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The Banning of Shakespeare in English Schools


The Banning of Shakespeare in English Schools

Shakespeare’s portrait


By André Bastos Gurgel, OAB and John Priest, B.A Cert. Min


If you liked my article on the novel Fahrenheit 451, you will probably enjoy today’s story about an instance in which Ray Bradbury’s prophecy came true. Bradbury’s book describes a dystopian society where reading books is forbidden. It may sound too fantastic to come true, but something like it happened in 2009 when the English authorities removed the obligation to study Shakespeare’s works from public school curricula.

Fahrenheit 451: the Dumbing-Down of Education

Fahrenheit 451 is about the power of censorship and the use of TV for dumbing down the population. In the story, the ideas and philosophies of great thinkers and writers had been banned, and to make sure they were forgotten, all books were burned by “firemen”. Without books, people spent most of their time watching TV. Ideas were held to be dangerous and subversive. Everyone was supposed to accept the ideology peddled by the government and wish for no more.

This is exactly what happened when the English authorities decided that Shakespeare had no place in public school curricula. Captain Beatty in Fahrenheit 451 considered “intellectual” a swear word and it would seem that the English educational authorities wanted to prevent any child from feeling inferior to others for not understanding the works of Shakespeare.

“Burning” Shakespeare

As I pointed out in my previous article on Fahrenheit 451, books may also be burnt metaphorically, which English authorities tried to do more than once. In 2001, there was a proposal to replace Shakespeare with media studies in the GCSE English examination. Fortunately for us, the Minister of Education at the time vetoed the project. A few years later, in 2009, there was an attempt to make Shakespeare no longer compulsory. This time they almost succeeded, but fortunately, theatre companies and scholars complained, and the government at last gave up the idea.

Therefore we feel like quoting Cicero and asking ourselves “Quo usque tandem?” (“When at last?”). It looks as if the pyromaniacs won’t stop until Shakespeare is banned from classrooms forever. In Ray Bradbury’s novel, the authorities always claim to know what is needed to correct the evils of this world and create a better one. In the utopia they’re trying to build, there is no space for people interested in complex authors like Shakespeare, even though he has contributed more to the English language than any other author. If they do this to the Bard of Avon, imagine what they do to minor writers and poets?


André Bastos Gurgel
André Bastos Gurgel, OAB (Order of Attorneys of Brazil), Academic Advisor for the Carmenta Online Latin School, is a life-long student of both modern and ancient languages. Mr. Gurgel is fluent in English, Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Latin (the last of which he learned with Carmenta) and has a working knowledge of Danish, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, and Sanskrit. Mr. Gurgel is currently studying Old English through Carmenta as well.

Click here to read Mr. Gurgel’s full profile.

John Priest
Prof. John Priest graduated from University College London with a B.A. Hons. in Classical Greek and Latin, with Comparative Philology. He also earned a Cert. Min. (HMCO) from Harris Manchester College at Oxford. In his spare time, he studies the history and literature of the Celtic languages and their dialects. Prof. Priest currently tutors Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Italian, Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Welsh for Carmenta Online PhD Tutors.

Click here to see Magister Priest’s full profile on the Carmenta Faculty Page.

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