Why do so many Americans celebrate Shakespeare, a long-dead English poet and playwright? By the nineteenth century newly independent America had chosen to reject the British monarchy and Parliament, class structure and traditions, yet their citizens still made William Shakespeare a naturalized American hero. Today the largest group of overseas visitors to Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company and Bankside's Shakespeare's Globe Theatre come from America. Why? Is there more to Shakespeare's American popularity than just a love of men in doublet and hose speaking soliloquies? This book tells the story of America's relationship with Shakespeare. The story of how and why Shakespeare became a hero within American popular culture. Sturgess provides evidence of a comprehensive nineteenth-century appropriation of Shakespeare to the cause of the American Nation and shows that, as America entered the twentieth century a new world power, for many Americans Shakespeare had become as American as George Washington.
Kim C. Sturgess has studied in America and is now Assistant Professor of English and American Literature at Qatar University.
Acknowledgements; Prologue; Introduction; Part I. The Paradox: 1. Manifest consumption of Shakespeare; 2. America: a proudly anti-English 'idea'; Part II. The Appropriation: 3. Beginning the appropriation of Shakespeare and the 'First American Edition' of his works; 4. Jacksonian energy - Shakespearean imagery; 5. Context for appropriation in nineteenth-century America; 6. The American heroic and ownership of Shakespeare; 7. Shakespeare as a fulcrum for American literature; 8. The American Scholar and the authorship controversy; 9. Last scenes in the final act of appropriation; Epilogue; Appendix I; Appendix II; Bibliography; Index.