How best prepare your children and grandchildren for the unforeseen future? Teach them to think intensively and imaginatively, advised Abraham Flexner, the legendary 20th Century American educator, who played a prominent role in reforming medical and higher education in America and Canada. According to Flexner, “really great discoveries” have “been made by men and women who were driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.”
In Notable & Quotable, the WSJ quotes from Scott L. Newstock’s article “How to Think Like Shakespeare.” (Chronicle of Higher Education)
Calligraphy More Important Than Engineering?
When he (Shakespeare) was born, there wasn’t yet a professional theater in London. In other words, his education had prepared him for a job that didn’t even exist. You should be encouraged to learn that this has been true for every generation: Four of today’s largest companies did not exist when I was born, 43 years ago. One of them, Apple, was co-founded by someone who said that the most important topic he ever studied was not engineering but calligraphy.
As with rhetoric, imitation, and inventory, you might not think very highly of apprenticeship these days. But it was crucial for skilled labor in Renaissance Europe. It required an exacting, collaborative environment, with guidance from people who knew more than you did. When Shakespeare arrived on the London theater scene, he entered a kind of artistic studio, or workshop, or laboratory, in which he was apprenticing himself to experienced playwrights. Note that playwright is not spelled w-r-i-t-e; it’s spelled w-r-i-g-h-t: a maker—like a wheelwright, who crafts wheels, or a shipwright, who crafts ships. A playwright crafts plays.
“Who Says Rhyme Doesn’t Pay?”
After collaborating with other dramatists, Shakespeare soon graduated to crafting his own plays, yet still collaborating with the members of his company, in which he owned a share. That is, he received revenue from every ticket purchased. As Bart Van Es has shown, Shakespeare wrote with specific actors in mind, making the most of the talents of his team, with an eye toward long-term continuity. And profit! At the age of 33, he could already afford to buy the second-biggest house in prosperous Stratford. He soon acquired another home, purchased more than 100 acres of land, and retired before the age of 50. Who says rhyme doesn’t pay?