Previously on Boston Public: Lauren and Harry decided to be exclusive; Morgue Friend told Harry that Jamal brought friends in to party with a dead body; Jamal promised never to do it again; Juan Figgis told a sob story to Harry about his rocky home life; The Exposition Fairy asked Milton if it was a crime to like him, and he said yes.
Starbucks. I mean, it's not Starbucks, but trust me, it's a Starbucks. Milton Buttle gets a latte or something, and carries it over to a table, along with a big pile of Shakespeare books. Some foam leaps from the cup directly onto the tip of his nose, and he puts his stuff down to wipe it off, noticing that he's being watched by an attractive girl in a Harvard sweatshirt. I guess she must be a Harvard student; I mean, that's certainly all the proof I need, here in the city of Boston with college paraphernalia available on every corner. Anyhow, she says, "Are you in Lieberman's class?" Guh? "Shakespeare. Lieberman." Milton's impressed: "Ronald Lieberman? Are you in his class?" I guess Lieberman is a famous Shakespeare scholar who's supposed to teach at Harvard. (Hey, remind me to tell you guys some time about Harold Bloom. Who is an actual famous Shakespeare scholar, rather than a made-up one, who teaches at an actually good college, not just one with a big name.) So then there's a cute little exchange. "Is he as fantastic as they say?" Shakespeare? "No, Lieberman." Oh. He's okay. He's a little limited by the subject matter. "Shakespeare?" No, Lieberman. "No, I know Lieberman. But you're saying he's limited by the subject matter of William Shakespeare?" The girl apologizes, noting she's upset Milton (Buttle, not John Milton, author of Paradise Lost). Milton asks if she likes Shakespeare, and she says, "I think he reads very well. But if you've ever seen his work performed…Have you?" Many times, says Milton, and that goes for me, too. "Well, I think he's a little untruthful when it comes to human behavior."
You know what I hate? When pseudo-intellectuals treat the Western Canon like it's a roster of rock bands, as though the popularity or name-recognition of certain writers and thinkers has to do with them selling out to a desire for a mass audience. ("I only liked Voltaies before his Collected Letters went platinum.") This isn't like when somebody is a big Britney Spears fan and you try to turn them on to real music, like Belle and Sebastian or Ben Folds Five. Shakespeare is the greatest writer of English, ever, period, and his less famous contemporaries are less famous because (while a number were good, and at least one, Christopher "Kit" Marlowe, may have been a genius himself) they are on the whole not as good. And, incidentally, Shakespeare did sell out to mass audiences in his own time; his plays were popular entertainment, intentionally appealing to all classes, from the aristocracy to the so-called "groundlings." So, Harvard chick? Shut up. Speaking of which…
"The very essence of Shakespeare," Milton is saying, "is rooted in human behavior." Word. She asks him what his favorite scene is, and he hedges, then lays down a challenge: he'll say one line, and she'll know the scene and the play. Nice game, except he picks what might be the most well-known line of Shakespeare after the opening of Hamlet's soliloquy. He says, "Friends…" and before he can add Romans or countrymen, she says, "Julius Caesar. Marc Anthony's eulogy." Though it is, technically, Caesar's eulogy, which Marc Anthony delivers, but who's quibbling. It was a really easy one. Then she launches into an explanation of why that speech is a good example of what she's talking about, but I'm too lazy to poke holes in her argument, and I don't have a copy of the play handy, so let's move on to where Milton, impressed with all of this hoo-ha, says, "How old are you?" Twenty. How old are you? "Twenty-nine. Would you like to get a drink some time?" When will you be thirty? "Not till next year." She says okay.