9

I read this short story maybe 15-20 years ago, but it might be older than that.

With hindsight, it is pretty prophetic. Even for France, now....

It is about an english teacher (in an english-speaking country, probably the US, maternal not foreign language) in high school. She wants to have her students read a play by Shakespeare.

But there are hitches. Most students of her class are strongly "politically correct", but there is also at least one evangelist. Moreover, the administration of the school does not want to take any risks of conflict with the parents.

So each play she suggests is rejected, from one side or the other. I don't remember precisely the end, but I think that in the entire works of Shakespeare, there is just a single line that she is allowed to teach.

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  • Now I have a dilemma : Clara Diaz Sanchez's post was the one that convinced me. But DavidW was first to suggest the same story, though not convincing enough. So which one should I accept ?
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:45
  • 2
    @F1Krazy I just checked, it was written in 1988. I last spent a long time in the US ten years earlier, so I don't know how much the situation had changed there since that time, but when I read in in France, probably around the turn of the century, it looked like "sociological fiction in the future", which to me counts as SF. Now, I must say, it is almost what you can read in the newspapers. In France, yes. So a prediction fulfilled within two-three decades, but when it was written, still a prediction.
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 20:34
  • 1
    Always accept the answer that is best regardless of when it came in.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Dec 11, 2021 at 20:58
  • 2
    @F1Krazy It's an extrapolation of present day social behavior to a (near) future. I'd say that qualifies it as science fiction. Dec 11, 2021 at 21:14
  • 1
    @FuzzyBoots While I was reading the second (convincing) answer, DavidW was already editing his, and the two answers came out identical. The timing was such that he did not have time to read the other answer, his editing was in response to my doubts.
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 21:31

2 Answers 2

10

This sounds like "Ado", a short story by Connie Willis, first published in 1988. As you recall, it deals with a schoolteacher in a near future USA trying to cover the works of Shakespeare, but the demands of political correctness require him and the school principle to remove all "problematic" language in the plays.

They first try to find a play:

Trying to figure out which works were still allowed, the teacher and principle sifted through the objections:

-The Royal Society for the Divine Rights of Kings objected to Richard III because there was no proof that he has killed the princess … they in fact objected to all the plays about Kings.

-Angry Woman’s Alliance objected to the Taming of the Shrew, Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo and Juliet, and Love’s Labour Lost.

-The American Bar Associating objected to The Merchant of Venice …as did Morticians International due to defaming of the word casket.

-The Sierra Club objected to As You Like It because Orlando carves Rosalind’s name into a tree

and so on.

Eventually they settle on Hamlet, but have to go through it removing all the objectionable lines, until they are just left with two sentences.

It is included in the Willis anthology "The Winds of Marble Arch and Other Stories", which is available for loan at the Internet Archive.

5
  • Yes it is the right one! Thanks. I'm not sure which to accept (see my comment on my question)
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:45
  • @Alfred The amazing thing is that DavidW and I answered at almost the exact same time. We jinxed each other... Dec 11, 2021 at 19:50
  • Yes, and DavidW updated his post, but after I read yours... Difficult choice !
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 20:49
  • There's no rush to accept, take your time! I've included a link to an online version of the story if you want to refresh your memory of it. Dec 11, 2021 at 21:02
  • Thanks to your link, I just reread it entirely. I found it just as hilarious as the first time. The last twist about Dalilah being "hoist by her own petard", censured for using "spokesman" instead of "spokesperson" (how can one misspell "person" ????) is just perfect.
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 23:34
9

This is "Ado" by Connie Willis. An English teacher wishes to teach a Shakespeare play to her students; they are forced to settle on Hamlet, which they go through line by line but in the end only a short bit of dialog between two guards is left.

"Well, it may be easier than we think,” she said. "There have been a lot of suits since last year, which takes care of Macbeth, The Tempest, Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Winter’s Tale, and Richard III."

"Delilah’s been a busy girl,” I said. I fed in the unexpurgated disk and the excise and reformat programs. "I don’t remember there being any witchcraft in Richard III.”

She sneezed and grabbed for another Kleenex. "There’s not. That was a slander suit. Filed by his great-great-grand-something. He claims there’s no conclusive proof that Richard III killed the little princes. It doesn’t matter anyway. The Royal Society for the Restoration of Divine Right of Kings has an injunction against all the history plays. What’s the weather supposed to be like?”

"Terrible,” I said. "Warm and sunny.” I called up the catalog and deleted Henry IV, Parts I and II, and the rest of her list. "Taming of the Shrew?” "Angry Women’s Alliance. Also Merry Wives of Windsor, Romeo and Juliet, and Love’s Labour’s Lost.”

"Othello? Never mind. I know that one. Merchant of Venice? The Anti- Defamation League?”

"No. American Bar Association. And Morticians International. They object to the use of the word 'casket’ in Act III.” She blew her nose.

After deciding on Hamlet they go through it line-by-line:

We worked until five o’clock. The Society for the Advancement of Philosophy considered the line, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,” a slur on their profession. The Actors’ Guild challenged Hamlet’s hiring of non-union employees, and the Drapery Defense League objected to Polonius being stabbed while hiding behind a curtain. "The clear implication of the scene is that the arras is dangerous,” they had written in their brief. "Draperies don’t kill people. People kill people.”

Finally there's only a little bit left:

I passed out Hamlet and assigned Wendy and Rick to read the parts of Hamlet and Horatio.

" 'The air bites shrewdly; it is very cold,’ ” Wendy read.

"Where are we?” Rick said. I pointed out the place to him. "Oh. 'It is a nipping and an eager air.’ ”

" 'What hour now?’ ” Wendy read.

" 'I think it lacks of twelve.’ ”

Wendy turned her paper over and looked at the back. "That’s it?” she said.

The story was originally published in the January 1980 issue of Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine and you can read it at the Internet Archive.

2
  • Sounds good. But your link does not lead to the full text. Could you give some specific details to help me pinpoint it ?
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 19:39
  • Yes it is convincing now, but I read the other convincing answer before, but after your initial post.
    – Alfred
    Dec 11, 2021 at 20:47

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