Chaucer, Shakespeare and Dickens are perhaps the three central figures of English literature. Representing respectively poetry, drama and prose, they have been hugely influential for centuries, read, analysed and quoted by countless millions around the world in every language from English and Afrikaans to Hindi and Mandarin.
But in modern times all three of them have also been condemned as vectors of an ancient and deadly ideological virus: anti-Semitism.
In the Prioress’s Tale (c. 1390), Chaucer wrote of a saintly Christian child murdered by evil Jews. In The Merchant of Venice (c. 1596), Shakespeare brought life to Shylock, a vengeful and cunning Jewish merchant. In Oliver Twist (1838), Dickens portrayed Fagin, the corrupter, tutor and fence to a gang of child-thieves: