Monday, March 12, 2007

America adopts the Bard:

"Shakespeare in American Life" at the Folger

The United States is in many ways an invented country. Founded by Englishmen and other Europeans seeking greater opportunity in the New World, the raw Colonial frontier lacked its own identity at first. Eventually, the early settlements matured, and new cities and a fledgling professional class arose.

Seeking the comforts of civilization as well as the stimulation of the arts, settlers found they still needed to import culture and cultural icons from the Old World to lay a foundation for the New. In many ways, the impressive body of work penned by English playwright William Shakespeare was drafted to serve as America's literary cornerstone.

The importance of Shakespeare in this country is now being celebrated by the Folger Shakespeare Library in a new exhibition entitled "Shakespeare in American Life." Co-curated by the husband-and-wife scholarly team of historian Alden T. Vaughan and Shakespeare specialist Virginia Mason Vaughan, the exhibit opened this week and will run through most of the summer.

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