History Repeating or Sprouting?

Submitted By:
Nina Hanlon, Greenwich Academy, Greenwich, CT

Shakespeare is far from dead. His plays have survived for centuries due to their universal representation of the human experience. But what can they teach us about our nation's history? In Shakespeare in a Divided America, James Shapiro explores this question by digging into the political and social climates surrounding historical Shakespearean productions. Through this creative lens, Shapiro uncovers periods of unrest that are represented in casting decisions, textual analysis, and audience reactions. Many of his findings resonate with what we are experiencing as a nation today, leaving the reader wondering whether history is repeating itself or just sprouting from seeds of polarity, hypocrisy, and strife that already existed. Shapiro hopes that "we may better address that which divides and impedes us as a nation" today by tackling topics such as class warfare, immigration, adultery and same-sex love. Shapiro brings to light the complexities inherent in American identity and our struggle to reckon with them. His research empowers us to teach and produce Shakespeare's plays through a new historical and artistic lens and to ignite dialogue and change. We may not know where we are headed as a society, but as Shapiro makes clear, art will continue to be a reflection of our times.

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