar” (Tartars referring to a broad Trukic ethnic group) and “Ethiope” (someone from Ethiopia).
The play has also been critiqued by Globe experts in the past for its potential “misogyny”, including the initial plot trigger which sees the female character Hermia flee Athens because she faces the choice of either marrying against her will or being executed or placed in a convent.
She flees to a forest ruled by the fairy queen Titania and her king Oberon, who conceives a plot to drug his wife with a potion which causes her to fall in love with the play’s comical ass-headed character Bottom. Some academics have claimed that this comic relationship is troubling because Titania is drugged and therefore cannot consent.
Hailey Bachrach, University of Roehampton researcher and the founder of the education project Shakespeare and Consent, previously told The Telegraph that this kind of plotline can “make Shakespeare problematic”.
The Globe itself has sought to address the more troubling aspects of the Bard’s work with its Anti-Racist Shakespeare seminars in which guest academics have variously claimed that Hamlet’s dithering is a result of him “wrestling with ideas of blackness” and that King Lear is about “kingship and whiteness”.
The staging of Shakespeare’s plays has also been addressed by the famously experimental London theatre, which recently staged a version of Titus Andronicus for which the script was altered to make characters appear more racist to modern audiences.
The theatre’s most recent version of history play Henry V sought to suggest that the famous king was a power-hungry imperialist rather than simply an English hero.
Instead of lauding a “band of brothers” defeating the French against the odds at Agincourt, the new staging aimed to introduce audiences to the “devastating cost” of Henry’s “bombastic pursuit of power”.
A spokesperson for the Globe said: “Content guidance is written in advance of the creation of each production and based on what is present in the play. These will be updated as the production comes to life.”