Twitter rules dub scholar ‘abusive’ for quoting William Shakespeare on social media

An academic was sanctioned by Twitter for “abuse” after quoting William Shakespeare’s famous line “let’s kill all the lawyers”

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Peter Kirwan, an associate professor at the University of Nottingham, recited the line from Henry VI Part 2.

He wrote on Wednesday: “Really excited for @NottsRebels taking the stage with the @TheRSC for today’s Henry VI press performances.

“Break a leg everyone, and do kill all the lawyers.”

The message was sent in support of the Nottingham Shakespeare Rebels acting group, who are due to perform the play at the Royal Shakespeare Company later this year.

But in an email to the academic, the social media company reportedly said the tweet violated rules on “abuse and harassment”.

William Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2
William Shakespeare's Henry VI Part 2
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

The social media company later U-turned on the decision, according to The Times.

Twitter said: “We took enforcement action on the account referenced in error — this action has since been reversed.”

After the exchange, Shakespeare Bulletin, a quarterly journal for which Professor Kirwan works, warned people to be “careful what you quote”.

The group said: “Make sure you go and see @TheRSC and @NottsRebels in this apparently inflammatory production of the Henry VI plays which Must Not Be Discussed on the bird app.”

The full quote, spoken by Dick the Butcher in Act 4 Scene 2 of the 1591 play, is: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

The character makes the murderous suggestion to rebel leader Jack Cade, who replies: “Nay, that I mean to do.”

Twitter’s policy states: “We consider abusive behaviour an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.”