When journalists reported being unsettled by a production of Julius Caesar in 2017, a furious row erupted over what the play was really saying about contemporary US politics.
Leading scholar James Shapiro makes a timely exploration of what Shakespeare’s plays reveal about deep divisions in the United States - from revolutionary times to the present day.
The plays of William Shakespeare are rare common ground in the United States. They are read at school by almost every student, staged in theatres across the country, and valued by conservatives and liberals alike. For well over two centuries, Americans of all stripes - presidents and activists, writers and soldiers - have turned to Shakespeare’s works to explore the nation’s fault lines, including issues such as race, gender, immigration, and free speech.
In a narrative arching across the centuries, from revolutionary times to the present day, James Shapiro traces the unparalleled role of Shakespeare’s 400 year-old tragedies and comedies in illuminating the concerns on which American identity has turned.
Deeply researched, Shakespeare in a Divided America reveals how no writer has been more closely embraced by Americans, or has shed more light on the pressing issues in their history. Shapiro argues it is by better understanding of Shakespeare’s role in American life that Americans might begin to mend their bitterly divided land.
Written by James Shapiro
Read by Kerry Shale
Abridged by Kerry Shale and Jill Waters
Producer: Lizzie Davies
A Waters Company production for BBC Radio 4
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