“Poets,” Percy Bysshe Shelley boasted and lamented on behalf of his guild, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” If this is true—and it’s close enough to have stirred Plato’s competitive juices—Shakespeare is the American Moses. From the brightest heaven of invention, he brought down tablets that Americans have revered since we assumed our separate and equal station among the powers of the earth.
No other poet has so deeply penetrated and thoroughly inhabited the souls of the American people, awakening and informing our sense and sensibilities about practically every interesting dimension of the human things—love, tyranny, revenge, virtue, vice, justice, free will, providence, chance, fate, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, passions and reason, men and women, nature and convention, ruling and being ruled, high ambition and low scheming, war and peace, and the variety of human characters and regimes. Drawing upon the likes of Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, and Sidney, Thomas Jefferson aimed, with the Declaration of Independence, to give noble expression to the American Mind. In Shakespeare we discover the furthest reaches of the American Soul.
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A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.