Wednesday, February 15, 2017
To Reject or Revisit Shakespeare: That Is the Question
So why has the reading of Shakespeare fallen out of favor? Indeed, why have even professional educators suddenly kicked the noble Bard into the gutter? The recent study conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni reveals just how dramatic has been this new disdain. That study showed that only 4 of the nation’s 52 highest ranked colleges require their English literature majors to take a course in Shakespeare. Unbelievable.
Why has this happened? Well, there have been several fine articles published in the alternative media which deal with this perplexing question. But may I boil it down to two basic issues?
1) Reading Shakespeare is just too hard for today’s students. Sadly, our dumbed-down society doesn’t go in much for reading anyhow. We prefer visual stimulation, especially TV, movies, and computer games that are heavy on sensuality and action and politically-correct propaganda. And we certainly don’t have the time, the inclination, the attention span, the work ethic, or the literary skills to read the works of a writer as complex and profound as William Shakespeare.
Therefore, rather than admit the obvious; namely, that we have produced a nation of 100 pound weaklings for whom Shakespeare is just too heavy to lift, we merely read something easier, quicker, and more fitting to our self-flattered egos. Better yet, we watch a movie.
This unreasonable but determined neglect of Shakespeare’s genius by today’s academics is, of course, sad for the culture as a whole, not to mention individual students who miss out on Shakespeare in preference to the scratchings of irreligious, untalented hacks. As Professor Jonathan Bate, a leading Shakespeare scholar at Worcester College, Oxford put it, “Shakespeare remains the greatest author and most rewarding to study who ever lived. American students who do not study Shakespeare are missing out on the depth of his characterization, the brilliance of his language and the universality of his themes.”
Claire and I have become particularly frustrated with the situation. In fact, we take it a little personal. After all, we have been fans of Shakespeare since our youth. We read him in high school. We took college courses on him. We have seen many of the dramas performed; listened to his work through audio recordings; and read many of the plays over and again. So, as we considered this new trashing of the Bard by the post-modern powers that be, we decided to double down on Shakespeare. We will now read, study, and promote his work with greater vigor than ever.
Our plan of action involves several steps. 1) We’re going to be more aggressive and organized. For instance, we are committing to read at least one Shakespeare play every month. We will also be watching more of the plays, many of which you can find for free. 2) We are currently taking the online course on Shakespeare offered for free by Hillsdale College. We have only two lectures to go and have found them very interesting and motivating. 3) We are going to re-read some of the excellent books in our library that persuasively argue that the real author behind the pseudonym of William Shakespeare was Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford. And 4) we will be encouraging others more than ever to read and watch the Shakespeare plays.
Want in on the fun? Just let us know.
(The photo at the top of this post is An Early Reading of Shakespeare by Solomon Hart, 1838.)