The play's the thing, but is it ideologically sound?: David Lister offers a politically correct guide to Shakespeare

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The Independent Online
THE PLAYWRIGHT'S agent goes to see the BBC head of drama. 'I have this great potboiler,' he says. 'A big, black nobleman steals a virginal young white girl from under her father's eyes. The black man has a fiery temper and moderate intellect. He is very suggestible and when told she is being unfaithful he strangles her in a frenzy. We would prefer it if a white man blacked up for the lead role.'

Shakespeare's plots simply do not stand up to scrutiny by today's guardians of political correctness. So, for ideologically sound headteachers, here is a guide to what not to accept free tickets for.

King Lear: ageist. Old man shown losing his marbles after failing to secure care in the community. The part of the Fool is an unhelpful role model for non-academic pupils.

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Yet more heterosexual love, I'm afraid, and, what's worse, with a happy ending. There is also an unedifying workerist sub-plot, where the playwright's elitist and class prejudices are exposed in his sneering caricature of what he offensively calls the 'rude mechanicals' trying to rehearse a play.

The use of mind-bending drugs conflicts with advice given in personal and social education lessons.

The Tempest: More drug abuse, this time exacerbated by alcohol abuse.

The Merry Wives Of Windsor: Initial hopes that this might be a satire on the follies of younger members of the Royal Family are quickly dispelled. It turns out to be a refusal to acknowledge the existence of working women or to see married women in any role but that of happy and supportive sexual playmates.

Hamlet: so you thought gang violence was disturbing. This one has murder, untreated mental illness, the occult and hints of incest. A small, camp cameo role for 'a fop' further displays the playwright's heterosexism.

Richard III: Utterly unsympathetic to the physically challenged. A minor deformity of the spine is the focus for continued mockery.

Henry V: Triumphalist. Jingoistic. Militaristic. Contempt expressed for the French conflicts with national curriculum guidelines and has severe implications for the fifth form's annual exchange.

The Taming Of The Shrew: Nuff said. Producers should only ever book limited seasons in Hackney.

(Photographs omitted)

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