As the world marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Monday tweeted that he too, is a fan of The Bard, and highlighted “The Merchant of Venice” — famous for its derogatory depiction of Jewish moneylender Shylock — as being in “accordance with Western values.”
“I have read most of works by Shakespeare and enjoyed them,” Khamenei posted. “Shakespeare plays, such as the Merchant of Venice or Othello are all in accordance with values, but western values,” the supreme leader said.
In “The Merchant of Venice,” Shylock is portrayed as scheming, vindictive and greedy.
The literal pound of flesh Shylock insists upon collecting from his borrower Antonio has become the quintessential expression of ruthlessness in the English language.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) April 25, 2016
Shakespeare’s depiction of Shylock is widely regarded as anti-Semitic, although there are some who claim that Shylock’s speech in Act III — “If you prick us, do we not bleed?… And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” — reveals a humanizing plea for fair and equal treatment for Shylock himself and his wronged people.
“Othello,” which was also singled out by Khamenei, tells the tale of a Moorish general whose life and marriage are ruined by racism, jealousy, betrayal and revenge.
Khamenei has previously made various virulently anti-Israel statements and anti-Semitic comments.
On this year’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 28, he uploaded a video to his official website questioning the magnitude of the Nazis’ genocidal campaign against the Jewish people during World War II.
In the video titled “Are the Dark Ages Over,” a series of photos showing killed or injured Palestinian children is displayed on screen, while a Persian-speaking man, presumably Khamenei himself, can be heard condemning the nations of the world for offering support to Israel.
The speaker goes on to accuse European nations of silencing any view that does not conform to the historically accepted account of the attempted destruction of Europe’s Jews by Nazi Germany.
“No one in European countries dares to speak about the Holocaust, while it is not clear whether the core of the matter is reality or not,” the narrator says. “Even if it is reality, it is not clear how it happened. Speaking about the Holocaust and expressing doubts about it is considered to be a great sin. If someone does this, they stop, arrest, imprison and sue him. This is why they claim to be supporters of freedom.”
Khamenei, who heads a regime that relentlessly encourages Israel’s demise, has also used twitter to tout a 9-point plan to destroy Israel, and to declare that Israel won’t survive the next 25 years.