Sir Michael Morpurgo has revealed that he will not be including The Merchant of Venice in a new collection of Shakespeare stories for children due to the play’s “antisemitic” attitudes.
The popular children’s author reportedly said of his upcoming Tales From Shakespeare that “I avoided Shylock because it worried me too much if I am honest about it…there are assumptions right the way through about what it is to be a Jew, and how Jews are thought of, which are so important for our society that, for me, it was best not to go there.”
Shylock, the titular character of the play, is infamous for embodying numerous antisemitic tropes, including avarice and usury, although some scholars note that the portrayal is more multi-dimensional than it seems, with the play’s Christian characters also exhibiting unsympathetic qualities.
A spokesperson for Campaign Against Antisemitism said: “The portrayal of Shylock in The Merchant of Venice is a sensitive topic best approached with context and guidance. Sir Michael Morpurgo is right to recognise that there are other Shakespeare plays more suitable for younger readers.”