• Shakespeare in a Divided America

  • What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future
  • By: James Shapiro
  • Narrated by: Fred Sanders
  • Length: 9 hrs and 11 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (324 ratings)

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Shakespeare in a Divided America

By: James Shapiro
Narrated by: Fred Sanders
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Publisher's summary

One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year • A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist • A New York Times Notable Book

A timely exploration of what Shakespeare’s plays reveal about our divided land.

“In this sprightly and enthralling book . . . Shapiro amply demonstrates [that] for Americans the politics of Shakespeare are not confined to the public realm, but have enormous relevance in the sphere of private life.”—The Guardian (London)

The plays of William Shakespeare are rare common ground in the United States. For well over two centuries, Americans of all stripes—presidents and activists, soldiers and writers, conservatives and liberals alike—have turned to Shakespeare’s works to explore the nation’s fault lines. In a narrative arching from Revolutionary times to the present day, leading scholar James Shapiro traces the unparalleled role of Shakespeare’s four-hundred-year-old tragedies and comedies in illuminating the many concerns on which American identity has turned.

From Abraham Lincoln’s and his assassin, John Wilkes Booth’s, competing Shakespeare obsessions to the 2017 controversy over the staging of Julius Caesar in Central Park, in which a Trump-like leader is assassinated, Shakespeare in a Divided America reveals how no writer has been more embraced, more weaponized, or has shed more light on the hot-button issues in our history.

©2020 James Shapiro (P)2020 Penguin Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic reviews

"[A] terrific new book . . . If Jill Lepore and the late Tony Judt had collaborated, this taut, swift and insightful tract might have been the offspring . . . Among all the fine words currently being spilled examining the American mess, James Shapiro has outshone many of our best political pundits with this superb contribution to the discourse. He upped the wattage simply by bouncing his spotlight off a playwright 400 years dead who yet again turns out to be, somehow, us.”—David Ives, New York Times Book Review

“Shapiro treats us to one deep-dive vignette after another, most of which center on Shakespearean nuggets from America’s past that have vanished from view even among seasoned fans of this country’s neglected cultural curios.”Bookforum

“Elegant, engaging, and enlightening, Shakespeare in a Divided America is a not-at-all guilty pleasure in this winter of our discontent.”—Psychology Today