Shakespeare and education


It seems only right to begin a discussion of the importance of learning about William Shakespeare, his writings and philosophies, with the subject of education. What did Shakespeare say on this topic? The opening scene of the comedy LOVE’S LABOUR’S LOST, begins with several characters discussing the creation of an academy and the rules that should cover the education within. “O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep,
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep!” Should a good education consist of no food or sleep…just hours devoted to study? Perhaps not for Shakespeare also says “Is not birth, beauty, good shape, discourse, manhood, learning, gentleness, virtue, youth, liberality and such like the spice and salt that can season a man?” (Troilus and Cressida). Education, then, I would say, according to Shakespeare should carry with it some moderation. Not everything you learn in life comes out of a book! The old proverb “All work and no play makes Jack (or anyone) a dull boy” rings true even today!

But when we study, what should we study? What did Shakespeare say? Perhaps the broad knowledge of the liberal arts? In Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare writes “And toward the education of your daughters, I here bestow a simple instrument. And this small packet of Greek and Latin books. If you accept them, then their worth is great.”  Perhaps, Shakespeare, as many of his contemporaries, believed in a classical approach to education. Whatever his personal beliefs, Shakespeare did give good advice on the subject. “No profit grows where no pleasure ta’en” (Taming of the Shrew). Whatever you choose to study (or teach)…take pleasure in it! Relish the time and the privilege afforded to you! Stolen moments to increase your mind! And above all – remember: set a good example for others! “It is good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching” (Merchant of Venice).

What will you learn today?