Shakespeare on refugees, strangers and inhumanity.

In a series of speeches written by Shakespeare, Thomas More makes the argument for the humane treatment of those forced to seek asylum after being expelled from their homeland. This is a repost from August 23, 2016.  

The play, the Book of Sir Thomas More, contains a series of scenes covering the events of the May Day riots of 1517. Thomas More was then Undersheriff of the City of London and Privy Councillor. At that time, immigrants from Lombardy in Northern Italy were being threatened by Londoners of taking jobs and money from the locals and wanted them to be deported. The same arguments were being put forward at the time the play was written in respect of Huguenot migrants.  The play was never completed and exists in manuscript form in the British Library. In a series of speeches written by Shakespeare, Thomas More makes the argument for the humane treatment of those forced to seek asylum after being expelled from their homeland. (This information is derived from The Shakespeare Blog) John Menadue.

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding to the ports and coasts for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you: you had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another….
Say now the king
Should so much come too 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 harbour? 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 mountainish inhumanity.

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One Response to Shakespeare on refugees, strangers and inhumanity.

  1. Julian says:

    Perhaps it matters not greatly whether the extract quoted was written by Shakespeare; it is elegantly put and so disguiseth the rage beneath.

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