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The Great White Bard by Farah Karim-Cooper review – a new way of seeing Shakespeare

The Great White Bard sees Farah Karim-Cooper challenge white ownership of Shakespeare's canon

The Great White Bard by Farah Karim-Cooper

In The Great White Bard, Farah Karim-Cooper explores the co-opting of Shakespeare as a symbol of English exceptionalism and reclaims his “gloriously diverse, discomforting and capacious store of words” for all ethnicities.

Karim-Cooper’s ambivalence towards the playwright began when, as a young Pakistani-American, she recognised in Romeo and Juliet something of the Pakistani experience, yet wondered why being white as “a snowy dove” was essential to Juliet’s beauty. Analysing works such as Othello, she shows how Shakespeare absorbed and perpetuated stereotypes of blackness, while also often undermining them through his multi-layered characterisation.

Her book is a love letter of sorts and a rallying cry for theatre productions which challenge exclusive white ownership of his canon.

Dani Garavelli is a journalist and broadcaster.

The Great White Bard by Farah Karim-Cooper

The Great White Bard by Farah Karim-Cooper is out now (Oneworld Publications, £10.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine. If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

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