The trend of the universities burying Shakespeare with Milton and Chaucer as undeserving white men is subsiding, but the professoriate’s submerging Shakespeare and Milton in a crowd of lesser works in the name of “diversity” is shocking to anyone who came of age before the academics diluted the liberal arts.
In a forward to “Shakespeare in America,” Bill Clinton remembers that as a high school student in “one of those nineteenth-century frontier towns — Hot Springs, Arkansas,” he was required to memorize 100 lines from Macbeth, including the final soliloquy with the phrase “sound and fury” that William Faulkner took as the title for a novel.
Shakespeare once exemplified diversity itself — a word that defined depth and breadth of character, insight into human nature, the power of words to enchant and delight, moving beyond a narrow political focus with a single perspective, that’s been exploited for mean political purposes. He, like all playwrights, was banished from the stage by Puritans who viewed the theater with suspicion. William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania, attacked the “infamous plays of Shakespeare and Ben Johnson,” and enacted laws in 1682 against “stage plays.”