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Shakespeare & Beyond

Shakespeare, the ultimate connector

Michael Witmore
Michael Witmore
Michael Witmore

Michael Witmore. Photo by Chris Hartlove.

Once again, Shakespeare.

This year the Folger is leading a nationwide celebration—The Wonder of Will—to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, or better, the fifth century of his afterlife.

Why do we keep returning to this writer? There are many answers to this question.

One is that he belongs to no one, and so potentially everyone. From Bollywood film versions of the plays to productions in Kabul that challenge the separation of male and female actors, Shakespeare keeps speaking new languages. If you think about the many Americans who have turned to Shakespeare over the course of our nation’s history—Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, Emily Dickinson—you realize that Shakespeare’s American fortunes benefited from his not being born on this side of the Atlantic. Sometimes it’s easier to learn from a distant cousin than a close relation.