Photo: Bronze statue in Glessner House library, a scaled copy of William Shakespeare (1872) by John Quincy Adams Ward for New York City's Central Park. Ward was Frances Glessner's first cousin.
Shakespeare helped the British re-conquer America in the second half of the nineteenth century. Rivalries between great English and American Shakespearean actors culminated in the “Shakespeare Riots” during a New York performance of Macbeth. Touring British stars dominated American stages, and yet Shakespeare was idolized as the “American Poet.” Lincoln himself revered Shakespeare, as did such major literary figures as Emerson, Thoreau, Melville, and Whitman. Beginning in the late nineteenth century, more than five hundred Shakespeare societies formed across the continent. The American Shakespeare increasingly shaped publishing, scholarship, civic activity, and education, on both sides of the Atlantic. And so Shakespeare’s conquest of America over the course of the nineteenth century paradoxically led Americans to help re-shape the culture of Britain. Presented by Richard Mallette, Distinguished Service Professor of English, Emeritus, at Lake Forest College.
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