Thursday, September 04, 2008

Wait, She Wanted To Ban Which Shakespeare?

I'm familiar with the story of Sarah Palin, Republican VP nominee, wanting to ban books from the library (go ahead and reread that a few times :)).  I had not yet seen anybody suggest a list of books that she wanted banned.  As mentioned in the post there's no official confirmation that the included list is accurate, but it's all we've got.

Two Shakespeares show up on the list -- Merchant of Venice (an odd choice, given that she belongs to a church that thinks Jews deserve terrorism), and Twelfth Night.   Why Twelfth Night, you think?  It can't be  because of the cross dressing, as there's several others that would fit that bill as well.  Identical twins?  Nope, others have that.  Shipwreck?  Hmmm... Maybe it's the homo-erotic implications between Orsino and "Cesario".

Blah blah, politics, no proof, yadda yadda yadda, nutty democrats and leftwing liberals...  Fine.  I'll make it a general Shakespeare question -- if you were forging a list of books to ban, why would you pick Twelfth Night as one of them?

[I'm thinking, by the way, that this election has to present the opportunity for at least a few Taming of the Shrew jokes.  I'll keep an eye out...]


UPDATE:  Angela correctly points out that the list of books being circulated is bogus.  It is, in fact, a direct copy of the list at, which is not comprehensive by its own admission.  It's not to say that the "Palin tried to ban books" story has no truth, merely that the list in question is not accurate.


ROB said...

Interesting - it said she wanted to ban them based on language initially, but clearly several books on the list are for "other reasons" - mostly magical references. So why not Macbeth - witches? AS for language, why is Catcher in the Rye not on the list.

But to your question re: Twelfth Night - I can't think of anything other than your suggestion - the homo-erotic content. Perhaps that was one of the few she was aware of in the library. I am sure Titus Andronicus whould be on the list, and Othello, if she knew they were there.


Alan K.Farrar said...

The alcohol? Drinking and partying is not really very good for the morals (or so I'm told).

The torture of the good puritan by the wicked and they don't get their comeuppance?

Ignorance of the content?

Somewhat horrifying whatever the reason.

Angela said...

Someone on a message board I frequent says that list is actually a collection of things that are currently banned in different places in the USA. It is NOT Sarah Palin's list.

Duane said...

Possibly, Angela, though I expect there is no such thing as an official comprehensive list of books currently banned in the USA, and thus it's quite possible that whatever Palin wanted banned at least has some intersection with the list (i.e. it may not be 100% accurate but neither is it 100% inaccurate).

Still, though, the bigger question is still "Why Twelfth Night?" Your comment led me here:

which specifies more detail on the Twelfth Night thing:

Twelfth Night. William Shakespeare. Airmont; Cambridge Univ. Pr.; Methuen; NAL; Penguin; Pocket Bks.; Washington Square. Removed from a Merrimack, N.H. high school English class (1996) because of a policy that bans instruction which has "the effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative."

(That list, by the way, cites Hamlet, Lear and Twelfth Night, but not Merchant.)

Ian Thal said...

I'd like to see a genuine list of books that Palin wanted banned-- but the idea of banning Twelfth Night without banning As You Like It? Do they not both present cross-dressing, homosexual implications, and ambiguous gender identity?

Wait! Don't all of Shakespeare's plays have cross-dressing? Didn't all of his comedies and a great number of his tragedies and histories have men (and boys) kissing on stage in front of up to 3000 people in every performance?

Duane said...

I try to keep track of what Shakespeare's been banned, Ian, and for what reasons. I found an article ( which seems to go into great depth on the subject.
The only reference to As You Like It is a positive one, citing that it merely merited a "disapproving footnote", and that back in the 1700s.

Emsworth said...

How quick some people are to assume that a conservative politician is a "book-banner"! Multiple sources now report that repeated investigations show no evidence at all for the notion that Sarah Palin ever tried to have any books banned. The whole report is nothing but a smear. The list of books she supposedly wanted banned in 1996 included Harry Potter books not even written yet.


Duane said...

Technically the whole report is nothing but newspaper articles and eyewitness reports from when it happened, even if the list being circulated is quite bogus.

But that's neither here nor there, as this is a Shakespeare blog and I hereby declare this thread dead unless somebody's got Shakespeare related stuff to say on the subject. If it devolves into a screaming match I'll just delete the whole thing and we can move on.

(I realize I walk a fine political line when posting articles like this in the first place and try to do it only when there's a Shakespeare hook.)

C. B. James said...

I once got into some trouble for staging a class play version of McBeth. Two sets of parents pulled their children from it because it has witches, ghosts and the "shedding of blood."

Actually, those were some of the reasons why I picked the play in the first place. It was very popular with the other kids.