IT is fair to say that William Shakespeare is not to everyone’s taste, probably as a result of having to study his plays for far too long while at school.

Some of his works are hard going, to say the least, and not even a day off school to go to watch a live performance at the local theatre could muster up any enthusiasm.

But, while he may not be the reading of choice for spotty schoolboys, there is no doubt about his place in the literary world half of fame.

He is a literary giant and remains as relevant today as he was when he was alive in the 16th century.

The bard’s works can still even cause controversy, given the extraordinary events this week at his own theatre, the Globe in London, with him being cast into the centre of an ableism row.

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It centres on the decision to cast a non-disabled actor as Richard III, who is believed to have suffered from scoliosis.

Olivier Award-winning actress and artistic director at The Globe, Michelle Terry, is to play the titular role this May in the theatre’s summer production.

Richard III, Shakespeare’s “bunch-backed” scheming king describes himself as “deformed, unfinish’d” and the decision to cast an able-bodied actress has received a torrent of backlash.

Brittanie Pallet, a professionally trained disabled performer, wrote on X: “Why is an artistic director of any theatre firing themselves to play the lead when it’s not their casting or lived experience?

“The misrepresentation and misinformation causes actual daily harm to the lives of real disabled people.”

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The Globe issued a statement in response to the backlash and said: “We recognise the barriers to access in our industry and to our organisation and we are working hard to address that.

"We believe the Shakespearean canon is based on a foundation of anti-literalism and therefore all artists should have the right to play all parts in, and the casting across all our work year-round is no different.”

Arthur Hughes became the first disabled actor to play Richard III in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s history in 2022, but it has also continued to be played on stage and screen by able-bodied actors.

Do the critics have a point? Well yes – and no. It is important that people with disabilities are well represented in the arts, but there are limits in how far casting directors need to go to get “lived experience” in order to achieve the perfect part.

Actors are actors at the end of the day and they are used to taking on a wide variety of roles with a great deal of authenticity. It is their job after all, and they tend to do it extremely well.

Taking the argument to the extreme would mean that only one man could realistically play The Elephant Man and that is John Merrick himself because no-one else can possibly have that sort of 'lived experience'.

Instead, John Hurt gave a spellbinding performance in the 1980 film that was nominated for eight Oscars.

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Dame Judi Dench has given some magisterial performances over her career including various queens but she is not remotely royal so would presumably fail the “lived experience” test.

Should straight actors be barred from playing gay characters or vice versa? Of course not.

Again they are professional actors so can turn their hand to almost anything.

Actors should be free to choose which roles they play, otherwise you’d end up with very few jobs available for a great many fine thespians.

I suspect this latest row is a case of Much Ado about Nothing.