Geneva Literary Aid Society

The GLAS Hour – Meet the Author: James Shapiro (22.04.2020)

“Ultimately there rises the familiar suspicion that, for a country in love with the future, it’s always yesterday in America. Among all the fine words currently being spilled examining the American mess, James Shapiro has outshone many of our best political pundits with this superb contribution to the discourse. He upped the wattage simply by bouncing his spotlight off a playwright 400 years dead who yet again turns out to be, somehow, us.”

David Ives, The New York Times 
Shakespeare in a Divided America - James Shapiro

Our guest for Wednesday evening’s GLAS Hour, James Shapiro has written a terrific new book Shakespeare in a Divided America, a rollicking account of how the Bard of Stratford-on-Avon provides a lens through which to examine the faultlines in American life from the assassination of one Shakespeare lover, Abraham Lincoln, by another Shakespeare lover, John Wilkes Booth, to the fraught issue of sexual relations between whites and blacks post-civil war (Othello), to the assassination of a Donald Trump lookalike in a controversial staging of Julius Caesar in Central Park in 2017.  

There is much more besides, including an insider account of how Harvey Weinstein hired Tom Stoppard to tone down the script of Shakespeare in Love, for better results at the box office and to avoid becoming embroiled in debate over same-sex love and marriage. Our guest will also talk a bit about how Shakespeare coped with the regular bouts of plague which disrupted life in England and how it affected his work. 

James Shapiro is from Brooklyn and has been an unfussy scholar of Shakespeare for 40 years. 

How to join us

Wednesday 22 April 2020, 20:00 CEST

You can join the event by clicking the link below before the event begins. It will enable you to download and install the Zoom application, which you can also use to submit questions to the author.

We will also stream the event live on our Facebook page.

More about James Shapiro

He is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Colombia University. He is also the author of 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize; Contested Will (2010); and has edited an anthology on Shakespeare in America for the Library of America (2014). His 3-hour documentary —The King and the Playwright–aired on BBC4 in 2012.  The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 (2015), was awarded the the James Tait Black Prize. 

What the critics say:

In this sprightly and enthralling book….Shapiro amply demonstrates [that] for Americans the politics of Shakespeare are not confined to the public realm, but have enormous relevance in the sphere of private life. Colin Kidd, The Guardian

“Shapiro shows us that Shakespeare is a cracked mirror in which the US continually glimpses its divided selves. It is hard to imagine anyone better able to discern what it reflects.”— Fintan O’Toole,  Irish Times 

He has plunged fearlessly into the enthralling afterlife of the Complete Works to examine the strange and potent dialogue between of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old theatre and the drama of contemporary American politics.Robert McCrum, The Observer

“Showing how Shakespeare has been deployed by both sides at defining moments of American history, Shapiro reframes specific, closely researched moments into larger cultural questions about politics and nationhood,” —Emma Smith, The Spectator 

Shakespeare in a Divided America, is an unpretentious, fact-filled, lightly-written, meticulously-researched history of seven politically-defining moments that occurred in the US over the past 200 years.Will Gompertz, BBC

And finally…

We hope everyone is staying safe and sane. GLAS will try and continue this occasional series as long as enough people tune in.

We encourage friends of GLAS, to support street kids in Darjeeling during the long lockdown in India which is impacting very harshly on the poor, through the Edith Wilkins Foundation for Street Children, which is also extending its support beyond the children it cares for, to 200 poor families in Darjeeling and is particularly focused on providing hygiene kits including soap, disinfectant, towels and masks for people living in densely crowded shacks.