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Literature in the Light of the Classical Liberal Arts

In Shakespeare’s day, the knowledge of the classical Catholic curriculum could be assumed of the audience. In the opening lines of his “Taming of the Shrew”, the speech cannot be understood without a knowledge of our curriculum.

Picture of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare (1564-1616 AD)

Lucentio speaking at the opening of the play, speaks of his plan to devote himself to the study of classical Ethics, “that

“For the time I study,
Virtue and that part of Philosophy
Will I apply that treats of happiness
By virtue specially to be achieved.”

Academy students working in Classical Ethics can understand exactly which study he speaks of.

Lucentio’s servant Tranio then replies, with words incomprehensible to modern readers:

“Glad that you thus continue your resolve
To suck the sweets of sweet philosophy.
Only, good master, while we do admire
This virtue and this moral discipline,
Let’s be no stoics nor no stocks, I pray;
Or so devote to Aristotle’s cheques
As Ovid be an outcast quite abjured:
Balk Logic with acquaintance that you have
And practise Rhetoric in your common talk;
Music and Poesy use to quicken you;
The Mathematics and the Metaphysics,
Fall to them as you find your stomach serves you;
No profit grows where is no pleasure ta’en:
In brief, sir, study what you most affect.”

How enjoyable will the studies of literature be for students educated in the classical liberal arts and comfortable with the knowledge assumed by history’s great poets and playwrights.

In case you’re wondering, we will study the works of Shakespeare in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy’s English Literature III course.

William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy

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