Sayeth it Ain’t So! Shakespeare Gets Trigger Warning

July 20th, 2022 10:45 AM

Frailty, thy name is … college student. Or so believes the English Literature faculty at the University of Winchester in England, where Shakespeare’s Othello has been given a “content warning.” The play’s themes of “racism” and “domestic violence” “may be difficult” for the kiddos.

What’s notable here isn’t the idea of Gen Z-ers clutching their pearls over a grown-up drama, but that somebody somewhere is still teaching William Shakespeare. Have they no post-colonial queer poetry? 

The 1603 saga about the titular Moorish (black) general features intrigue, jealousy, murder – all the good stuff included in the Bard’s best tragedies. 

The university defended the move, stressing that it’s not a “warning,” it’s an “advisory.” Besides: 

We do not shy away from covering difficult material, but do believe in giving students advanced notice, particularly in areas such as racial violence, sexual violence, and suicide where students may well themselves have been victims.

Literature frequently strays into areas that people may find difficult to discuss and our responses to different literary texts can often be deeply personal.

They have a point. Watching MacBeth leaves me overcome with guilt for the time I invited the King of Scotland to stay over and then knifed him in his sleep. Last time I saw Hamlet I resolved to walk out of the theater half a dozen times, but kept hesitating.

For 419 years people have been watching and reading Othello without training wheels, guardrails or adult supervision. I guess they were doing it wrong.