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Immigration in Tutor England

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Shakespeare’s contribution to the play Sir Thomas More, which may never have been produced, is noteworthy for More’s compassionate speech about immigrants. The scene recounts the events of Evil May Day in 1517, during Henry VIII’s reign when Londoners, after sporadic rioting, threatened to kill Flemish and other European immigrants who were thought to be taking Englishmen’s work.

From the British Library by Andrew Dickson and British Library curators:

… continue reading this noteManuscript of a portion the play Sir Thomas More in what is believed to be Shakespeare’s handwriting.

You’ll put down strangers

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You’ll put down strangers,
Kill them, cut their throats, possess their houses,
And lead the majesty of law in lyam
To slip him like a hound; alas, alas, say now the King,
As he is clement if th’offender mourn,
Should so much come too short of your great trespass
As but to banish you: whither would you go?

This is the strangers’ case
And this your mountainish inhumanity.
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