Just one month to go until the day itself – 23 April, the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, and therefore the perfect time to reflect on what kind of humans we are capable of being. Shakespeare always wrote masterfully from the perspective of the excluded and marginalised in society. While we have no recorded political statements in his own voice, we do have the words of someone who was clear-eyed about the damage that will be wrought when prejudice gains power.
Give a few minutes to listening to Sir Ian McKellen speak the part of Sir Thomas More from the play of that name (a collaborative work from Shakespeare and several other poets). The piece is an apt reminder of what it really means to allow ourselves to be governed by what is worst in ourselves. I think it shows Shakespeare’s exceptional talent for imagining himself into other peoples’ place.
Here is the giddyingly learned Sylvia Morris at The Shakespeare Blog with all kinds of background on this play, its history and relevance.
And here is Harriet Walter with the same speech. Perhaps some Australian actors might like to add their version?