Thinking like the Bard

True confession: I’m feeling the failure of my fifty-two years. You see, William Shakespeare (whose birthday the world celebrated yesterday) died at fifty-two, having penned at least 40 of the world’s greatest dramas. And, I haven’t composed even one!

But, such is the melodrama of comparing oneself to a genius. Meanwhile, I’m taking note of the Bard’s accomplishments and scanning the web for all those #ShareYourShakespeare, #Staxpeditions, and #ShakespeareMemes, and thoroughly enjoying exploring the Bard’s contribution to our mother tongue–and the art of thinking.

If you haven’t already stumbled upon the Folger Library’s “Shakespeare’s Birthday at Home” (Quarantine Edition), you might enjoy composing insults, compliments, and browsing the scores of original phrases, in the spirit of Shakespeare.

Or, if you wish to undertake a more scholarly investigation, there are numerous Shakespearen resources available in the U.S., from the Folger Library (D.C.) to the American Shakespeare Center (VA) to Rhodes College (TN). 

At Rhodes, our colleague Scott Newstok is the founding director of the Pearce Shakespeare Endowment and author of a lively and evocative new volume, How to Think Like Shakespeare: Lessons from a Renaissance Education (Princeton UP). Newstok has composed a beautifully written, succinct description of educational principles derived from the best features of a renaissance education. The book is “deliberately short,” but packed with quotations from the Bard and scores of great authors, all combined to make us think–and, with a little luck, to think more like “our myriad-minded Shakespeare.” 

I highly recommend Newstok’s book for its pith, clarity, and insight–and the sheer breadth of its bibliography, including delightful footnotes, a bibliographic essay, and an index of Shakespearean cornucopia.


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