Are we to be a nation of such barbarous temper?

The Guardian reports: The last surviving play script handwritten by William Shakespeare, in which he imagines Sir Thomas More making an impassioned plea for the humane treatment of refugees, is to be made available online by the British Library.

The manuscript is one of 300 newly digitised treasures shining a light on the wider society and culture that helped shape Shakespeare’s imagination. All will be available to view on a new website before an extensive exhibition on the playwright at the library next month.

The Book of Sir Thomas More script is particularly poignant given the current European migration crisis.

The powerful scene, featuring More challenging anti-immigration rioters in London, was written at a time when there were heightened tensions over the number of French Protestants (Huguenots) seeking asylum in the capital.

“It is a really stirring piece of rhetoric,” said the library’s curator, Zoe Wilcox. “At its heart it is really about empathy. More is calling on the crowds to empathise with the immigrants or strangers as they are called in the text. He is asking them to imagine what it would be like if they went to Europe, if they went to Spain or Portugal, they would then be strangers. He is pleading with them against what he calls their ‘mountainous inhumanity’.

“It is striking and sad just how relevant it seems to us now considering what is happening in Europe.” [Continue reading…]

You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in line,
To slip him like a hound. Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether 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, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity. [Source]

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1 thought on “Are we to be a nation of such barbarous temper?

  1. Diana Price

    This report concerning the “surviving play script handwritten by William Shakespeare” is based on the assumption that the so-called “Hand D” sections of the manuscript play Sir Thomas More have been proven to be in Shakespeare’s own hand. There are two problems with that assumption: 1) there is no reliable control sample of Shakespeare’s handwriting with which to make a valid comparison; and 2) there are features in the Hand D pages that are consistent with scribal transcription. Therefore, there can be no certainty that the Hand D pages are either authorial or in Shakespeare’s hand. Claims that Hand D is a dramatic composition in Shakespeare’s handwriting are instead unsupported assertions. My research paper on this subject (“Hand D and Shakespeare’s Unorthodox Literary Paper Trail”) was published earlier this month by the University of Florence’s Journal of Early Modern Studies (JEMS 5) and is accessible online.

    Diana Price
    Author: Shakespeare’s Unorthodox
    Biography

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