Wednesday, 2 November 2016

SHAKESPEARE, THE BOOK OF THOMAS MORE & THE REFUGEES

“If they banished you from your country, where would you go? Would you like to find a nation as barbarous as yours who would spurn you like dogs?”
This does not come from Amnesty International, nor from Unhcr. This is William Shakespeare 400 years ago, in a passage from the historical play “The Book of Thomas Moore”. The fragment has been digitalized by the British Library and is one of the few manuscripts we have in Shakespeare’s own hand. It is part of a play written by different authors based on the life of Henry VIII’s chancellor, Sir Thomas More . The play dates presumably back to around 1600  but it was censored and never staged for fear of further disorders in London due to the theme it dealt with.  
Sir Thomas More (1478 - 1535)
It is not only a historical literary important discovery, but also a socially important message which comes right in a time when those words are relevant and painful. The tragedy of the migrants and refugees is an open wound in nowadays Europe, characterized by the fear of the foreigners and the misery of the newcomers.
 In the play,  set in 1517, Thomas More as the Sheriff of London, speaks to the crowd enraged against the migrants, merchants coming from the North of Italy, whom they accused of wanting to steal their jobs and money.  Doesn’t this sound very familiar and contemporary? Haven’t you heard this refrain in the media?