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There was a science fiction story where some academics developed a technology that would let them bring a person from the past into the present. Various candidates were discussed and dismissed before Shakespeare was selected as universal to cross the divide. The implication ends with a last line where one professor tells another that he failed Shakespeare in a class on his own writing.

What are the bibliographic details, if available?

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  • When seeing the title of this question, I kept trying to work out where you'd put an F in "Shakespeare". Shakesfeare? Shafespeare? Fakespeare?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Aug 3, 2017 at 14:49
  • @Randal'Thor While it's not what you meant, it's worth noting that in his time, his name was spelled Shakeſpeare, with a long s that resembles an f. Jul 19, 2021 at 22:31

1 Answer 1

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This is The Immortal Bard (in some copies of Earth is Room Enough, it's titled as "An Immortal Bard"), a short story by Isaac Asimov.

2 professors are having a drink at a cocktail party of sorts. The physics professor, Dr. Welsh, is moderately tipsy (read: pretty drunk). He strikes up a conversation with a young English professor, Dr. Robertson.

Welsh claims to have invented a technology to allow him to bring people back from the past. He's tried Archimedes, Newton, Galileo, and possibly others. However, they couldn't adjust to life in the 20th century. So next, he brings back Shakespeare.

Shakespeare is enthusiastic, and glad to hear that humanity loves his work. (Asimov is totally not biased) To see how people treat his works now, Welsh enrolls Shakespeare in an afternoon lecture course, taught by Robertson. Welsh then has to send Shakespeare back, not due to any mechanical error. Robertson flunked Shakespeare, and Shakespeare couldn't stand the embarrassment.

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  • Heh, fortunately, it avoided literal "death of the author" in that case. May 19, 2017 at 16:39
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    Asimov used to tell an anecdote about attending a lecture where someone was analyzing one of his stories. Asimov told the lecturer that he was wrong about the author's intent, the lecturer asked how he knew this, Asimov answered that it was because he was the author, and the lecturer said this didn't matter. I wonder if the incident prompted this story.
    – Barmar
    May 20, 2017 at 0:11
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    Ahh, apparently it did: msgboard.snopes.com/message/ultimatebb.php?/ubb/get_topic/f/23/…
    – Barmar
    May 20, 2017 at 0:13

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