Tuesday, 15 March 2016

a man for all seasons

The British Library, as the Guardian reports, will be digitising the only known surviving script written by William Shakespeare in his own hand. The piece, on the subject of Sir Thomas More, Catholic martyr, who managed to rise to the rank of Lord Chancellor in the court of Henry XIII. Focused on More’s divided allegiance by the king’s schism with the pope in Rome and witness to the persecution of the Huguenots who had sheltered in London—having fled violence of France who considered them heretical, the play was not authored by the Bard himself, but rather re-worked by a committee of playwrights in hopes of bringing this anonymous work finally to the stage.
Though feeling audiences were ready for a less than favourable portrayal of king and country, the play remained unscreened for fear it would incite a riot, much like those limned in the manuscript. The lines that Shakespeare form powerful soliloquy for the protagonist, which speak to current tensions over the refugee crisis:

You’ll put down strangers,
 Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam [by a leash]
To slip him like a hound. Alas, alas!
Say now the King
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, Spain or Portugal,
Nay, anywhere that not adhere to England:
Why, you must needs be strangers.