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Professor Stephen Smith Wraps Up The Hillsdale Shakespeare Study With Cymbeline

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HH: It’s the last radio hour of the week. It’s time for the Hillsdale Dialogue, which since January of 2013 has occurred at this hour every week. We talk with Dr. Larry Arnn and/or one of his colleagues from the faculty of Hillsdale College about a great work or a personage of Western Civilization. But change has come to Hillsdale. We pick up the phone in the president’s office today, and we find Professor Stephen Smith there, and Dr. Arnn is missing. Has there been a coup?

SS: A peaceful takeover of his office for your show.

HH: Well, I think that’s wonderful. If you change the locks, you could accomplish a lot for Hillsdale.

SS: Well, everyone’s out in D.C. for a board meeting, so here I am.

HH: Well, I wanted, I’m glad to get your alone, because now we can actually talk without his throwing buckets at me. The semester has just begun. Are you teaching Shakespeare this year?

SS: Actually, I’m on sabbatical, Hugh.

HH: That’s what I thought. So why are you there? Why don’t you go away and do something?

SS: Well, my kids, our kids are doing very well in school, and one of our boys is, has special needs, and he’s doing very well at his local school, so we’re staying here and enjoying a local year.

HH: So what do you do on a sabbatical in Hillsdale? Are you writing a novel? Are you preparing a new course? What do you do?

SS: Usually, you can do either. You propose a project. I’m working on a writing project, a book on Thomas More, and also, I’m hoping to turn what we’ve been doing into a kind of general introduction to Shakespeare – how to read Shakespeare, why to read Shakespeare.

HH: And that would be a great service to people. But you’ll have to explain to them how at the end of our short course in Shakespeare for the radio audience in the Hillsdale Dialogues you chose to end with perhaps his most obscure play.

SS: Well, you know, as I mentioned at the very beginning, the Tempest is the first play of the First Folio, and Cymbeline is the last play. And one of my discoveries as a reader and teacher was just how great this late play, Cymbeline, is. I’m not alone in my estimation. Hollywood agrees. There’s a new movie coming out in January, a movie version of this with Ethan Hawke, and I think Ed Harris. But I chose it, because it links up so well with all the themes we’ve been discussing, too. You know, the Tempest begins with a question does anybody on this ship know how to work the peace of the present moment – peace of soul, peace in the family, peace in the city. And Cymbeline, the last play in the First Folio, actually ends with peace concluded between England and Rome. The last word of the play is peace. So I see all the Shakespearian drama as addressing this opening question, how do you work the peace of the present moment? How do you bring about peace, and especially a way out of tragedy?

HH: Well, I’m going to come back to how the Folio was organized, but before that, because I don’t want you to rush, this is a beautiful bit of polemic. You sent me George Bernard Shaw’s estimate of Cymbeline, and I want you to read this so that people understand Shakespeare’s been confounding people for a long time, even the best of every generation.

SS: Yeah, I mentioned the movie of it. There are dissenting voices, and my favorite one comes from George Bernard Shaw, and here it goes. Cymbeline is for the most part stagy trash of the lowest melodramatic order. In parts, abominably written, throughout intellectually vulgar, and judged in point of thought by our modern intellectual standards vulgar, foolish, offensive, indecent and exasperating beyond all tolerance, and he’s going to go on from there. In fact, Shaw rewrote the end of this play to make it better, to improve it.

HH: Well, I think you should read the whole thing. This is wonderful.

SS: Yeah, it’s a really great piece of writing. There are moments when one asks despairingly why our stage should ever have been cursed with this immortal pilferer of other men’s stories and ideas, with his monstrous rhetorical fustian, his unbearable platitudes, his pretentious reduction of the subtlest problems of life to common places against which a high school debating club would revolt, his incredible unsuggestiveness, his sententious combination of ready reflection with complete intellectual sterility, and his consequent incapacity for getting out of the depth of even the most ignorant audience, except when he solemnly says something so transcendentally platitudinous that his more humble-minded hearers cannot bring themselves to believe this, that so great a man really meant to talk like their grandmothers. With the single exception of Homer, there is no eminent writer whom I can despise so entirely as I despise Shakespeare when I measure my mind against his. The intensity of my impatience with him occasionally reaches such a pitch that it would positively be a relief to me to dig him up and throw stones at him, knowing as I do how incapable he and his worshippers are of understanding any less obvious form of indignity. To read Cymbeline and think of Goethe, of Wagner, of Ibsen, is, for me, to imperil the habit of studied moderation which years of public responsibility as a journalist have made almost second nature to me. All that said, I pity the man who can’t enjoy Shakespeare.

HH: (laughing)

SS: (laughing)

HH: So what is he doing? What is he doing there in that piece?

SS: Well, I think he, to me, this is one of the best tributes to Shakespeare’s greatness that I’ve read, as I mean he is taken to task for every imagined or real defect in this play, and then at the end confessing that he liked it.

HH: But you know what’s interesting about what you’re reading, you substituted high school for polytechnic. And that was an effort to make sure that the audience stayed with you. And I think that’s part of the problem with Shakespeare, is that we don’t take enough time to break it down, and you lose the audience because of the, just the evolution of the language over 500 years.

SS: Yeah, I think that it’s important to, you mentioned taking time. In the First Folio, the editors of the book said you’ve got to read him again and again, or see him again and again, or both, ideally. And the language will become more familiar. It remains difficult, because he’s a great writer. And sometimes, he addresses difficult subjects, complex thoughts. But we can become accustomed to his kind of English again. I see it happen all the time in class. And I have a friend who is a teacher with me, and he says every time he studies Shakespeare, he feels like his own thought, wit and English improve.

HH: Yeah, well my friend, David Allen White, said the only way to read him is to read him out loud at the beginning, and that way, you’ll pick up much more of the play much more quickly, or in the case of Antony and Cleopatra, which I saw this summer, having seen it, I could read it much more easily now.

SS: Oh, certainly. I think it’s not an either/or when it comes to reading and performance, and I think it’s a both/and. And one series that has come out recently is called the Arc Angel Shakespeare, and it’s an audio CD, or you know, mp3, set of the plays, and they’re unabridged, read versions, and they are very helpful. It can be a little confusing, you know, if you don’t have the book with you, but I often recommend the students get the Arc Angel version and listen to it while they read to get a sense of the wit and the play and the irony.

HH: Now before we throw ourselves into Cymbeline, the Folio, the first play of the First Folio was Tempest, and the last play of the First Folio is Cymbeline. But that’s not the order in which they were written, correct?

SS: No, no. Cymbeline and Tempest are both late plays.

HH: Late plays.

SS: They’re his romances. I’d go so far, you know, for your listeners with the romances, everyone is familiar with the big four tragedies – King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth. But you really can’t know Shakespeare finally unless you deal with the last group of plays that he wrote, the romances of Cymbeline, Tempest, Winter’s Tale, because in those plays, he is really setting about to resolve the tragic problems that he explored so unforgettably in the earlier plays.

HH: So why attach importance to the ordering of the Folio? Or is that just a clever way to remember? Or were the people who were ordering it attempting to give us some idea of how he wanted them ordered?

SS: You know, we don’t have any way of resolving that. My own sense is after studying the plays, is that they’re remarkable bookends, you know, especially with the theme of peace of soul in mind. The First Folio has a comic structure. It begins in a storm, a tempest, which is a tragic symbol, and it ends with peace. And so I’ve always thought that they were on to something, and Cymbeline is classified, actually, as a tragedy in the First Folio, as the last tragedy. But when you look at the bookends of the First Folio, it goes, again, from the Tempest in that opening question, to the peace at the end of Cymbeline. And I think that’s beautiful.

HH: Who organizes it? Who does this? Who puts it together, the Folio?

SS: His friends, Heminges and Condell.

HH: And that’s what, and they put, we began our series by talking about the monument to him at Stratford, and they put beneath that an indication that they did design this with an intention that it be read in a certain way.

SS: Yeah, well they explained that they’ve taken care of his orphans as best they could, the plays, and presented them to the public. And I presume, and you know, some folks don’t like this, but I presume editorial design and intent. I mean, I think it’s very normal to assume such a thing with a book, especially from folks who worked with him and knew him.

HH: And the last wouldn’t necessarily be the best, but it would be appropriately the last.

SS: Yes, you know, it’s funny if you make your way through Cymbeline, it’s kind of fun to read him after all the other plays to this play, because it’s like a summary of his histories, his tragedies, comedies. You can recognize about fifteen different Shakespeare plays in this play.

— – — – –

HH: Have you done a full course on Shakespeare, yet, Professor Smith?

SS: Well, here, I’ve been teaching full courses my whole time. But for the online class, we are doing Great Books II now, which is Renaissance to modern, and I actually just recorded the Hamlet class.

HH: And so how long does that go? 35 minutes as well?

SS: They say 35, but you know, I went a little bit over with Hamlet.

HH: Well, that’s okay, if you’re just going to identify the bodies, it’s going to take extra time. That’s like CSI: Denmark, is what it is. And so can I go back to George Bernard Shaw? I had a question in my margin notes of your margin notes.

SS: Sure.

HH: With the single exception of Homer, do you really think George Bernard Shaw didn’t like Homer? Or is that the wink at the audience of the whole thing here?

SS: I think those are the two heavyweights in the whole passage, are Homer and Shakespeare. And I really think the end, when he says all that said, I pity the man who can’t enjoy Shakespeare, you know, reveals that he is frustrated with the play. Again, he rewrote the end of it, but because he says I pity the man who can’t enjoy this guy, so it’s a very funny tribute and critique at the same time. So yeah, I think it’s a wink.

HH: All right, let’s do an averarch here of Cymbeline. War is between Rome and England, and of course in Shakespeare’s time, there was a war between Rome, the Catholic Church, and England, Elizabeth’s reformation, and Henry VIII’s reformation. That’s what this is all about, I gather?

SS: Yeah, I think it’s an inescapable connection. The play is set in ancient Britain. And yet at the end of the play, and we’ll come to this at the proper point, one of the last images of the English and the Roman flag waving friendly together, I mean, after the century that had just passed, 75 years had just passed, most Englishmen in that first audience would have been taken aback by such a claim. So yeah, I think it’s about that, among other things. You know, the story reads like a reworking of Othello and all the earlier plays, as I mentioned before the break. And it features this international conflict, but it also has a love story in it. There’s a poor, but worthy gentleman named Posthumus Leonatus, and he marries the daughter of King Cymbeline secretly. This causes Cymbeline to fly into a rage.

HH: Cymbeline is the king of England.

SS: He’s the king of England.

HH: Right.

SS: He, Posthumus is banished, and he goes to Italy, and there he meets a young Italian man named Iachimo, who says you think your wife is so great? I bet I could go to England and seduce her easily. And the young man is kind of given to passion, and he really loves his wife, and he thinks, you know, that the villain is calling all this into doubt, as he is. And so he enters into this foolish wager with the Italian. Iachimo goes to England, he does not seduce Imogen, but he gets all this information and makes it seem like he did, comes back, tells Posthumus he succeeded. Posthumus flies off the handles, orders that his wife be killed by his one servant, and then the rest of the play follows from there.

HH: Now I’m pretty sure that people driving around have never heard of this. They’ve got the general outline of Romeo and Juliet, and of Caesar, they’ve seen the Tempest and a Winter’s Tale, and a Midsummer’s Night, they know all these things, but they haven’t heard any of this. Why is that?

SS: Well, I think that it’s a big, long, and it is a strange play, but when it’s been produced with any sort of sympathy, it’s generally triumphant. And there’s a great BBC film version of it. It succeeded masterfully at the Globe, the new Globe in London.

HH: Did you see that production yourself?

SS: I did, actually. It was wonderful. They only had six cast members, and so what they did…

HH: Wow.

SS: …is they took the improbabilities of the plot, and all the parts, and they kind of turned it to their advantage and made it kind of a point of laughter, so one guy playing three parts and all of this, extensive doubling. But it was a wonderful production, and by the end, extremely moving, which is the key to these late romances. The endings are just incomparable. Shakespeare is aiming for joy with all his dramatic intelligence and power at the end of these plays, and he succeeds triumphantly.

HH: Now the king of England, Cymbeline, ends with a peace speech. Tell people what that is, and recite it if you will, and then explain why you think it’s so significant.

SS: Sure, so after this, I mentioned the love affair that goes wrong, and there’s a big battle. England defeats Rome, but then Rome ends up being spared, and England agrees to pay the tribute. All these are loaded details. At the end, the king says this. “Publish we this peace, To all our subjects. Set we forward and let A Roman and a British ensign wave Friendly together: so through London’s town march, And in the temple of great Jupiter Our peace we’ll ratify, and we’ll seal it with feasts. Set on! Never was a war did cease, Ere bloody hands were wash’d, with such a peace.” So the sense at the end of the play is that an incomparable peace has been worked between Rome and England at last because of this play. And I think that again, that’s where he’s going as an artist. He wants peace, because he wants to demonstrate the need for peace of soul, and then peace within the family, and then peace between nations. And does that require from a person from a country? And the dominant note at the end is of joy and peace at last between these two countries.

HH: So how does Posthumus bring this about? Or what’s his role or his agency in bringing about the reconciliation, because it’s pretty far-fetched in these days of IS, and the third war of Iraq? We’ve had two, one under George Herbert Walker Bush, one under President Bush, now we’re having our third under President Obama. Peace between nations seems pretty mythic.

SS: Yeah, that’s the thing, is he, in Shakespeare’s vision, it comes down in this play to Posthumus’ willingness to forgive his enemy. And at the end of the play, when all the truth is revealed, Act V of Cymbeline has something like 27 separate revelations, like Shakespeare’s gone nuts, you know? But one of the revelations, of course, is that the villain was a villain, Posthumus was misled, his wife was innocent, and the villain is put in Posthumus’ power to dispose of him as he will. And instead of revenging himself upon the Italian villain, he actually spares him with a very famous speech. He says kneel not to me. The power I have on you is to spare you. The malice toward you to forgive you. Live and deal with others better. Now that kind of line is what Bernard Shaw was mad about it.

HH: Yeah, yes it is, exactly, isn’t it?

SS: That’s what, that’s Shakespeare in his grandma mode, you know? But what’s interesting is that that act of forgiveness, because we’ve been talking a lot about prudence in our shows, this is charity and prudence together, and it creates possibilities for the play that we don’t see in the tragedies, namely mending and peace.

— – – – – –

HH: I want to talk about the dream, but I want to preface it. Dreams get a bad reputation in the modern theater, because they’re such a device, Professor Smith. It makes it easy to write, actually. But they were much relied upon by Shakespeare, and there are dreams all through the plays. I’m thinking of Caesar’s wife’s dream, don’t go down to the Forum today. And there’s a big dream in Cymbeline. But they are very easy to come up with, right?

SS: Yeah, I mean, you open yourself to the charge of you know, solving a dramatic problem through a dream.

HH: Right.

SS: Or…and yet, as you mentioned rightly, Shakespeare doesn’t hesitate to deploy them famously at a few key moments in his plays. And Cymbeline is no exception. In fact, Cymbeline has, I think, the most extraordinary dream in all of Shakespeare. Actually, each of the late plays features a scene like this. But in Cymbeline, he doesn’t dream of a ghost or a goddess or things like this. Posthumus has a dream of Jupiter himself.

HH: So Posthumus is the hero and the villain, sort of, because he got taken in by the villain. And he falls asleep, and what does he dream?

SS: Well, he dreams of, this is after he’s captured. He’s been captured. I won’t try to explain the plot.

HH: Right.

SS: …exactly the time we have, but he’s in grief and agony. He’s acknowledging that he should not have ordered his wife to be killed. It’s rather like Othello. He falls asleep, and in the middle of this dream, Jupiter appears to him in a tempest, in thunder and lightning, and on an eagle. And instead of actually condemning Posthumus, he speaks comfort to him. Jupiter, though he’s a pagan god, he speaks in Christian language, and he promises that the play will end with peace and plenty. So what’s fascinating about this dream, and the reason I think it’s so extraordinary is that it features the big god, Jupiter, he’s personal, he’s provident, he’s merciful, and he is assuring Posthumus at this point that the play will end happily, it’ll end well.

HH: So do you imagine that we’re supposed to imagine Jupiter as Jesus? Is that the deal?

SS: Well, I think he’s the Christian God, yes, because what Jupiter says here, just to give you one line, he says whom best I love I cross to make my gift the more delayed, delighted in. So he speaks in the language of the cross, and in the language of gifts. And so I think it sounds to me like a Jupiter version of God, the Father.

HH: And you noted to me this is where piety comes in. The last few weeks, we’ve been talking about prudence. Earlier in this hour, you mentioned charity, mercy, and now this is where personal piety enters.

SS: Yeah, I think sometimes you’ll hear folks offer this account or that account of piety in Shakespeare, but in the last plays, you know, piety is a virtue. And it’s a necessary virtue.

HH: Would you explain it to the audience, to the Steelers fans, what piety is?

SS: Well, it’s that virtue by which we respect the gods and give the gods their due, which is usually praise, thanksgiving, acknowledgement, and in Shakespeare, you know, it’s A-Okay to have pious regard for Jupiter. In fact, it’s natural to have this reaction. There is a god of the play, finally, in Shakespeare. If you think back to some of the tragedies, you know, for Hamlet, God is, He’s a kind of inscrutable lawgiver with a cannon.

HH: Yes.

SS: But for Prospero and then Cymbeline, God is mercy, and God is provident, and God is love. So in these last plays, and again, that’s why I think they’re so important, you get a clear teaching on God than you do in the earlier plays, too.

HH: And so is it your read that he is talking to the people of England, and of Elizabeth in England, to put aside their theological differences and focus on the central message of Christianity?

SS: Along those lines, yeah. I’d say here’s the thing. In the tragedies, hatred and evil, they unleash consequences that none of the characters can govern. Think of King Lear.

HH: Right.

SS: Hamlet, Hamlet, who’s so arrogant, he can’t govern, either. Love of the enemy, love of enemy and forgiveness and mercy and charity, they have a similar power. They unleash dramatic possibilities and consequences that are good. And so when you look at the tragedies on the one hand, romances on the other, you see tragedies as evil, and their consequences. But then here, love of enemy creating all of a sudden, surprising possibility of joy and a happy ending, and a very, and a war.

— – – – –

HH: Let’s go to the end of Cymbeline, and Professor Smith, give us the lessons that people sort of, in the grandma mode, as Shaw would say, take away from this?

SS: Well, again, the play doesn’t come out of the blue. It’s very much in line with the earlier works we’ve been studying together. You know, in the case of this young man, Posthumus Leonatus, you could say Posthumus, but I’m just saying in our contemporary English, you know, he is a figure, again like Prospero or Edgar who’s learned through a kind of tragedy and suffering a way to become better. We didn’t do Measure For Measure, but here’s a line from Measure To Measure that captures this thought in Shakespeare. They say the best men are molded out of their faults, and become better for being a little bad. And that’s a comedy, right?

HH: Yeah, but boy, the college men love to hear that, don’t they?

SS: Yes.

HH: They ought to keep that handy when they go in to ask forgiveness into the office in which you’re found right now. Mold me out of my faults, Dr. Arnn.

SS: I do see a Post-It note here that says, “Get Hewitt for what he said about Churchill.” I don’t know where he was going with that. But yes, Posthumus has learned that. In his last acts, his words, they bespeak peace and effectiveness of soul. He’s capable of greater prudence and charity than he ever was when the play started. So these trials that the characters undergo, the suffering in these plays leads to this greater effectiveness. And one other thing with this play is he’s capable of a better marriage.

HH: You know, that’s interesting that you put this in your notes. The man is offstage in all this, the fellow who’s taught me my most Shakespeare, David Allen White, says all of the comedies point to marriage, and marriage points to God, and that that’s Shakespeare’s big, driving theme through all of this, is that you get to God through marriage.

SS: Well, this is the thing. In this play, England’s peace and plenty, their future prosperity, depends not just on the leader, not just on the king or the king’s descendent, it depends upon an ordinary human marriage. So that’s part of what Jupiter tells him in the dream. So England’s peace and plenty depends on a good marriage. And so when he works peace at the end of the play, that’s a very important part of it. The other thing to mention is we’ve been talking so much about leaders, you know, like the prince of Denmark, the duke, Prospero, King Lear, Posthumus Leonatus is an ordinary citizen.

HH: Right.

SS: And that’s a very important point in this play, and one of the reasons why I like to teach it. He doesn’t become king at the end. He’s a husband.

HH: Yeah.

SS: He’s an Englishman. He’s a citizen, you know? And again, England’s peace and plenty depends on this guy and his marriage.

HH: But the king notices him.

SS: Yeah.

HH: The king notices the acts of the ordinary citizen, which very, very rare, but when it happens, is a very good thing. And I am reminded of the presidents looking up at the State of the Union and recognizing ordinary citizens. And that began with the man who pulled the man out of the Potomac, Lenny, with President Reagan. And that was a great moment.

SS: I think so, because it’s simply not true that the health of the country depends upon only the President. I mean, that’s crazy. You know, we know that. It doesn’t depend on only the official leader or senator of whatever. It depends on what Thomas More would call the leading citizen. It depends on the citizens. And I think that’s why in this play he does something a little different with this guy and his marriage. And as he’s marriage to royalty, but again, he is a normal, ordinary person.

HH: But now stepping back, Shakespeare retires, goes back to Avon. He doesn’t really impact the course of English history, though he impacts, obviously, and greatly, English literature, because he’s forgotten almost immediately, right?

SS: Well, now he enjoys a vogue for a while, and then the theaters are closed, and a whole story here, but he retires, and we don’t know all that much about his retirement. We also know he wrote Henry VIII after this. So he does address the beginnings of the new England. But then he passes away apparently from a fever. When we look at his whole career, though, he wrote these plays for not just the groundlings, not just the public, all that. He wrote it for the leadership of England. So he had an opportunity to move and to influence and to education and to delight King James, Queen Elizabeth, all of these royal figures. So he did have an influence that way.

HH: Do you think, and so intentionally, he set out to, as an author, move the country’s politics?

SS: Yeah, I do.

HH: Yeah.

SS: It’s hard to imagine it otherwise, because he, imagine if you could put a story on or a play on for Washington, D.C. right now, and all the royalty had to attend it, and you were a cunning artist. You might very well think I’m going to address the most important issues that I see for our country’s future.

HH: Oh, yeah, and…but you’d be careful.

SS: You would definitely be careful. He was good at that, too.

HH: Yeah, he was very, very…there is that undercurrent, is he really who he is? Yes, most people I respect say there’s not even a debate, it’s Shakespeare. And then there’s a question of is he Protestant, is he Catholic, is he in favor, is he out of favor? It’s a fascinating dilemma. You can teach the whole world, you can teach all of the West through Shakespeare, can you not?

SS: Yes, I mean, when you look at his plays, he has given his own country a complete dramatic treatment from Cymbeline to Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More, that play we talked about. He also has the history of Rome, the history of Greece. He’s made what looks like a pretty comprehensive meditation on Western Civilization.

HH: And at the end of that, well, it’s not his last play, but in the last folio, it’s peace. He wants peace at the end. I want to stress that before we come back for the last segment, which is a surprise segment. That’s where you wanted us to end our Shakespeare conversations, is noting that he wants friendship and peace between state and Church.

SS: Yes.

— – – – – –

HH: So Professor Smith, how old are you?

SS: I am going to be 42 on Saturday.

HH: 42. Now the reason I ask is after each of these weeks, I get emails, and people are charmed by your approach, and the obvious love you have for it. When did you discover Shakespeare? And what is a life of teaching him done to you?

SS: Well, I discovered him in high school. And it was Macbeth, a great, great play. And then after that, a single, wonderful performance of King Lear, and I was just done for. I went to college to be a chemical engineer, and then became a Shakespeare person all because of the Bard. But for me, you know, he has been the best teacher, and among…I tend to think of the authors as friends, you know, the best teacher and the best friend that I could have had about our human nature and about our human condition. He’s pointed out the importance of these great virtues to me. He’s inspired me to get to know myself better, self-knowledge, self-examination. And he’s also taught me the great significance of a love. In particular, I think of the Tempest and of Cymbeline, those last plays. It’s the lovers who have learned how to be both prudent and charitable that really become the most powerful figures in these plays.

HH: And what I wanted to, if I understand correctly, you didn’t come out of a Shakespearian family.

SS: No.

HH: You didn’t grow up with this. You learned it.

SS: Yeah, I learned it. Though I owe one great debt, and my mom used to say lines that she liked. And I remember as a young boy being intrigued by them, one line being nymph, in thy orisons, be all my sins remembered.” – Hamlet. And even when I had no idea…

HH: What in the world?

SS: I had no idea. My mom liked that line. And I had no idea what it meant, but my head turned, and I went hmm, that sounds good.

HH: Well, that’s back to Shaw again.

SS: Well, as you know, say from the mother’s lips, right? That really played a part. And then I had a wonderful teacher in high school, Mr. Smith as it turns out. And it all just proceeded that way.

HH: And everybody take away from this what David Allen White has said for years, is that Shakespeare is accessible. Don’t let anyone tell you that he’s not.

SS: Yeah, that’s the crazy position, yeah, that he’s not accessible, or like the fellow said recently on Twitter, that he stinks, you know?

HH: Right.

SS: We need to read him again. And his friends who made the First Folio gave the best advice. Read him again and again. And then if you don’t like him, you’re surely in some manifest danger. I really think we need his art, his thought, the education the plays provide. We need this for our culture, and we need to start a fire again with the reading of these books.

HH: Professor Stephen Smith, you’ve done your best to strike the flint. Thank you, my friend.

End of interview.


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