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Shakespeare & Beyond

Thomas Jefferson and Shakespeare

Thomas JeffersonBecause he was chosen to compose the original draft of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson is the man most often associated with a historic document whose language continues to resonate today.

“Thoroughly versed in classical oratory and rhetorical theory as well as in the belletristic treatises of his own time, Thomas Jefferson, draftsman of the Declaration, was a diligent student of rhythm, accent, timing, and cadence in discourse,” as Stephen E. Lucas writes in an essay about the stylistic artistry of the Declaration of Independence. One of the writers Jefferson devoted special study to was William Shakespeare.

Jefferson, like many of the other Founding Fathers, was very familiar with Shakespeare’s plays. In a letter to a friend, Jefferson recommends Shakespeare for reading in the evening, explaining that “Shakespeare must be singled out by one who wishes to learn the full powers of the English language.”