Author and playwright Sir Michael Morpurgo is omitting The Merchant of Venice from a children’s book based on Shakespeare’s plays he is working on because of its “antisemitic” overtones.
Sir Michael, 77, is modernising Shakespeare plays for children and teenagers in a book titled Tales from Shakespeare, designed to make them more appealing to a young audience.
The book will include works such as Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and King Lear, which are fixtures of the school syllabus. But Sir Michael said that after rereading The Merchant of Venice – which is on A-level syllabuses – he could not “honestly” retell it, the Sunday Times reported.
“I did not tackle Shylock [the Venetian Jewish moneylender who agrees a loan on condition that if the borrower defaults, he will take a pound of his flesh]. I avoided [the play] because it worried me too much… There are assumptions right the way through about what it is to be a Jew and how Jews are thought of.
“The play can be antisemitic… and I could not tell it honestly. It would be offensive.”
He felt it was “too raw to write about for children”.