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Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His…
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Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past… (edição 2020)

por James Shapiro (Autor)

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"From leading Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, a timely and insightful examination of what the world's greatest dramatist can teach us about life in an America riven by conflict. The United States has always been divided, but Americans from all walks of life have also always shared a deep affinity for the plays William Shakespeare, even if their meaning has been fiercely contested. For well over two centuries now, Americans of all stripes--presidents and activists, writers and soldiers--have turned to his plays to prosecute the most intense and pivotal quarrels in the soul of the nation, a nation defined by its political and social pluralism. That prosecution dates back to pre-Revolutionary times, when Hamlet's famous soliloquy--"To be or not to be"--was appropriated both by defenders of British rule and those seeking to overthrow it. Shapiro traces Shakespeare's formative and crucial role in our nation's history, from the otherwise progressive John Quincy Adams's sinister opinions on race expressed via (and only via) his views on Othello; to the politically-charged rhetoric that gripped Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth; to the resounding American triumph of Shakespeare in Love, produced by Harvey Weinstein's then fledgling company, Miramax, which exploded a debate about adultery at the time of President Clinton's Oval Office affair with Monica Lewinsky. But Shapiro also reports firsthand on Shakespeare's undeniable contemporary significance, after a production of Julius Caesar, which depicted the assassination of a President Trump-like Julius Caesar, was exploited calculatedly by Breitbart and Fox News to ignite outrage. With style and unmatched expertise, Shapiro contends brilliantly that few writers or artists can shed as much light on the hot-button issues of American life--such as immigration, same-sex love, political violence, and class warfare--and that by better understanding the role of Shakespeare's plays in American history we might take steps towards mending our bitterly divided land"--… (mais)
Membro:timothyduston
Título:Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future
Autores:James Shapiro (Autor)
Informação:Penguin Press (2020), 320 pages
Colecções:A sua biblioteca
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Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future por James Shapiro

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Noted Shakespearean writer Shapiro focuses on eight historical events between 1833 and 2017 that have connections to Shakespeares plays as a way to discuss attitudes around elitism, race, immigration, sexuality, media manipulation, and more.

It’s an interesting read from a historical perspective, as well as illuminating how the Bard’s work is often adopted and interpreted by parties on both sides of an argument. But it’s also a sobering read as the obvious conclusion is that we haven’t really learned anything about how to function as a society over the last few centuries. ( )
  gothamajp | Aug 8, 2021 |
Interesting,only heard the abridged radio version, which was good but mostly the modern eras, from the two other excellent reviews already written by others who have read the actual book it's clear that it's more balanced in full. ( )
  SarahKDunsbee | Aug 2, 2021 |
Close readings of specific productions/films, including Shakespeare in Love and the Trump-evoking Julius Caesar that triggered right-wing outrage in recent years. ( )
  rivkat | May 12, 2021 |
Shapiro, James. Shakespeare in a Divided America. Penguin Press, 2020.
It is unusual for a work of stage history to make the New York Times top ten must read list, but one can see why Shakespeare in a Divided America made the list this year. Shapiro frames this cultural history of Shakespearean productions in America with a discussion of a right-wing protest of a recent production of Julius Caesar in which a Donald Trump lookalike played Caesar. He pairs that with a deadly 1849 riot at the opening of the Astor Opera House in Manhattan in which nativist working men broke up a production of Macbeth by a famous English actor. Throughout our history, Shapiro argues, Americans have used and abused the plays of Shakespeare to highlight all our cultural flashpoints: immigration, slavery and racism, political assassination, and gender roles. Here are some tidbits that I enjoyed. In the 19th century, Romeo was often played by women because macho leading men could not handle the lyricism in the part. Abigail Adams and John Quincey Adams were shocked by Desdemona’s sexual attraction to Othello. In The Tempest, Caliban was often used to reinforce racial stereotypes. John Wilkes Booth saw himself as a modern Brutus assassinating a tyrant Lincoln and could not understand why even Southern papers saw him as a villain rather than a self-sacrificing hero. The Taming of the Shrew had a revival after World War II, when there was pressure on working women to return to their duties as homemakers. Early drafts of Shakespeare in Love show the problems that the screenwriters and producers had with gender performance. Could Shakespeare kiss a cross-dressing Viola? Shapiro concludes that although we are seeing more culturally diverse performances these days, plays like Julius Caesar can still become embroiled in our politics. Recommended for anyone with even a passing interest in Shakespeare or in cultural criticism. ( )
  Tom-e | Nov 26, 2020 |
James Shapiro is one of the leading Shakespearean academics, and has a wonderful knack of presenting detailed studies of the plays and poems with great clarity and accessibility. In his previous books, 1599: A year in the life of Shakespeare and 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, he excelled at portraying the historical and political context against which the plays were written.

His latest book has moved into a slightly different field, recounting history of public engagement with Shakespeare in America. I had not previously appreciated the extent of American support for Shakespeare. If I had stopped to think of the issue at all, I suppose I might have expected a certain prejudice against such an icon of Britishness (or at least Englishness), as a manifestation of the ferocious pride in American independence from a former colonial power. It is clear from Shapiro’s book, however, that there is, and always has been, an abiding passion for the works of The Bard, that seems far stronger than any corresponding emotion among the public at large on this side of the Atlantic.

Of course, Shakespeare was writing at a time when European, and especially British, exploration of North America was becoming established as a norm. Indeed, some of Shakespeare’s weaker puns over seem to work if delivered in a transatlantic accent – early English-speaking residents of America would have been contemporaries of Shakespeare, and might have shared his own range of vowels (although that does, of course , beg the question of whether or not Shakespeare spoke in what we might now think of as a ‘Brummie’ accent.

I was fortunate enough to be immersed in Shakespeare’s works from a very young age, but know that for many of my contemporaries, a liking for his work is often despite, rather than as a consequence, of studying his plays at school. From a relatively early age, my mother made me learn a different sonnet or soliloquy each week, and if I could recite it faultlessly on Sunday morning, I was given a pound – back in the mid-1970s, when I was about twelve or thirteen, the spending power of that reward was considerable, so I turned to the task with great eagerness. As a consequence, I can still reel off considerable screeds of Shakespeare at the drop of a hat.

Such familiarity with his work seems to have been the norm with many American Presidents (although quite clearly not with the current incumbent), and Abraham Lincoln in particular. President John Quincy Adams also drew deeply upon his knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays, less felicitously than Lincoln would later do, not least in his vilification of Desdemona. Even just a month ago, I would probably have commented about how unbelievable President Adams’s dismissal of Desdemona for consorting with Othello seems today. Unfortunately, recent events have shown that institutional racism are very far from consigned to a dead past, and remain as insidious and divisive as ever. Shapiro analyses President Adams’s comments, and how they further inflamed a raging dispute across academia and beyond. Of course, this was against a context of a nation already divided over attitudes to slavery, that would lead to Civil War.

Shakespeare continued to have an unforeseen, and nowadays almost unimaginable, impact upon American history. In the third chapter of the book, Shapiro recounts how a violent riot erupted in New York in 1849, leaving more than twenty people dead. This arose from a feud between two Shakespearean actors: Briton William Macready and American counterpart Edwin Forrest. The rivalry between them had been seething for several years before boiling over with such serious sectarian consequences.

President Lincoln had a profound love of Shakespeare, whose works he could (and all too frequently did) recite at inordinate length. Acontemporary with an equal immersion in Shakespeare was his assassin, the actor John Wilkes Booth, who came from an acting family.

More recently, Shakespeare productions across America have provoked discussion of same sex relationships, adultery and what it is to belong. Shakespeare remains immensely popular in America, with as many as 250 or even 300 Shakespeare festivals held each year across the USA; more than the rest of the world put together.

This is that rare delight: a book as informative as it is entertaining, and a welcome addition to the canon of Shakespearean study. ( )
  Eyejaybee | Jun 15, 2020 |
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"From leading Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, a timely and insightful examination of what the world's greatest dramatist can teach us about life in an America riven by conflict. The United States has always been divided, but Americans from all walks of life have also always shared a deep affinity for the plays William Shakespeare, even if their meaning has been fiercely contested. For well over two centuries now, Americans of all stripes--presidents and activists, writers and soldiers--have turned to his plays to prosecute the most intense and pivotal quarrels in the soul of the nation, a nation defined by its political and social pluralism. That prosecution dates back to pre-Revolutionary times, when Hamlet's famous soliloquy--"To be or not to be"--was appropriated both by defenders of British rule and those seeking to overthrow it. Shapiro traces Shakespeare's formative and crucial role in our nation's history, from the otherwise progressive John Quincy Adams's sinister opinions on race expressed via (and only via) his views on Othello; to the politically-charged rhetoric that gripped Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth; to the resounding American triumph of Shakespeare in Love, produced by Harvey Weinstein's then fledgling company, Miramax, which exploded a debate about adultery at the time of President Clinton's Oval Office affair with Monica Lewinsky. But Shapiro also reports firsthand on Shakespeare's undeniable contemporary significance, after a production of Julius Caesar, which depicted the assassination of a President Trump-like Julius Caesar, was exploited calculatedly by Breitbart and Fox News to ignite outrage. With style and unmatched expertise, Shapiro contends brilliantly that few writers or artists can shed as much light on the hot-button issues of American life--such as immigration, same-sex love, political violence, and class warfare--and that by better understanding the role of Shakespeare's plays in American history we might take steps towards mending our bitterly divided land"--

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