#Shakespeare400: 'Tis Politic...

As the political temperature in the post-Brexit U.K. and pre-election U.S. rises to, well, Shakespearean levels, maybe it's time to briefly revisit the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death.

My latest #Shakespeare400 inspiration comes via Ian McEwan's delightful new book, Nutshell, about which Tim Adams wrote: "There have been plenty of novels inspired by Hamlet--Iris Murdoch's The Black Prince, John Updike's Gertrude and Claudius, even David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest. And there have been one or two novels told in the voice of fetuses in the womb--Carlos Fuentes's Christopher Unborn, for example. But Ian McEwan's virtuoso entertainment is almost certainly the first to combine the two.... Embryos, of course, are all soliloquy."

I love that last line, I love this novel, and I love these words from Charles McNulty: "So even though our values have evolved in crucial areas beyond those of Shakespeare's era, we can talk back to the plays because they talk back to themselves. Whether it's sexism in The Taming of the Shrew, racism in Othello, anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice or colonialism in The Tempest, it is hard to find a point of view that Shakespeare hasn't already anticipated and embodied."

And I love these words from Adam Kirsch: "Yet the paradox of Shakespeare is that the same poet who seems so essentially English is also perhaps the most global writer who has ever lived. His character may have praised English isolation--and Shakespeare may never have left the country himself--but his imagination ranged freely across borders."

And, finally, I love these words from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who wrote that he is "still drawn to my favorite of all Shakespeare's plays, As You Like It. Rosalind, who 'promised to make all this matter even', stands out as perhaps the greatest diplomat in all literature. She navigates her own personal traumas of exile, banishment and disguise with tenacity, patience and good humor."

As McEwan's fetus/Hamlet so eloquently puts it: "Words, as I'm beginning to appreciate, can make things true." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

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