Trustees | General Education

The Bard is not to be

TOLEDO BLADE   |  April 25, 2007

Just in time for William Shakespeare’s 443rd birthday, it seems unfair he should suffer the “unkindest cut of all.” But researchers studying the relevance of the Shakespeare on college campuses today found fewer and fewer schools even studying the influential author.

“True it is that we have seen better days,” the Bard might have concluded of the report done by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that promotes academic quality. An examination of course requirements for English majors at top universities and colleges in the country showed Shakespeare is not required on most campuses.

As Shakespeare himself would put it, here is “the short and the long of it”:

Just 15 of 70 institutions surveyed require their English majors to take a course on the 16th-century author. And since a similar study was done in 1996, at least six of those schools either dropped or weakened those requirements.

It’s hard to believe that Shakespeare is not essentially “a dish fit for the gods” for students studying English at the top 25-ranked universities and liberal arts colleges in the nation, plus schools in the Big 10 and a selection of California and New York colleges.

And while no doubt “the course of true love never did run smooth,” it’s shocking that only one Ivy League school, Harvard, requires the Bard and that just three Big 10 schools have similar requirements.

Among the top liberal arts colleges, only Middlebury, Smith, and Wellesley require their students to study Shakespeare.

The findings of the Washington-based group greatly dismayed its president. Anne Neal says earning a degree in English without studying the Bard is tantamount to fraud.

Clearly fans of the greatest writer of the English language would not insist that Ms. Neal “doth protest too much.”


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