America's Shakespeare Exhibition Material

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This article offers a comprehensive list of each piece included in America's Shakespeare, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger.


“Be taxt, or not be taxt, that is the question.” “To be, or not to be, that is the bare bodkin.” “extremity is the trier of spirits.” “Old World, he is not only thine.” “Fig Newtons and King Lear.” “Shakespeare’s black? Not yet.” “It is of the heart that Shakespeare speaks.”

Shakespeare has been part of America’s conversation from the very beginning. As you walk through this exhibition, you will hear voices from the past and present calling on him as they talk about politics, race, entertainment, relocation—anything that is part of their lives. You’ll hear Abigail Adams writing about the Battle of Bunker Hill; Abraham Lincoln moved by Macbeth; Mark Twain celebrating amateur actors along the Mississippi; Bart Simpson doing Hamlet; and Rita Dove remembering her childhood reading Shakespeare.

You’ll also experience Shakespeare in a variety of media, from print to photography; stage to film and television; radio to YouTube. Whenever Americans have developed a new form of media, they have included Shakespeare because his plots and words are so widely known and admired.

Shakespeare’s words have always been a common language for Americans in a diverse society. During the 19th century, they were spoken on the stages and in the schools of New York and Boston, and also in New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago and San Francisco. Today we see and hear them everywhere. They were known by our Founding Fathers and are tweeted now. We’ve been talking with Shakespeare for generations, and his words will continue to empower the many conversations of our lives.