Book Review: Shakespeare and Immigration - Espinosa & Ruiter

Book cover featuring handwritten words from Shakespeare.This is selection of essays looking - as the title suggests - at the relationship between Shakespeare and immigration.

It's always worth re-examining our relationship with "classic" works. There are some very obvious immigration issues in Shakespeare - and this book does a plausible job of uncovering some of them. It also takes us through some of the issues facing Elizabethan England - for example, how the Welsh "immigrants" were treated by the "native" London population, and how that manifests through Fluellen in Henry V.

Some of the essays are a little more scattershot. One attempts to compare the US's Green Card Lottery with Portia's caskets test in Merchant of Venice. I sort of get the parallel, but it really only warrants a paragraph or two, rather than an entire essay.

As usual with theses sorts of books, it was a little too academically written for my tastes. I think it might have benefited from a more populist tone. There are acres of fascinating stories and titbits hidden behind some exclusionary language.

But, in the end, I can't help but agree with its conclusion:

Access to alternative perspectives changes our orientation with regard to Shakespeare’s work because, from the vantage point of other possible homes, the home that Shakespeare offers is not always optimal and, instead of the stranger in Shakespeare, we may find that Shakespeare has become the stranger.

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