Bowdler’s Day is celebrated annually on July 11. On this day, Thomas Bowdler, the physician and philanthropist who prepared and released a unique censored edition of Shakespeare’s works, was born. The attitude towards him was ambiguous – some call him a genius, and some call him a hypocrite. He devoted his career to editing the works of Shakespeare so they could be read by the family. Scenes of violence and intimacy were censored. The cost of such editions is lower than that of original editions.
Thomas Bowdler was born in 1754 in Bath, England. Interest in the works of Shakespeare was instilled in him by his father, who from childhood read the works to his son and daughters, but at the same time skipped scenes that were unsuitable for children. The matured Bowdler published a unique edition of Shakespeare’s works that all family members, as well as virtuous women, could read. Unfortunately, during his lifetime, he did not see his work published. That only happened a year after Bowdler’s death, in 1826.
- By 1830, the concept of ‘bowdlerization’ meant the censorship of a work of art. But this term was used mainly with a negative connotation, even though it entailed the removal of vulgar and other undesirable passages from a text.
- The mission of Bowdler’s Day is to reflect on the important topic of freedom of speech.
- Despite the fact the term ‘bowdlerization’ irritates many, there is reason to celebrate this date, because thanks to Bowdler’s efforts, Shakespeare’s works have become available to a wide readership. Moreover, they have become cheaper.
- Despite his creative talent, Bowdler received a medical degree in 1776, and in 1781 he was elected a member of the Royal Society. Bowdler married late – at the age of 52, to Elizabeth Trevenen. Bowdler died at the age of 72 in Wales.
How to take part
Bowdler’s Day is an excuse to do something controversial – read a banned book, or watch a banned program or movie. Break the censorship – this is the essence of this celebration. Read Shakespeare’s uncensored work, and compare it with Bowdler’s version. Share your opinion with your audience on social networks.
When is Bowdler’s Day celebrated in 2023?
Bowdler’s Day is observed on July 11 each year.