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Friday, February 19, 2016

Shakespeare and immigration - plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Obviously, neither the Bible, the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount specifically addressed the difficult and contentious issue of immigration. But, apparently, William Shakespeare did write something, when he collaborated with a group of peers on a play titled "The Book of Sir Thomas More".

This French proverb is a perfect motto for the sad turmoil surrounding the immigration crises:  plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.  
Image result for Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More and immigration - by William Shakespeare

Translated: "The more things change the more they are the same."  A forum at the Holocaust and Human Rightes Center (HHRC) on the University of Maine Augusta (UMA) campus brought this proverb into focus when David Greenham, Program Director, read a narrative hand written by William Shakespeare, from the play he collaborated with writing, titled The Book of Sir Thomas More.  

Shakespeare, Sir Thomas More, and the refugee migrants blog
gives contest to Shakespeare's hand written monologue for the character who plays Sir Thomas More (1478-1535/London).  

In the play, the people of London are complaining about immigrants.

Here's what Shakespeare wrote for his lead character:

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. 

Since Donald Trump doesn't know his Bible references (ie "Second Corinthians") and clearly disregards what Pope Francis advises about anti-immgration walls being "not Christian", then maybe he and the GOP hypocritical line up will take time to read advice from Shakespeare! Unfortunately, proverbs have a way of hanging around for centuries. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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