The Book Club: why America loves Shakespeare

Apr 29, 10:45 AM
In this week's books podcast I'm joined from across the Atlantic by the eminent Shakespearean James Shapiro to talk about his new book Shakespeare in a Divided America, which discusses the myriad ways in which America has taken Britain's national playwright up as its own; and then used him as a lightning-rod for the deepest issues about its own national identity - issues of masculinity, race relations, immigration and assassination. Jim talks about why a country founded by theatre-hating, Brit-hating Puritans fell in love with a British playwright; how Lincoln was the greatest reader of Shakespeare in American history; about whether America is the purest repository of Shakespeare's language; about how a beef between two Shakespeare actors once led to light artillery being deployed in downtown Manhattan - and how Ulysses S Grant may have been the greatest Desdemona the theatre never quite had.

The Book Club is a series of literary interviews and discussions on the latest releases in the world of publishing, from poetry through to physics. Presented by Sam Leith, The Spectator's Literary Editor. Hear past episodes here.