Shakespeare and the Making of America
- Kevin J. Hayes
15th August 2020
In Shakespeare and the Making of America, Kevin J. Hayes tells a story that has never been told before. He traces the history of reading Shakespeare in British North America during the eighteenth century, a story that goes from Drury Lane Theatre in London to the backwoods of South Carolina to the back alleys of Boston to Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The most prominent figures in the story are the Founding Fathers of the United States of America: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and George Washington.
Hayes looks at how these men read, understood and applied the words of Shakespeare to suit a new nation. Shakespeare’s plays were not just read for entertainment value; they were also appreciated for their insights into the human condition. When it came time to assert American rights to liberty and freedom in the face of British tyranny, the words of Shakespeare were always handy to make a point or seal an argument. American writers quoted Shakespeare to justify their actions during the French and Indian War, the Stamp Act crisis and the Revolutionary War. Echoes of Shakespeare can be heard in some of the most fundamental documents in American history: the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.