While playing Catchphrase* last night at a staff party, I had to try to get the others to come up with the name of one of Shakespeare's plays.
I told them as fast as I could, it's the Shakespeare play where somebody wants to cut somebody's heart out, and Shylock is in it. I thought, the courtroom scene is one of the most famous in "The Merchant of Venice." Surely somebody will make the connection, though somewhat poorly expressed on my part.
But they looked at me with blank stares. "We went to public school. We don't know this," one of them said.
Given that they've all earned bachelor's degrees and are in no wise idiots, I thought the whole scene was a rather sad anecdote illustrating the state of literary awareness in modern America.
Or am I just being elitist in expecting college-educated people to remember the title and principal characters of one of the most popular plays (in contemporary times) produced by a playwright whose body of work is still widely studied and performed 400 years after his death?
*For the uninitiated: Catchphrase is just like Taboo, only you can get phrases sometimes instead of a single word, and there aren't any words that you can't say when you're trying to get people to say the phrase that's your turn.