Simon Schama concludes (FT Weekend, June 13) that statues are best transferred to museums where ‘properly curated, they can trigger genuine debate.’ In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale King Leontes is exposed to a statue of his wife Hermione whom he thinks long dead after he wrongly accused her of adultery and bearing an illegitimate child. The ‘statue’ comes to life leading to redemption and, here’s the point, for all parties.
Redemption is a noted theme throughout the late Shakespeare plays. Can we consider its possibility in whatever we decide – rather than impose – about statues to those who many might now believe are indefensible?
Without apologism, was Edward Colston’s philanthropy merely conceived as offsetting? It might or might not be. Had Cecil Rhodes no finer thoughts beyond white supremacy? Shakespeare animates plenty of tyrants in behaviour and yet we are invited to view them as human beings as well as pity their victims. This might count as the ‘debate and historical education’ Simon Schama calls for. As for any more statues, wise to set them up on feet of clay.
Elstree, Hertfordshire, UK