Shakespeare is a Black Woman

Shakespeare in American Politics will explore how Shakespeare's work has intertwined itself with American electoral politics, geopolitics, and racial, class and academic politics. It also explores how Shakespeare has been used for political purposes throughout American history. John Adams quoted Shakespeare often in his journals. Janet Reno had her staff come together to read King Lear. The program will include prominent American politicians with an affinity for Shakespeare (former Senator Alan Simpson, Janet Reno, former Vice President Walter Mondale) reading passages from Shakespeare and discussing times when his plots and characters played a role in their political careers. The program will also look at how Shakespeare's work has been used for political purposes throughout American history. There has long been a serious discussion of who "owns" Shakespeare. Who has the authority to interpret Shakespeare -- the British citizen or the American patriot' The African-American actors who were arrested for performing Richard III or the white sheriff who made the arrest' Sound a little abstract' Well consider that in one segment we explore the horrifying night in 1849 outside the Astor Place Opera House in New York when a mob supporting American actor Edwin Forrest tried to stop a performance by his British rival William McCready, with fatal consequences. The program also explores the supremely conflicted African-American sense of ownership when it comes to Shakespeare. We tell the story of blacks in New York City on the eve of emancipation, who were arrested for putting on a performance of Richard III. One of them fled to Europe where he became the most famous black actor of the 19th century. We look at the push for "colorblind" casting in the 1970s and the reaction against it by prominent African-American intellectuals in the 1990s. In the polarized academic world of the 1980s, the interpretation of Shakespeare's works was hotly contested by conservative and radical critics, with Shakespeare becoming a symbolic representative of all Western culture. That Shakespeare is performed, read and taught even more widely in America today suggests that American culture still relies on Shakespeare for the advancement of its own self-understanding.

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