A Note on a Pompous Misuse of Shakespeare

…in response to Stanley Fish’s latest blog entry…

One more thing at this time, Stan. I find the habit of rather mindlessly using Shakespeare as a posh putdown very, very annoying, as in the case of the lazy and aliterate high school English teacher who refers to a gifted student’s work as “a tale told by an idiot”…because he doesn’t understand it and would rather watch ESPN than grade papers.

“Much Ado About Nothing” as the name of a play was a sly reference to Elizabethan argot, which referred to women’s sexuality as “nothing”. But in the play, something happens. A young girl’s reputation is destroyed, made “nothing”, by the motiveless malignancy of Don Juan, who in his oh so very hip nihilism bears more than a passing resemblance to members of Internet mobs, who follow the lead of people like David Horowitz and take delight in outing and then trashing academics for their statements on Israel.

That emptiness is restored by the Something, the good-natured rage of Beatrice and Benedict.

To be notified of a recognition and then have it pulled away is, except perhaps for the most hardened and brutal/brutalized, a wound. Now, you seem to have counseled no end of Sensitive Souls to Suck It Up without yourself having to Suck It Up as far as I know, for for you, the Concept is more important than people.

But I’d hazard that if a university countenances brutality, whether that of Israel’s disproportionate and cowardly “wars”, or that done unto Kushner, it might as well rack it the fuck up and relabel itself a trade school or Boot Camp, mere prologemena to that vaunted real world of Hard Knocks and that long climb to the top of the dunghill.

Oh, is Kushner laughing all the way to the bank? I don’t really know whether gate receipts and royalties make a man rich in all cases (my own book royalties don’t). I do know that he has feelings, and to be told you’re not getting the award because one trustee hates your guts is wounding. The decision as you say is being revisited and reviewed. But you have more compassion for the Holy Institution if you can write that this is primarily a waste of precious time rather than more stress for Kushner.

Basically, to call attention to mere human suffering in excess of and in violation of the proper channels of political correctness, as Kushner has done, is to be in a society of vicious and brutalized people, a marked man. Shame on you for lending your voice to the bullies, here, and elsewhere. And “shame, shame, nothing but shame” (Henry V) for misusing the deeply compassionate Shakespeare in such an unthinking way.

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