By Bob Mondello for NPR, 17 March 2016
This week the world’s been treated to a commentary on immigration reform from a surprising source: William Shakespeare.
2016 being the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, many institutions are doing celebrations of one sort or another. The British Library, in hosting a major exhibition, has put online the only surviving scrap of a script in Shakespeare’s handwriting — a scene that finds eerily poignant echoes in today’s arguments about refugees and immigration on both sides of the Atlantic.
It’s a speech from a play, The Book of Sir Thomas More,that was not by Shakespeare. Nor was it produced in his lifetime, apparently for fear that it would incite unrest at a time of religious tensions that had created an unprecedented refugee crisis in Europe. The Bard and several other authors did rewrites, but while his own contribution was an impassioned plea for tolerance, the revisions weren’t enough to get the play produced, and its script languished for centuries.