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How Shakespeare Became an American Hero

Originally published on November 27, 2020 by


The American tendency to claim ownership of William Shakespeare’s work seems difficult to justify. Though records of the Bard’s identity are few and far between, we can safely presume, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he was not from the United States. Still, the American impulse to lay claim to Shakespeare — his plays and his personhood — dates back to the very beginning of American history.

Columbia University Professor of English and Comparative Literature James Shapiro chronicles America’s relationship to Shakespeare across key moments in the nation’s history in his newest book, Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future.

This is a segment from our November 27th, 2020 program, No Ado About Much.

Hosted by Brooke Gladstone

Produced by WNYC Studios