Shakespeare invented Britain. Now he can save it

We need the voice of our shared culture now more than ever

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

12 April 2014

9:00 AM

‘What country, friends, is this?’ We’ve been wrestling with Viola’s question almost from the moment she asked it. It was barely a year after Shakespeare had scribbled out those words, in the first Act of Twelfth Night, that James VI of Scotland inherited England’s throne, beginning a 400-year confusion over national identity that has led to the present referendum on partition.

The new monarch wanted to amalgamate his two realms. In his first address to the House of Commons, James asked — in his noticeably Scottish accent — ‘Hath not God first united these kingdoms, both in language and religion and similitude of manners? Hath He not made us all in one island, compassed by one sea?’ The border, the king declared, had always been artificial, and had now disappeared. Shakespeare, whom the king sponsored, seems to have agreed. None of the characters in Macbeth, the world’s most famous Scottish play, spouts Scottishisms. The bard, like his patron, was more struck by the similarities between the two nations than by the differences.

People sometimes imagine that England swallowed up its smaller neighbour, but contemporary accounts tell a very different story. While Scots saw opportunities in their sovereign’s new dominion, many Englishmen felt almost as though they were being invaded. Landless Scottish lairds, they complained, were swarming south with their sovereign, snapping up titles and sinecures. While English MPs couldn’t stop James rewarding his favourites, they could deny him the title he craved: ‘King of Great Britain’.

But as he observed, the Union of Crowns was not the takeover of one country by another — but the fusion of a people already bound together by language, idioms, ideals and a worldview. It is a point that today’s unionists make far too little as they try to save the country. They attempt to confront the nationalists by talking about cash, oil and EU membership. But there is a more obvious case for the Union — that because of our shared language and heritage we have the same outlook. And in both countries, the biggest single cultural debt is owed to man whose 450th anniversary we are about to celebrate.

Patriots began appropriating Shakespeare almost as soon as he died. Tellingly, however, he was not seen only as an English totem. In the first collection of his works, published in 1623, his contemporary Ben Jonson made a famous dedication, which opened with the following couplet:

Triumph, my Britaine, thou hast one to showe,
To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.

It’s true that Shakespeare lived and died as an Englishman: the ‘Britaine’ of which Jonson wrote would be only a geographical expression for another 80 years. And it’s natural, given the way he towers over other writers, that the English should be proud of him. The date by custom given for both his birth and his death is 23 April, St George’s day.

Some Scots, equally naturally, react by asserting a separate literary tradition: their ‘Bard’ is Burns. The rivalry is an old one. The first performance of a work by John Home in Edinburgh in 1756 is now mainly remembered for the cry it elicited from the rapturous audience: ‘Whaur’s yer Wullie Shakespeare noo?’ Even then, however, Shakespeare was appreciated on both sides of the border. A year earlier, the Scottish publishers Hamilton & Balfour didn’t include Shakespeare in their Select Collection of English Plays, since ‘The Works of this Author are presumed to be in every Body’s Hands.’

Shakespeare’s relationship with England, like most things about him, defies categorisation. He set many more plays in Europe than in the British Isles, and the references to Englishmen in those plays are often slighting. They get a glancing mention in Hamlet as madmen, for example, and another in Othello as drunks.

Shakespeare has undoubtedly given English patriots their best lines: John of Gaunt’s deathbed soliloquy in Richard II (‘This sceptr’d isle’) and Henry V’s two wonderful exhortations to his soldiers (‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more’ and ‘We few, we happy few’). Yet none of these passages is straightforward. John of Gaunt’s speech is a threnody, a lament for his subordinated homeland, while King Henry’s patriotism is juxtaposed with his habitual bullying tone.

Henry V is a fine example of Shakespeare’s ability to argue both sides of a case better than their actual exponents. His ambiguity — what Keats called his ‘negative capability’ — makes him inexhaustible. Look at the way Shakespeare portrays the English soldiery: quarrelsome, brave, drunk, loyal, stoical, uncouth, uncomplaining. An English audience, recognising itself, cheers even as it flinches. But the foreign theatregoer often finds his prejudices confirmed: that’s the English for you, he thinks, hooligans in every age.

Shakespeare regularly tops the polls as the greatest symbol of both Englishness and Britishness. No surprise there. What is surprising, perhaps, is to see how many Spaniards, Dutchmen, Japanese and others have claimed to detect in him the peculiar sensibilities of their own nations. Germans, unsurprisingly, took the tendency furthest. Tieck, Novalis and Schlegel adopted ‘Unser Shakespeare’ as a kind of spiritual Teuton. Goethe, who built a theatre to stage the plays, before eventually deciding that Shakespeare’s words were too numinous to be acted, and should only be read as poetry, wondered how the greatest of all German writers had come to be born in the wrong place.

Some years ago, when I was a Telegraph leader writer, we were pondering the latest of these claims: a book by an Italian professor arguing that the language and setting of the plays clearly identified Shakespeare as a Sicilian, and that he had been born in Messina as Michelangelo Florio Crollalanza. We were having fun with the thesis when Andrew McKie, our Glaswegian colleague, declared definitively that Shakespeare was Scottish. Was there, the rest of us asked, any evidence to support this theory? ‘Why,’ replied Andrew, surprised, ‘the ability of the man.’

That ability is easier to identify than to explain. It lies in the way Shakespeare’s words seem peculiarly apt to our circumstances. The same passage can speak to us in different, even contradictory, ways at different moments in our lives. How this sorcery works, I have no idea, and a lifetime of watching the plays has brought me no closer to an answer. But if you know the works, you’ll know what I mean.

The first time my wife and I were able to get out for an evening after the birth of our elder daughter, we watched The Tempest at the Roundhouse. It was the sixth time I had seen the play, or the seventh if you count John Gielgud’s Prospero’s Books, but not until then did it strike me — and I wondered how I had missed it before — that I was really watching a play about Prospero’s conflicted emotions as his little girl grew up. Next time, no doubt, it will be about something else entirely.

The pertinence of the oeuvre can be uncanny. I have started a Twitter hashtag, #Nothing-EscapesShakepeare, in which that unfathomable intelligence opines on current headlines on everything from the refusal of Syria’s government and rebels to negotiate (‘Nay, stand thou back! I will not budge a foot: this be Damascus’) to the backbench protests when the Hereford MP, Jesse Norman, was demoted (‘the Commons they are cold and will, I fear, revolt on Hereford’s side’).

Radicals and conservatives, monarchists and republicans, atheists and Christians — all have claimed, with conviction, that Shakespeare was one of them (G.K. Chesterton was convinced that he was a fellow Catholic). And in a sense, all were right. Or rather, as T.S. Eliot put it, the most any of us can hope for is to be wrong about Shakespeare in a new way.

Part of the magic lies in his sheer lyrical ability. Even the incidental lines pulse with poetry. Never mind the famous set-pieces. Consider some of the minor remarks in Henry V, since we were talking about it, though almost any play would illustrate the point. ‘Unwind your bloody flag.’ ‘The sun doth gild our armour, up my lords!’ ‘You have witchcraft in your lips, Kate.’ Such passages, in the mouths of actors who appreciate cadence, are like words of power, incantations.

And it is here that Shakespeare has something special to say to the Anglophones, rather than just the English. We talk of a people being shaped by their language, yet here is a language shaped by a person.

English-speakers often grope for Shakespeare’s lines when nothing else will do. Daniel Patrick Moynihan reacted to John F. Kennedy’s assassination with ‘Our revels now are ended’. Roy Hattersley remembered that at his primary school, they greeted the news of the retreat from Dunkirk by chanting, ‘Come the three corners of the world in arms, and we shall shock them!’

Across the British isles, we quote Shakespeare a hundred times a day, though we rarely notice it. We quote him whenever we see a sorry sight, or detect foul play (or, come to that, fair play). We quote him when we find ourselves in a pickle, or in stitches, when we can’t sleep a wink, or have our teeth set on edge. We quote him when the better part of valour is discretion, or when we dance attendance — possibly on someone hot-blooded, or stony-hearted or dead as a doornail. We quote him every time we say ‘at one fell swoop’ or ‘all of a sudden’, ‘truth will out’ or ‘woe is me’, ‘a sea-change’ or ‘a fool’s paradise’, ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ or ‘more sinned against than sinning’, ‘too much of a good thing’ or ‘the be all and the end all’.

We quote him, too, whenever we say ‘eyeball’ or ‘torture’ or ‘moonbeam’ or ‘fashionable’ or ‘scuffle’ or ‘swagger’ or any of the countless new-fangled words he invented (including, come to think of it, ‘countless’ and ‘new-fangled’).

Through our words, he defines our consciousness — and indeed, our identity. ‘We must be free or die, who speak the tongue/ That Shakespeare spake: the faith and morals hold/ Which Milton held’, averred Wordsworth. By ‘we’, Wordsworth meant the British — though he might as easily have included the rest of the Anglosphere, for whom Shakespeare’s sublime words come without intermediation.

His canon is our Torah — a work which defines us while at the same time speaking universal truths to mankind. This is a year of many anniversaries: Bannockburn, of course, but also the first world war to which Scots contributed so disproportionately. But as the referendum approaches, people on both sides of the border have good reason to be grateful for the birth of the man who defined our culture — the most complete human being ever to have lived.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Daniel Hannan is a Conservative MEP. His book How We Invented Freedom and Why It Matters is published by Head of Zeus

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Show comments
  • OskarMatzerath

    To save you the trouble of reading this, allow me to summarise:

    “I like Shakespeare. In fact, everybody likes Shakespeare. Even the Scots like Shakespeare, so allow me to extrapolate that into an argument as to why they shouldn’t have control over things like tax and broadcasting and trade, because…because…nope. No idea. But Vote No, anyway. Cheque, please.”

  • Liz

    “the most complete human being ever to have lived.”

    Yes he represents men very well.

    His female characterisation is extremely poor, narrow, stereotype and cliche. Women have to identify with the male characters because the women are empty and largely voiceless.

    • Kitty MLB

      Are you going to utter the words: ‘ frailty thy name is woman’.
      Is that how you assume Shakespeare saw women?
      Admittedly most powerful women were found in comedies, yet in
      those instances maybe Shakespeare was just conforming to his time,
      and some say there were just more male characters in greater depth because of that. Feminism has attacked the great man quite a lot- they would
      even attack the great Cicero- another man of his time.
      Yet remember for most of his life there was a strong female on the throne
      which influenced Shakespeare’s characterization of women, to name a few:
      Margaret of Anjou, Cleopatra, Rosalind, Portia , Isabella, Beatrice, Kate,
      Lady Capulet ( her silence at the end of Romeo & Juliet speaks volumes)
      and a character I find amusing – Titania- taken from Ovid’s Metamorphosis,
      she turned her lovers into Donkeys, in the same vein as Cicre turning
      those sailors who accompanied Odysseus into Pigs after drinking her wine!

    • Daniel Hannan

      Seriously, Liz? Titania? Cleopatra? Mistress Quickly? Lady Macbeth? Isabella? To say nothing of, er, Richard II: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/danielhannan/100075894/which-is-shakespeares-greatest-female-role/

      • Kitty MLB

        Yes indeed, as I have also mentioned in my reply to Liz.
        There are strong women, like Shakespeare’s somewhat strong
        Queen as a role model..Glad you mentioned Titania.

        • Liz

          Strong sure. But not rounded. Not both flawed and capable. No universal profundities that men and women can identify with put in their mouths.

          name me one Shakeslerian female character that you identify with, experience the play through, ponder the words of, fantasise about being. Then name me one that men identify themselves with.

          • Kitty MLB

            Hmm. Please excuse me, I shall get back to you on
            this one. I rather like Titania and Isabella, but would not
            say I identify with them…Shall think about it a little more.

      • Baron

        But all those splendid female roles played by men when he was around, Daniel. How awful, misogynistic, so no equal, should we not apologize?

  • Malcolm McCandless

    O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us
    To see oursels as ithers see us!

    “Shakespeare invented Britain?” – pure invention by Daniel Hannan more like

    • Kitty MLB

      This royal throne of Kings, this scepter’d Isle, this earth of majesty.This
      seat of Mars..
      This blessed plot, this fortress built by nature its self.
      This earth, this realm, this England.
      Yes, I know I left a lot out, and Be nice to the poor King and to
      Shakespeare, and as I have been made a honorary Scots type person,
      I beseech thee,and you can stuff that into your haggis sandwiches, Mr
      McCandless, Sir.

      • Malcolm McCandless

        Wee, sleekit, cow’rin, tim’rous beastie,
        O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!


        • Kitty MLB

          Furain an t – aoign a thig, greas an t -aoign tha falbh-
          Is that how beloved Scotland feels ?
          And now she wishes to leave this benighted mother country.

          • Malcolm McCandless

            Dinna fash yersel

      • asalord

        “…this scepter’d Isle… this England”

        Ignorance as well as arrogance.

        • Kitty MLB

          Well yes, its fine to mix things up a little.
          I am sure a gentleman of Shakespeare’s calibre will not
          be too offended, asalord ! our little, grumpy, pickled haggis.

        • laurence

          I watched around 15 minutes of Martin Amis’ programme on Englishness and he too claimed that England was an island. Lexical dexterity is not necessarily an indicator of geographical competence.

        • Kitty MLB

          I Always knew it was beautiful Scotland, and
          I have read Scott’s poem about Your tragic,
          and beautiful young Queen, although, that
          was not realised until Ally led me to her.
          And now I am reading about her and
          King James obviously.
          If I am allowed, being the loathed English
          and all that.

    • em diar

      You need rushing to the serious burns unit mate.

  • Allan D.

    Good points except for the omission of the Bard’s effect on solidifying your favourite topic: the Anglosphere especially his effect on our relations with the United States. Far from Shakespeare being discarded after independence he seems to have become even more important as if to provide a cultural tradition in the absence of one of their own. Lincoln read the complete Shakespeare canon as a boy. The theatrical tradition which was borrowed from Britain was built upon Shakespeare, whose works were reinvigorated by a fine tradition of American actors and directors including Joe Papp and Kevin Spacey, currently at the Old Vic.

    Edwin Booth, appearing as the Prince of Denmark, quieted the Broadway audience that threatened to mob him the night after his brother had shot President Lincoln and won them over through his performance in Shakespeare’s greatest revenge play by showing how murder by an evil brother does not have to stand or triumph. In 1964 Robert Kennedy quoted Juliet’s words to honour his murdered brother:

    “When he shall die, take him and cut him out into the stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

    4 years later Senator Edward Kennedy used the same words to honour him.

    As Ben Jonson wrote, “He was not of an age, but for all time” Wherever Shakespeare is honoured so will be the language in which he wrote.

  • M4rkyboy

    ‘For once the eagle England being in prey,

    To her unguarded nest the weasel Scot

    Comes sneaking and so sucks her princely eggs,

    Playing the mouse in absence of the cat,

    To tear and havoc more than she can eat.’

  • Mack

    Oh, Liz, do you really think the deliciously wicked Lady Macbeth is a shadow of Macbeth? Rather, he is her shadow!

    • Liz

      She was really just a wicked woman archetype: gorgon, wicked step mother, witch.

      She had no real depth and you certainly can’t identify with her as there’s nothing to identify with.

  • FF42

    Unfortunately he can’t. Shakespeare has effectively been banished from Scottish schools. This is the set text list for “English”: http://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/64336.html, which makes the heart sink if you cherish literature. Theoretically you could study other texts in addition, but you are not encouraged to do so. You will notice the set text list is free of any Shakespeare.

    In Russia, unlike in Scotland, school students study Shakespeare in the original language. But Russians cherish literature, hence I return to my point.

    • laurence

      But not from Scottish universities. Incidentally, the Russians are also very fond of Burns.

      • FF42

        Just goes to show Russians recognise the good stuff. To be fair, the Scottish Qualifications Authority, who cheekily include an image of Shakespeare on their English subject page do mention him for Advanced Higher.

        • laurence

          I had a look at the texts in the link you provided. I’d rather read the Beijing telephone directory than a line of Carol Ann Duffy, or Liz Lochhead for that matter, but The Cone Gatherers is one of the finest novels in the English language.

          • FF42

            The depressing thing about this list is not the works themselves. I think you can get something out of most of them. It’s the idea of the list – that these are all the works you need to read because they tick a box that says “Scottish,” and absolutely not because of any literary merit. Carol Ann Duffy is on the list simply due to an accident of birth. She was born in Scotland, but is otherwise entirely English. Rona Munro, a decent enough dramatist, was born in Scotland but lives in London and the selected work is based in Northern Ireland. Why not choose an Irish writer? There are several great ones.

          • Jambo25

            What makes Scotland educationally unique in that the national culture should not be transmitted through the school system?

          • Fergus Pickering

            Never heard of it? Who wrote it? Better than ‘Great Expectations’ is it? Wow!

          • laurence

            Hello Fergus. It was written by Robin Jenkins. However, If 19th century realism a la Dickens is your thing, then The Cone Gatherers will disappoint. It is a deeply symbolic, allusive and elusive text with, I think, quite astonishing narrative complexity. It is more akin to Kafka than to Dickens.

    • Jambo25

      Funny that as my ex colleagues at a bog standard comp are still teaching a couple of Shakespeare plays and a few poems.

  • Ricayboy

    As an Englishman, I’m waiting to be convinced that the Union needs saving. I am struggling to see what’s in it for England and the English. If the UK broke up England would have a good chance of becoming a nation – rather than just a notion – once again freed from this false ‘Britishness’ which is really just Englishness by any other name.

    Let’s admit it, when people say something is ‘typically British’ they nearly always mean English. I don’t suppose that anybody sees kilts and bagpipes and says “Oh look, how very British.” This being the case, we might as well start using the term ‘English’ when applied to things which are found in England but not elsewhere in the UK. Henley Regatta, morris dancing, cream teas etc. are all very much English things.

    • Jambo25

      I’d agree with you on Henley and morris dancing though, strangely enough, there was a strong tradition of morris dancing in parts of the Scottish Border country. Cream teas though forget it; as the ladies of the various churches round my place in Dumfriesshire do great afternoon and cream teas.

    • The PrangWizard of England

      We get this deliberate avoidance of the word England and mention of the nation of England by the BBC for example, as a matter of policy. In local TV news.: if for example some accident befalls someone from the local area covered, say from Henley near where I am, they make much of the local connection, and they are flown back home for hospital treatment, where are they flown back to? The UK of course. They never mention ‘back to England’. You can bet your life they would mention Scotland if the plane landed there. We must demand change. We must make our views known to them directly, as well as spreading the word in places like this, that it not acceptable. Unionists take note. The people of England and the ethnic English have had enough of being ignored. It is time to get the British Establishment off our backs.

      • vieuxceps2

        Totally agree with this. There has been a concerted campaign by the Establishment in all its guises to eradicate the idea of England as a nation and the English as a people simply by making the term British apply for England but using the national terms for Wales, Scotland or N. Ireland.Some PC speakers often have as much difficulty saying “English” as they would if made (heaven forfend) to say the “N”,”Y” or “P” words.I’ve no idea why this should be,but I do know that it’s something that English people must fight against.It is in fact inverted racism. We are in danger of being ignored into oblivion.The logical next step, already being mooted, is to destroy the very land of England itself by splitting her up into “regions” so that the devolved nations can prosper better should the “Union” split. I have a better idea. Let us be England again, an independent land free of the fringefolk who now so loudly shout their own claim to nationhood.

        • Ricayboy
          • vieuxceps2

            Thank you Ricayboy.A fine summary of the matter. I’d just add that the lefty mafia in education are cotinuing the demolition job on England and her history.More power to the elbows of those now resisting this pernicious campaign.
            Thanks again-I recommend everyone to follow the link gven by Ricayboy.

          • Ricayboy

            It’s nice of you to say so. There is plenty more to add in due course (and feel free to contact me if you want to contribute anything.) It’s very much a work in progress. I just felt that it’s very important that the English independence cause is promoted more widely.

      • Ricayboy
    • Rocksy

      ‘English’ has been used almost exclusively to mean ‘British’ over the centuries. It’s only lately with the possibility of separation that the notion of ‘English’ not meaning ‘British’ has entered the English consciousness.
      By the way, Sir Walter Scott ‘invented’ Scotland but I’m not sure Shakespeare ‘invented’ England and I know he didn’t ‘invent’ Scotland or Wales.
      His character assassination of Macbeth to curry favour with James VII didn’t do Scotland any favours.

    • margotdarby

      “If the UK broke up England would have a good chance of becoming a nation”? The United Kingdom was the union of the Kingdom of Ireland with the Kingdom of Great Britain under the Act of 1800. And this UK did in fact break up when one of those kingdoms substantially withdrew in the early 1920s (although Eire remained under the Crown until 1949). You are thinking of the 1707 Act of Union, which created Great Britain, not the UK.

  • Raw England

    Daniel, I saw you speak in the Oxford Union (Youtube), and I was startled by your charisma and poise. You talk beautifully.

    But Daniel, you seem to forget what’s actually happening to us, the English. You seem to be unaware of the horror we’ll soon face, and actually seeing already.

    We English now die and suffer in overwhelmingly brutal austerity due to the horrific cost of all post-war immigration and multiculturalism. Free Speech is now illegal. Shakespeare, today, would be arrested for ‘Hate Crime’, or killed by immigrants. Our identity and existence is humiliated and destroyed on a daily basis. And, due to immigration and immigrant birthrates, we English will soon be a small minority in our own country.

    Britain is now a badly failed, massively compromised entity. We must overwhelmingly assert our English ethnicity.

    • Britain and the UK have been a disaster for all the nations of these isles including the English. The only people who have benefited from fairy tales like ‘britishness’ are the elitist politicians who strut the world stage and the massive numbers of immigrants who were welcomed in by successive governments in order to, as the last Labour government claimed, ‘rub the right’s nose in diversity’! That diversity destroys any remaining English identity and results in squabbling tribes clamouring for an ever larger government to give them hand-outs.

      Its nearing crunch time for the English. The English are already a minority in London and on current trends the English will be minority throughout England as a whole within our lifetimes, even sooner if Red Ed, the son of International Socialists, gets into power.

      As a Scottish Nationalist, I want the Scots, English and Welsh to be allies against our mutual foes, the politicians in Westminster!

      • Raw England

        Absolutely agreed, my friend.

        You’re by far the most politically/racially/existentially aware Scottish Nationalist I’ve come across.

        In fact, you’re the ONLY politically/racially/existentially aware Scottish Nationalist I’ve ever come across.

        • Laurie Newton

          Really? As a fellow Scot who will be voting YES, this is the majority feeling amongst the people I know. Maybe you just haven’t met a lot, and are going by what you have read in the media!

    • Bonkim

      Alarmist and lacking in English confidence.

      • Raw England

        I think you know, deep down, Bonkim, that I’m right.

        • Bonkim

          I don’t believe Britain is a badly failed and massively compromised entity. Britain is one of the top successful societies in the world and has faced the global crash much better than most EU countries.

          One is always concious of changes in social make up, language, etc, etc, it was always so – for example Victorial Englishmen would have been dumbfounded if they came to London in the 1920s and 30s and the prevailing decadence, and the WW2 generation similarly in the 60s and 70s. Language, culture, food and drink habits have all shifted and is continuing to shift with time. Britain has been built over successive waves if immigrants and what is English today is not Bertie Wooster and Public School mannerism and expressions, tiffin, and colonial Clubs – visions of much of the English culture in literature, and drama is defined by what went on in upper class circles in the colonial era. the British poor and workin classes simply followed and copied – until the liberating 60s and 70s. Similar changes in the middle ages, and post Elizabethan era when society changed considerably. The Britan of today is the product of Empire and the ways of life, cultures, foods, and clothing that were absorbed and modified through the decades. You must be afraid of change and have a notion of Britain and the English based on TV images.

          • Raw England

            Being mono-cultural – being White – is the very thing that enabled us to become the greatest, most powerful, most advanced nation ever known.

            Note how the brutal collapse and total destruction of our economy, freedom, artistry, wellbeing and unity correlates precisely with the rancid beginnings of the unwanted, unwelcome ideologies of multiculturalism and immigration. The more foreigners who came, the worse things got. Until we stand here, today, a people destroyed; our pride, resources, housing, freedom and safety SHATTERED; our future filled with unimaginable oppression and horror.

            And you, for some reason, think this is a good thing.

          • Bonkim

            Utter rubbish – you will have to raise your awareness of Britain, its people and culture and how it changed over the centuries.

            White meant and means nothing. Darker skinned races have been top dogs, founded empires, been innovative and adventurous at various stages of world history. Europe was inhabited by barbaric tribes until the second Millennium. The Chines, Japanese, Indians, Middle-Eastern and several native American tribes had in their turn left high degree of civilization.

            The Europe of the 16 and 1700s learnt much from the Central Asian, Chinese, Indians, Arabs and others they came into contact and in turn burst out with vigour and innovation as threw off the blind cloak of religion and looked at nature and began to think freely. Some of of the old civilizations fell down the scale in their turn – today’s Greeks and Italians are a pale image of the mighty Romans or the innovative Greeks of ancient history.

            You will find China on the ascendancy as it polishes its technology and social organisation.

            Britain consists of many races including strains of Moors and other dark races that have come in over the centuries – not just recent immigrants – the Morris Dance for example is simply Moorish dance and medieval ladies wore veils same as Muslims do today.

            Much of the success of the British Empire depended upon collaborating with the people across the seas – not military power. Much of British development took place in the colonies where there was more freedom and subsequently established in Britain. Look at the Empires founded by the Spanish/French and Italians that did not come up to the same level – simply these others were more militaristic and failed to capitalise on the local strengths and collaborate.

            To be innovative and do better than others, you need to be balanced in tour thinking and also able to link cause and effect – not sit in your hole assuming because you are white or any other you are superior – the Chinese and Indians appear to be doing better than naive born British youngsters at school and Universities – it is the social organisation and the British free-enterprise culture that will take Britain forward, not harking back to an imaginary time of Christendom and racial superiority. Get real!

          • Chris Bond

            “threw off the blind cloak of religion”

            Your whole speech reeked of the religious dogma that is “progressiveness”. You seem to try and weave a narrative which unilaterally denies the existence of being English, and cherry pick information out of context or plain wrong to back up your fantasy vision of history. Your interpretation of the British empire for example is shockingly ignorant (no it wasn’t built on co-operation – it was built on English/ British people going to Kenya, South Africa, Australia, Hong Kong or Singapore etc finding a swamp, empty fields, desert etc and turning it into an oasis of peace safety and wealth. The locals were usually merely only laborers.)

            I also find your raising of the better performance of non English people to be especially grievous, as I presume it is meant to be a sort of attempt at claiming their racial superiority as a counter weight to perceived claims of white English superiority. Simultaneously denouncing claims of racial difference when you feel it goes against you, then raising it when you think it puts your opponent down. This exposes your character quite starkly.

            The issue is, the Chinese and Indians likely do better due to not assimilating to our progressive suicide cult of a civilization which seems to think that learning about diversity, homosexuality and tolerance, and wanting to be the next beyonce is more important then maths etc. Importing vast amounts of people perceived as “others” will not scourge our racist “original sin” and lead us to a new Jerusalem. So just stop it, your adherence to immigration is based on your own spiritual emptiness/problems.

            And as per your previous post regarding the Victorians going forward to the 1930’s etc, consider this – in Peter Hitchens book ‘brief history of crime’ he notes that in 1913 the level of crime in the country (serious offences ) totaled 98,000. in 1980 it was 2,500,000. (population increase from 33 million to 49 million). So take a bow to the Victorians and Edwardians and show them respect, they ran a better shop then we do.

            And if you take the technological variable out of the equation, we are living in the burnt out husk of a civilization run by progressive psychopaths who are poorly disguised religious zealots desperate to prove their equality fantasy by importing vast amounts of people – the more different the colour the better, then when it doesn’t work, they implement more absurd and horrific “anti discrimination” policies to even the matter artificially.

            Can you imaging what the Victorians would be able to do if you brought them whole to this age with our technology? the mind boggles.

          • Bonkim

            Rambling won’t help your cause. the Chinese and Indians are probably more racist and xenophobic – we are not discussing race or racism but historic life-cycles of various civilizations and cause and effect of factors that trigger development and innovation.

            Britain and the British have succeeded over the past 300 hundred years for reasons other that being caucasian – and in racial terms the British – English included are genetically mixed over millennia and successive waves of incoming people have made what it is today even taking recent immigration out of the equation. Also the European races do not have any intrinsic features superior intellectually or physically – only circumstances and motivation at certain periods of history that trigger creativity, adventure and need to innovate. On the other hand civilizations wane and die out – as the Chinese, Indian, Amerindian, Persian, Mongol, and Arab civilizations had through time.

            Because of your conceited mindset you have lost the ability to link cause and effect. I would agree that Victorian Britain was an ordered society and managed to mobilise all its people – both at home and in the Empire single purposedly to serve its mercantile interests. They were the originators of global business and that needed collaboration with local interests rather than simply military expeditions – look at the Spanish and French militarism which did not them much whereas the British succeeded. You need to think afresh from first principles rather that read up this or that reference to prop up what you believe in.

          • Raw England

            Well said, Chris.

          • sarahsmith232

            Good post, I’m convinced it’s the aggressive and undemocratic forcing through of a ‘progressive’ Liberal New World Order that’s driving the Ukip vote and every other rightward movement across Europe. Zero, absolutely didely-squat to do with austerity, if you ask me.

          • sarahsmith232

            If you could only recognise your standard sheep speak, but that isn’t going to happen. You’re too insular and unconnected, even if you were more connected I doubt you’d be able of forming your own opinion anyway. Instead, you’re only too happy to be led by the Metro herd group think. That is a really deeply unimpressive characteristic dear.
            ‘ Its society is vibrant and innovative – it is not mono-cultural like some of the backward cultures in Europe’ did you think of that all by yourself? No? No, ‘course not, you’re lamely and pathetically following on behind the herd, an insipid, limp and very transparent copy. You need to be more aware that when you start speaking like this people might not be saying it to your face but they certainly will be thinking it – sheep, of the bog standard and very unimpressive kind.

          • Bonkim

            Thanks for the lecture – I have my own take on issues, quite capable of linking cause and effect and don’t have to be defeatist or arrogant. I am sure you have a right to your views/opinions – why not direct them towards the substantial issue rather than knit-pick on what others have commented.

            Shakespeare had indeed spawned what British culture is today and something to be proud of – equally Shakespeare’s greatest contribution was to put human nature in simple terms and giving credit to all his characters. The Moors, Jews and foreigners all played their parts in Shakespeare’s era as they do today. We are all richer for that. I doubt if Shakespeare was a racist or little Englander in the sense some are today that are totally ignorant of the rich and varied cultures and belief systems through history that shaped Britain as it is today.

  • asalord

    James VI was the archetypal Scottish unionist: as soon as he reached London he forgot all about Scotland. He boasted how he could rule the Scots by a stroke of the pen. He encouraged protestants to settle in Ulster thereby sowing the seeds of the future “Troubles”.

    As for a “shared heritage” well every human on the planet has a “shared heritage”.
    A “shared language”? No doubt the author still thinks the USA is still part of the British empire.

    • John Hawkins Totnes

      You are a bit of a grumpy old man…

      • What’s grumpy about facts? There’s nothing as grumpy as a bitter unionist!

        • CortUK

          Oh dear. As a man once said, It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

  • wally

    Obviously Shakespeare was a Sephardic Jewess, there’s no question about this. She’s been identified already. No mere gentile could have written such a vast compendium of poetry, history, wisdom, and known so much of human nature and psychology.

  • United by a common language? Really Daniel?

    What language are the placenames Glasgow, Dundee, Crianlarich, Machrahanish, or in Wales Cardiff, Caernarfon, Llanelli, Aberystwyth, derived from? It surely isn’t English!

    Similarly for family names such as Llewellyn, MacDonald and even Cameron. Far more foreign to the English than names like Jonsson or Schmidt.

    James VI was a traitor to Scotland. He was the first ever Scottish monarch who didn’t speak the native Scottish Gaelic language. That language still clings to life and its influence is still cherished throughout Scotland even by those such as myself who cannot speak it. You may have heard of the Welsh language too.

    What James VI did was as if David Cameron stood up in Westminster and announced that he’d accepted the role of Chancellor of Germany and was therefore uniting our two countries and that German would henceforth be the common language throughout Britain as well as Germany.

    As someone so critical of artificial structures like the EU, I would expect you to be equally critical of the UK. You can’t have it both ways. I support local independence for true nations such as England, Scotland and Wales. No to the EU and no to the UK! Britain is no more a nation than Europe!

  • Jambo25

    Not sure what the point is here. I love Shakespeare but I love lots of other things as well. Bach is as important to me as Shakespeare. I’m listening to BWV 21 as I write this. I don’t fancy my life being run from Berlin though.

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    Your antidote to the illusions conjured up by clowns like Bill Maher and Jonathan Leibowitz: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878

  • jelliedeels

    Shakespeare –boring ,

    Hannan -just another westminster Mp desperate to hold on to Scotland ,
    I wonder why after all these years of calling the jocks scroungers

  • Liberalism is Nonsense

    An antidote to the quackery of the progressives, charlatans, and clowns who infect today’s mass TV media: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0094KY878