Shakespeare, America, John Adams discussed on On the Media


Going to interrupt our regularly scheduled doom and gloom to talk about Shakespeare, namely how he became a staple of American cultural and political life change. Shapiro is a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University. His most recent book is Shakespeare it in a divided America. What his plays tell us about our past and future games. Welcome back to a T. M. It is a pleasure. So who owns Shakespeare? That's a big question you raise early and often in your book. It's attention you trace back to the very beginning of American history. Everybody stakes a claim and Shakespeare going back to 17, 76, and even a few years before then those on both sides of the cultural divide whatever the cultural divide at that moment, Wasps Reached out to Shakespeare enlisted him in their costs. Sean Adams said that the history plays where a road map to where we were heading the treachery, perfidy, treason, murder, cruelty, sedition and rebellions of rival and unbalanced factions. Could you imagine writing that in a letter to your son, the future six president of the United States, but he did. John Adams was looking around and he saw in America that was divided. That was factionalized that was at risk. And he imagined one day and he even did a riff on Henry the fifth in this imagining one day we would have a president of the United States. Put in power by a far and desperate or dictator who had some kind of economic control over him. The divisions that splinter us today Have been there from the founding of our republic has has Shakespeare. In. 18 77, a columnist in The New York Herald declared that Shakespeare was an American hero. You would think that having broken from Britain in 17 76 and then went on to fight another war with them that we would not adopt as our national poet. England's national poet, But in fact we have there's not an American writer, not Hemingway, not Emily Dickinson, not Faulkner, who is named has Required reading by American High School and junior high school students. Shakespeare is why do you think that is we want to believe that would started in England. Ended in America. We keep wanting to rip or rest Shakespeare away from the English who don't appreciate him who don't value him. They make that argument. We have a lot more globe theaters or imitation globes theaters in our country than they do in Britain. We have farm or Shakespeare's summer festivals here. Is really a determined effort to make Shakespeare fully American, sometimes in really disturbing ways, sometimes in just playing humorous ways. So let's talk about immigration and race and difference generally because in Shakespeare's comedies, which are actually any of the place that have a happy ending, sort of You note that the marginalized are always the losers. One of the ways in which Shakespeare has made himself really useful to those who want to weaponize him is through the structure of his comedies. I mean, would we all love the way the end in marriage and communal.

Coming up next