Skip navigation

Offensive Shakespeare Conference


Northumbria University

Sponsored by The British Shakespeare Association

Keynote Speakers

Professor Douglas Lanier (University of New Hampshire)
Dr Peter Kirwan (Nottingham University)

Outrage as BBC bosses “use Shakespeare to push pro-immigration agenda"

Shakespeare ImageThis was a headline in The Daily Express on 25 April 2016, after the BBC included what has become known as the 'Immigration Speech' from Sir Thomas More in a programme celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. From Thomas and Henrietta Bowdler expurgating 'inappropriate' passages from their Family Shakespeare, through Jewish campaigns in the early 20th century to remove The Merchant of Venice from American classrooms, to this latest 'outrage', people have been offended by what Shakespeare wrote or by the uses to which others have put him. But what is it that offends us and how do we deal with it? What makes Shakespeare and his appropriations such a sensitive issue?

This conference seeks to answer these questions by examining the following and related areas: 

  • Case studies of individuals or groups taking offence at Shakespeare’s texts.
  • Examples of Shakespearean rewritings aimed to address ‘offensive’ issues.
  • Shakespearean plays or performances which have been banned, censored, or campaigned against.
  • Debates around including or removing Shakespeare from educational curricula, and/or making the study of his work mandatory.
  • Appropriations of Shakespeare by anti-democratic, repressive movements (e.g. ‘Nazi Shakespeare’, ‘racist Shakespeare’).
  • Iconoclastic uses of Shakespeare, going against established orthodoxies.
  • Adaptations of Shakespeare into popular genres or idioms (charges of ‘dumbing down’).
  • The ways to tackle plays which include passages offensive to current moral, ethical, or political sensibilities (e.g. The Taming of the Shrew, Othello, The Merchant of Venice).
  • Issues surrounding studying and teaching Shakespeare without giving offence in the era of ‘trigger warnings’.
  • Uses of Shakespeare in propaganda, inflammatory speeches and/or heated political debates.
  • Authorship controversies. 

Online Booking is now available

Download the Programme 

This is a two-day conference but delegates can attend both days or just one.

  • Full Delegate Rate (2 Days): £60
  • Full Delegate Rate (1 Day): £30
  • Student/Unwaged Rate (2 Days): £30
  • Student/Unwaged Rate (1 Day): £15

Thanks to a generous grant from the British Shakespeare Association, we are able to offer two bursaries of £75 each to assist postgraduate students with the costs of attending the conference. Please, email the organisers if you would like to apply for one of these.

Click the Book Here button to reserve your place


There is a variety of accommodation in Newcastle upon Tyne to match all types of budget.

Information on hotels can be found at:  

The nearest hotels to the conference venue are:

The organisers thank the author, Lex Drewinski, for kindly allowing us to use his poster (seen within the text) in our conference materials. The poster won the 2015 competition 'Shakespeare ',  organised by Galeria Plakatu AMS in Warsaw, Poland. We also thank the gallery's director, Janusz Górski, for the permission to reproduce the image. Further reproduction prohibited without permission. 

 Offensive Shakespeare Logos




Event Details

Northumbria University
Lipman Building
Room 121
Newcastle upon Tyne


a sign in front of a crowd

Northumbria Open Days

Open Days are a great way for you to get a feel of the University, the city of Newcastle upon Tyne and the course(s) you are interested in.

Research at Northumbria

Research at Northumbria

Research is the life blood of a University and at Northumbria University we pride ourselves on research that makes a difference; research that has application and affects people's lives.

a person sitting at a table

Order your prospectus

If you would like to know more about our courses, or life in general as a student at Northumbria, then we can help you.

Latest News and Features

CIS thumbnail
Professor Mike Lim undertaking research in Canada’s Inuit Nunangat. Image credit Weronika Murray
Black-necked spitting cobra
Dr Mark Goddard.
Professor Matthew Johnson has been involved in research which has modelled the impact a Universal Basic Income could have on poverty and inequality.
Northumbria University has launched a new report that sets out its social impact and identifies where it is spreading opportunity to those who need it most.  The Social Mobility Impact Report has been developed in partnership with former Education Secretary Rt Hon Justine Greening.
MFA student Celia Burbush, MFA co-Programme Leader Gavin Butt and Deputy Head of Arts, Steve Gilroy, are pictured outside the new look Gallery North.
Minister for Science, Research and Innovation opens £2m investment in region’s Engineering and Environment students

Back to top