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Men of Letters

Shakespeare’s Influence on Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln, our 16th president, was known for many things: ending American slavery, winning the Civil War, holding the Union together. But Lincoln was also one of our most literary presidents. Of the three books on his White House desk, one of them was the works of Shakespeare—a writer Lincoln cherished throughout his life. He also enjoyed going to the theater, which, in his day, often meant Shakespeare.

UCLA professor of English Stephen Dickey, John Andrews, editor of The Everyman Shakespeare, and Michael Bishop, founding Executive Director of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, discuss Shakespeare’s enduring influence on Lincoln—and on Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Alan Simpson, a United States Senator from Wyoming for 18 years, talks about why Shakespeare continues to occupy such a special place in the hearts of political leaders today.


© 2009 Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved.
Produced, written, and directed by Richard L. Paul.
Narrated by Gail Kern Paster.