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Summary

From the author of 1599, a fresh perspective on the history of the United States - and a timely reminder of Shakespeare's indelible influence.

A Radio 4 Book of the Week.

Shakespeare's position as England's national poet is established and unquestionable.

But as James Shapiro illuminates in this revelatory new history, Shakespeare has long held an essential place in American culture. Why, though, would a proudly independent republic embrace England's greatest writer? Especially when his works enact so many of America's darkest nightmares: interracial marriage, cross-dressing, same-sex love, tyranny, and assassination?

Investigating a selection of defining moments in American history - drilling into issues of race, miscegenation, gender, patriotism and immigration, encountering Presidents, activists, writers and actors - Shapiro leads us to fascinating answers and uncovers rich and startling stories.

But perhaps most pressingly, we learn how, in Trump's America, the staging of his work has provoked threats of violence and has become a battleground for freedom of speech.

©2020 James Shapiro (P)2020 Faber Audio

Critic reviews

"With the lightest touch and the most formidable scholarship, James Shapiro, once again, proves himself to be an irresistible storyteller. And what an exhilarating and disturbing tale he has to tell. Here is proof that Shakespeare's power remains undiminished in our divided world." (Simon Russell Beale)

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Very Interesting and informative

Very interesting insights into the history and influences of Shakespeare on the United States of America.

3 people found this helpful

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A treat for Shakespeare and politics fans

Shapiro masterly takes us through US history through the lens of the Shakespeare’s works. Fascinating and entertaining throughout

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Fascinating

My son bought me this book for Christmas because I love Shakespeare and have a keen interest in US politics. It is fascinating and covers the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries, encompassing gender, racism, sexism and Trumpism. From Lincoln to Weinstein, via Cole Porter and Steve Bannon, I would highly recommend this thoughtful and thought-provoking book.

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  • JP
  • 10-10-20

Great book

Wonderful book for Shakespeare, theatre and history lovers. Great narrator and clear recording. Highly recommend.