By Robert Drinkwater
Julie Schumacher’s The Shakespeare Requirement is a satirical novel that centers around Jason “Jay” Fitger the newly appointed head of the English department at Payne University. Jay faces several obstacles throughout this novel as he deals with colleagues that show disdain towards him, his ex-wife, whom he may still have feelings for that may or may not be in a relationship with the dean, a freshmen student whom he is the adviser to, and to top it all off the English department is sharing the building with the Economics department who is slowly pushing the English department out of the building.
I enjoyed the humor that was in this novel as Jay deals with a slew of issues that come with being the head of the English department. One of the main conflicts he faces arises when he tries to get one of the oldest English professors and school Shakespearean, Dennis Cassovan to retire which backfires as students think that he is being forced out. This results in a movement among the campus in showing support for Cassovan with pins that say “SOS” short for “Save Our Shakespeare”. Jay also has to take several initiatives that require the approval of the other faculty members in the department causing him to have to do several favors for them such as taking care of another professor in his home after he goes through surgery, taking care of a rescue dog, and removing a masturbating student from another faculty member’s class.
This novel was full of hilarious moments and intertwining plot lines. There were several point of view characters besides Jay. I particularly enjoyed the parts with Angela, the freshmen student. She had an interesting story with her having difficulty adjusting to the college life and becoming acquainted with her adviser Jay. I wish that she had more of a story. I felt like hers was rather short and ended abruptly, but then again Jay Fitger is the main character of this novel.
I also enjoyed the relationship dynamics in this novel. It was entertaining to see Jay have to jump through so many hoops in order to gain the approval of his fellow faculty members. I also liked the interactions between him and his ex-wife Janet. It was clear that they both still had feelings for one another and their conversations were full of witty and hilarious cynicism.
The main antagonist of this novel was the chair of the economics department, Roland Gladwell who whose main motivation seems to be to push the English department out of the building to make more room for Econ. I would have liked to see more of the story take place from his point of view because there were only a few pages of getting his perspective. I feel like his character would have been more fleshed out that way. His disdain for Jay and the English department was obvious, but I found him to be a bland antagonist otherwise.
The other members of the English faculty were interesting and they all provided a good amount of humor and wit. I enjoyed the parts where Jay had interactions with them, all of which had their own quirky attributes, such as Fran, the faculty member who wanted to help out every rescue animal she could and made Jay look after that dog. There was also Helena Stang, another professor who provided hilarious commentary on a wedding that she attends later on in the novel.
Overall, this book was full of humor and wit. Even though it seems like the main demographic is college professors, I still enjoyed the drama that unfolded with the faculty in this novel. I think that it is something that both college students and professors would enjoy if they want something lighthearted and fun to read.
You can buy The Shakespeare Requirement on Amazon for 17.21.