26 April 2007


One of National Public Radio’s talk shows today had a discussion on Shakespeare in daily life, inviting people to share their favorite quotations from the bard. So I might as well express my gratitude for this most handy exchange from Henry IV, Part 1, act 3, scene 1:

I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?
Meanwhile, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni has issued a report complaining that at some colleges English majors can graduate without having to study any Shakespeare. In the spirit of Hotspur, I must ask, But will they skip Shakespeare when they're allowed?

As someone who made a point of reading all of Shakespeare's plays in and shortly after college [The Two Noble Kinsmen is surprisingly good], I'm skeptical that anyone who wants a career in writing, criticism, drama, teaching English, etc. would actually never read Shakespeare. Of course, I suspect some English majors have no higher ambition than to go into public relations and issue dubious political reports.

ACTA, formerly the National Alumni Forum, is an offshoot of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, founded in 1953 to give William F. Buckley, Jr., his first platform. ACTA last made headlines by issuing a report lambasting American academics who had dared to suggest that Osama bin Laden should be put on trial for the kamikaze terrorist attacks of 2001. That was back when the U.S. administration still appeared to be serious about trying to capture bin Laden.

ACTA has apparently moved beyond that matter as well to the burning issue of the modern English major. But I suppose it's good to find a conservative political organization insisting that undergraduates read some of the English language's finest poetic expression of homosexual love.

That's the Shakespeare they mean, right?

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