“To be, or not to be, that is the question.”
Actually, that question from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is just one President Larry Arnn and Professor of English Stephen Smith could investigate in Hillsdale College’s newest online course. The office of external affairs launched “Shakespeare: ‘Hamlet’ and ‘The Tempest’” Oct. 26 to discuss the English playwright’s timeless themes that discuss human nature that then allows for self-evaluation.
“Shakespeare’s plays offer an incomparable education in virtue and the arts of ‘soul leading,’ as Plato once put it,” Smith said. “That’s an education that never goes out of fashion, and Shakespeare has put his art at our service.”
Through Dec. 5, the colleges is releasing a new video lecture on a weekly basis that those who register for the course may watch at their discretion. After discussing with involved faculty, external affairs settled on doing the course on Shakespeare, Director of Programs for External Affairs Matt Bell said.
Although Smith filmed three lectures for each of the two plays, Arnn did the first lesson in which he discusses Shakespeare’s significance.
“Shakespeare thinks and writes beautiful thoughts,” Arnn said. “In the Symposium, Socrates posits that the greatest poets would write both comedy and tragedy. Shakespeare does that and also history plays. He can show us all of nature and its hierarchy low to high.”
The set of lectures are also congruent with the college’s focus on self-government through the virtues and vices in human nature, Smith said.
“The plays are a great meditation on the tragedies and comedies of human freedom,” Smith said. “What do we need to lead a fully human life? How do his major characters lead themselves and others? What are the ruling desires of their hearts? Are they attentive to conscience? To their friends? To heaven? Are they honest or encaved by something? What is the way to freedom?”
Ultimately, though, the course takes a look at how to be.
“I’m delighted to share my love of Shakespeare with others,” Smith said, “in the hope that they too will experience his beautiful and piercing art.”