Podium: 'Shakespeare Understood That Every Foreigner Brings Gifts' ; from the Jon Stachniewski Memorial Lecture by the Professor of Renaissance Literature at Lancaster University, Given at Manchester University
Wilson, Richard, The Independent (London, England)
That so many of Shakespeare's plays involve a mob 'caterwauling' under the window of some scapegoat allows politically-correct critics to find him guilty by association with the anti-immigrant panics and pogroms of 'Old Europe'. Yet to shrink Othello or The Merchant of Venice to a story told by the graceless Graziano (the name of the racist bigot in both), is to turn the English writer into a 'rustic mountaineer' with the fortress mentality of a Jrg Haider.
Shakespeare filled his plays with the spices, silks, peppers, oils, jewels, fruits and furs of world trade. He structured them on the multiculturalism of good King Polixenes in The Winter's Tale, that the more the merrier, if every foreigner brings such gifts: 'Then make your garden rich.' Twelfth Night, his best New Year treat, was actually paid for by the Shah of Persia as a present to Londoners.
Instead of humouring bigots, Shakespeare also based his work on the hospitality Capulet extends the uninvited Romeo: 'I would not for the wealth of all this town/ Here in my house do him disparagement. …