The Great Tradition
As I have been meditating on Shakespeare’s Macbeth the last two days, I have been thinking of my father who was Chairman of the English Department at my Alma Mater. As chairman he annually chose to teach the Shakespeare course. I was too immature (rebellious) ito take the course from my father. I regret in my old age that I did not take advantage of so many opportunities my parents offered. How interesting would it be to sit down and discuss Macbeth with my father now! Alas, that will have to wait for Heaven.
My father spoke of Shakespeare and John Milton as being the greatest writers of English literature. I fear professors do not emphasize the classics as they once did. The English professor who gave my father’s eulogy said, “Doctor Smock represented the Great Tradition.”
Students do not have the Biblical background to understand or appreciate a Milton or Shakespeare. In high school I remember studying Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. However, if I remember correctly, we only read Mark Antony’s, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen,” speech. I remember as a boy that I enjoyed dramatically quoting these lines in front of a mirror over and over, which may have been a seed which later geminated into my life as a preacher.
Twenty or so years ago I revisited John Milton, especially Paradise Lost. I was able to discuss it with Dr. Eugene Etheridge, who was also an English professor and one of my early mentors. I have always been fascinated with the classical or ransom theory of the atonement, largely spurred by Milton. I am going to make it a goal to revisit Shakespeare, who possessed a genius understanding of human nature.
Reading Shakespearean English is like reading the KJV Bible for the first time. But it is well worth the effort.
My father, George Smock