Shakespeare in American Life
Shakespeare in American Life, part 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! That's why we made Shakespeare in American Life the theme of our 75th anniversary in 2007.
William 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.
Contents of the exhibition
Shakespeare in American Life audio tour
Explore Shakespeare in American Life through this audio tour
Making Shakespeare Our Own
19th-Century Americans Study Shakespeare
American Travesties of Shakespeare
Shakespeare in American Politics
Shakespeare in American Life exhibition list
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. The extensive website, Shakespeare in American Life was developed as both a lasting online resource and a companion project.
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.
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.
Supplemental material for the final episode, Shakespeare is a Black Woman: Shakespeare in American Politics.
This section examines Shakespeare’s impacts on many aspects of American life, from commercial references in advertising and product packaging to such diverse subjects as crafts, American politics, and ethnic and racial identity. It also takes a closer look at the Shakespeare play that is most closely tied to the New World—The Tempest, which may well refer in part to a terrible storm in 1609 that struck an English fleet on the way to Jamestown.
Select lesson plans for teachers for a variety of subjects related to Shakespeare and American life.
As you can tell from these lesson plans, Folger Education believes that the best way to learning Shakespeare is to do Shakespeare and encourages teaching methods that get students up on their feet. To see some Folger Education teaching methods in action, go to Playing Shakespeare Today.
Launch your own exploration of Shakespeare in American life through these unique features—from an interactive timeline that spans four centuries, to the works of art in our American Shakespeare Gallery, to the quips, insights, and comments of Americans who were “speaking of Shakespeare.” Download a screensaver or wallpaper to customize your desktop, or weigh in with your own projects in Shakespeare in Your Life. Try the FAQs to learn more about Shakespeare in American life. To find Shakespeare theaters, festivals, and other destinations throughout the United States, explore the clickable maps in Shakespeare USA.
For further information
Consult this list of websites to learn more online about Shakespeare in American life.