Interracial marriage, cross-dressing and Trump as Caesar the culture politics of Shakespeare in the U
It is perhaps unsurprising that Shakespeare, the most canonical of dead white males, should feature in America’s culture fights. But why so prominently, both now and in earlier phases of the US’s strives with scoot, class and identity during the course of its 19 th and 20 th centuries? Why should Americans care so much about an Englishman who never called its shores? In this sprightly and enthralling book, James Shapiro says persuasively that 19 th-century American textbooks, such as McGuffey’s Reader ( 1836 ), which had sold more than 120 m imitations by the first world war, and Scott’s Lessons in Elocution , played a major role in the process of domestication, for they excerpted many of the most celebrated pronunciations from Shakespeare’s plays . Reassuringly, it also cured that its own language of Shakespeare resembled the familiar rhythms of the King James Version of the Bible, be made available in 1611.
Regardless of the most obviously transgressive aspects in Shakespeare – interracial matrimony in Othello ; the main theme of incest and suicide in Hamlet ; crossdressing and gender instability in the comedies- the playwright was firmly incorporated as a defining constituent within America’s own legacy. Abraham Lincoln destroyed the plays, at first largely on the page, and could recite them by the ream, as could the president’s assassin, the Shakespearean actor John Wilkes Booth, whose staple characters were Richard III, Hamlet and Macbeth. An earlier president, John Quincy Adams, has now become fixated on Desdemona- a grey female with an unseemly lust for a black worker- as the real cause of Othello’s lucks. Making an alternative tack, Mary Preston, a critic with Confederate sympathies, solved the problem by insisting that Othello was, after all, a white man.
In the late 19 th and early 20 th century, when nativists- white Protestant Americans with British, Nordic or Germanic predecessors- obsessed over what the fuck is pictured as a vicious motion of migration of inferior racial inventory, namely Latins from southern Europe and Jews and Slavs from eastern Europe, Shakespeare came to be hoarded as an incarnation of Anglo-Saxon ethics. Charles Mills Gayley publicized Shakespeare and the Founders of Liberty in America, and Henry Cabot Lodge Sr claimed that it was Americans , not the modern-day English nation, who has spoken the genuine word of Shakespeare, which had been displaced to the New World in the early 17 th century. With a view to responding, a fearles try in New York in 1916 to use The Tempest as the basis of a- supposedly- more welcoming pro-immigrant pageant foundered on its condescending depiction of Caliban: an crest of the foreigners to be goaded into assimilation.