Shakespeare in American Life
Shakespeare in American Life, one of the Exhibitions at the Folger opened March 8, 2007 and closed on August 18 2007. The exhibition was curated by Alden and Virginia Vaughan with the assistance of Rachel Doggett, Richard Kuhta, and Virginia Millington. The exhibition catalog can be purchased from the Folger Shop.
William Shakespeare has had, and continues to have, a profound influence on American culture, education, and even politics! Shakespeare would surely be pleased, and probably surprised, at how Americans have embraced his plays, sonnets and poems. Shakespeare in American Life celebrates the Bard's influence on American culture and the Folger Library's 75th Anniversary in 2007.
Contents of the exhibition
Shakespeare in American Life audio tour
Explore Shakespeare in American Life through this audio tour
Making Shakespeare Our Own
Listen to co-curator Virginia Vaughan discuss a presentation copy of Shakespeare's Complete Works.
- William Shakespeare. The complete works of Shakspeare. Ed. George Steevens. Cincinnati: Rickey and Carrol, 1864. Call number: PR2752 1864h Sh.Col.; displayed Presentation label for Clara Barton.
19th-Century Americans Study Shakespeare
Listen to co-curator Virginia Vaughan discuss Delia Bacon's theories on authorship.
- Increase Cooke. Sequel to the American orator, or, dialogues for schools. New Haven: Increase Cooke, 1813. Call number: PN4201 .C71 and LUNA Digital Image.
- Delia Bacon. Letter from Delia Bacon to Ralph Waldo Emerson. Manuscript, 1852-1855. Call number: Y.c.2599 (81?-89?) and Guide to the Papers of Delia Bacon.
American Travesties of Shakespeare
Listen to co-curator Virginia Vaughan discuss minstrel shows use of Shakespeare's texts.
- Desdemonum: an Ethiopian Burlesque, in Three Scenes. New York: Happy Hours Co., 1874?. Call number: PR2829 A72 D4; displayed front cover.
- R.W. Criswell. The new Shakspeare and other travesties. New York: The American news company, 1882. Call number: PR2878 .C85; displayed pp. 8-9.
Listen to co-curator Alden Vaughan discuss Paul Robeson
- Robert Edmond Jones. Costume design for Paul Robeson as "Othello". Ink and gouache drawing with fabric swatches attached, 1943. Call number: ART Box J79 no. 1 and LUNA Digital Image. Gift of James O. Belden in memory of Evelyn Berry Belden.
- Carl Van Vechten. Portrait photograph of Paul Robeson as Othello. Silver gelatin photographic print. [New York]: 1944. Call number: ART 251518 and LUNA Digital Image.
- William Shakespeare. The tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. Souvenir promptbook. [S.l. : s.n., n.d.]. Call number: PROMPT Oth. Fo.2 and LUNA Digital Image.
Shakespeare in American Politics
Listen to co-curator Alden Vaughan discuss Franklin D. Roosevelt.
- Clifford Kennedy Berryman. To bee or not to bee.... FDR, as Hamlet, considers a third term. Pen and ink, ca. 1940. from Political caricatures inspired by Shakespeare. Pen and ink drawings, [1932-1944]. Catalog item 36. Call number: ART Box B534 no.5 and LUNA Digital Image.
Listen to co-curator Virginia Vaughan discuss Caliban by the yellow sands by Percy MacKaye.
- Shakespeare-by-the-Sea, Virginia Beach. Romeo and Juliet; Taming of the Shrew. Promotional poster, 1982. Call number: Shakespeare Festivals: American. 1982, Virginia Beach Department of Parks and Recreation and LUNA Digital Image.
- Percy MacKaye. Caliban by the yellow sands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1916. Call number: PR2923 1916.M2 and LUNA Digital Image.
Shakespeare in American Life radio program
In celebration of the Folger Library's 75th Anniversary, a radio documentary aired on Public Radio International (PRI) stations beginning in April 2007. This Folger production of three one-hour shows, narrated by Sam Waterston and created by producer Richard Paul, reaches out to new audiences as it brings to life an extraordinary range of topics in radio’s theater of the imagination.
Shakespeare in American Life website
An extensive website, Shakespeare in American Life was developed as both a lasting online resource and a companion project. Primarily focused on the radio program, it includes a variety of supplemental materials and interactive elements.
Supplemental material for the first episode, Shakespeare Becomes American.
Early records of Shakespeare in America are fragmentary, but we know of an amateur performance of Romeo and Juliet in 1730 and a professional staging of Richard III in 1750, both in New York. Since then, the vast story of Shakespeare on the American stage has come to include everything from lavish historical recreations to bare-bones outdoor sets and, in recent years, actors of every ethnic and racial origin. In the twentieth century, new media like radio, the movies, and television provided brand-new arenas for America’s directors and performers to explore the many possibilities of Shakespeare’s works.
Listen to the episode.
Supplemental material for the second episode, The Father of the Man in America.
Shakespeare’s works weave like a bright thread through the history of American education and self-improvement. Over the centuries, his plays have served in the classroom as models for public speaking, guides to morality, works of literature to be read, passages to be performed—and sometimes all of the above. In the public arena, Shakespeare has appealed to different American audiences, from rowdy nineteenth-century workers to the literary and social elite, and from local groups that formed their own Shakespeare societies to picnic-bearing families at outdoor theaters under the stars.
Listen to the episode.