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Europe and America Criss-Crossing Perspectives, 1788-1848

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Jacques Portes

Première partie. America Viewing Europe

I.4. Some Traits of Cultural Nationalism in the Reception of Shakespeare in Nineteenth Century USA

Raoul Granqvist

Texte intégral

  • 1 For these generalizations about the "image" I am indebted to Thomas Bleicher. See his article, "Ele (...)

1Any image a culture forms about another culture is relativistic; it is an approximation of cultural values contingent to both of them. It is complementary, reflecting needs that only can be fulfilled through the image making process. It is also antithetical; the image of the self is often established in contrast to or in conflict with the image of the stranger. Naturally no national or cultural image is constant. It changes, diversifies, fluctuates.1 The image that Americans nurtured about themselves and reciprocally about the Old World in the nineteenth century could well be studied in the light of these generalizations. It would no doubt yield an overall picture of an enormous country with a fluid and vital culture seeking purposefully to adjust itself to wholeness and unity. In interpolating Shakespeare between the viewer and the object I hope to be able to demonstrate with more accuracy the implications of these assumptions. In assimilating Shakespeare the American recipient was compelled to voice complex and antagonistic opinions about the donor culture and as a matter of course also about his own.

2For the purpose of this article I have organized these expressions in three large and complementary groups. The first treats aspects of integration: the examples project Shakespeare as fully integrated and domesticated with American culture. The other surveys subjectively a reception characterized by interaction between the subject and the object and the third describes the active appropriation of Shakespeare by his American recipients. My concern has been less with an understanding of the principles of history as causes and explanations of cultural change, and more with the concept of ideas as carriers of cultural "contracts, " with their identification, and with the analogues and the oppositions between them. The groups that have been abstracted through this synchronic method are evidently no irrefutable categories; they continuously coalesce and intertwine. The eclectic approach used here will enable us to observe the complexity and manysidedness that the nineteenth-century "quest for nationality" contained.

  • 2 See George B. Churchill, "Shakespeare in America; An Address Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the (...)
  • 3 Dunn, p. 3; Falk, p. 103; Levine p. 58.

3Modern scholarship on the reception of Shakespeare in the USA has produced a number of comprehensive and penetrating bibliographical studies.2 Shakespeare’s role in the national "campaign" has of course been recognized and emphasized by the scholars. Esther Cloudman Dunn suggests that "the story of Shakespeare in America since the beginning of our history is another way of testing our social and cultural growth;" Robert Falk notes that "the reception of Shakespeare in America becomes an interesting measure of taste and opinion and an accurate barometer of the variable and conflicting elements of the national psyche;" and Lawrence W. Levine, finally, examines his reputation as a reflection of the "metamorphosis from popular culture to polite culture" that took place in this century-3 Of Shakespeare’s function as catalyst and mediator in American cultural "growth" or "nationalism" there is thus full documentation. My contribution is an attempt to study aspects of its complex nature- The orientation of the study may also posit certain suggestions about the concept of the image The lens through which the Americans viewed England and ultimately themselves played all kinds of tricks, blurring, magnifying, and impairing the vision, and, occasionally it even became larger than the subject or the object.

I. INTEGRATION

  • 4 "Freron’s Critique on Shakespeare", Port Folio. 5 (1815), 8.

4Shakespeare had made a good start in the USA. How successful he was can be inferred, for instance, from the numerous detracting remarks that were made about the intellectual level of his audience. It is not Shakespeare that is slighted here, it is the public who, it was said, did not possess the right sympathies to be able to appreciate Shakespeare correctly. If they showed him their admiration, it was claimed, they did it for the wrong reasons. The public "laughed at the wrong places, " as it were. In an exchange of views in the Port Folio, in 1815, on "the excessive admiration of the English for Shakespeare, adopted almost to its full extent in this country, "4 the editor retaliated in the following manner:

  • 5 "Reply to Freron’s Critique on Shakespeare, " Port Folio, 5 (1815), 242-43.

English and American coblers, who pay their shillings and half dollars for the privilege of being present at the representation of Shakespeare’s plays, do not, one in ten of them, either "understand" or relish the writings of that author. They are drawn to the theatre by some popular actor, or perhaps by the form of fashion, not by their sense of the merits of the drama. A play written by the author of Tom Thumb, "got up" in a style of great pageantry, and graced in their eyes by the same favourite performer, would probably be much more highly acceptable to them.5

The Port Folio. energetically striving to establish criteria for a national literature based on an interplay of American and continental merits, would not accept the discrepancy perceived between Shakespeare’s enormouss popularity in America in the antebellum years as an entertainer cum moralist and the reverence in which he was held by professional criticism in the two countries. Except for the undervaluation of the audience’s motivation to see performances with Shakespeare, the above description is substantially correct. Shakespeare was popular and appealed to all groups of people. Normative criticism collided at full force with popular reception:

  • 6 bid: , p. 243. The performance that is reviewed is George Frederick Cooke acting Richard III. See C (...)

When Cook was in Philadelphia, we heard, in walking streets, a very grave discussion on the merits of his Richard, between a brace of sooty gentlemen of the scraper and the brush. Each spoke in terms of great admiration. Is it all probable that they either understood or relished the beauties of "the sun of the poetical hemisphere?"6

  • 7 "What is the Chief Excellence of Shakespeare?, " The Port ico, 5 (1818), 414.
  • 8 Levine, p. 40.
  • 9 Dunn, pp. 188-89.
  • 10 Notions of the Americans; Picked Up by a Bachelor, 2 vols., Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Carey, 18 (...)

"Shakespeare, the god our idolatry, " sneered another contemporary observer at his position in American popular culture.7 Indeed, Shakespeare was integrated with mainstream, everyday culture from the start of the century, to an extent that is almost inconceivable today. He was recognized, parodied, and performed wherever there was a theatre, in the big cities on the Eastern Seabord, and throughout the country, his reputation reaching the Far West in the mid-century along with the rush for gold. The fora were as heterogenous as the people surrounding them: makeshift stages in saloons, churches and halls in mining camps and small frontier towns, boats on the rivers, and big, we 11-designed theatres in the East and later on in California. Levine draws a parallel between the theatre of the early nineteenth century with the cinema of the 1920’s. "It [the theatre] was a kaleidoscopic, democratic institution presenting a widely varying bill of fare to all classes and socioeconomic groups-"8 Alongside the play there were thus other forms of entertainment and specialitis: gymnastics, pantomimes, farces, even Red Indians were recruited to add colour to the performances.9 The Port Folio critic who was astounded at the willingness of the audience to mix genres, to enjoy with equal favour scenes from a play by Shakespeare and from "Tom Thumb, " was clearly out of touch with the dynamics of his culture- The focus for his perspective, it seems to me, was alien and disintegrated. America virtually devoured Shakespeare. Even young women can be found, noted James Fenimore Cooper travelling in New England, to possess acquaintance with "the merits and morality of... even... Shakespeare;"10 We are also reminded of the "sooty gentlemen of the scraper and the brush" who were chastised by the genteel critic for their boldness to discuss Richard III! A congruent example, coming from another hostile critic, illuminates Shakespeare’s position as part and parcel of popular culture. The account is a brilliant summary of his mid-century reputation, despite its arrogant attitude towards the public taste.

  • 11 "Shakspeare in America, " review of Thomas de Quincey’s Biographical Essays, in The Literary World  (...)

We have the plays of Shakespeare every night in scores of theatres in city and country, packet ships, halls, hotels, steamboats, sailing, steaming, constantly opening and taking their drinks and dinners in the name of Shakespeare, and not long ago we had at a public anniversary a veteran actor delivering an unmeasured eulogy on the great dramatic poet, which was received with boundless enthusiasm by a company of one or two hundred members of the press and other reprensentatives of public opinion. From all which constant and constantly renewed-indications..., what can we infer but that Shakespeare is the intellectual all-in-all of the American people.11

  • 12 Pp. 187-8.
  • 13 P. 45.

The writer depicted a society permeated with Shakespeare. His readers did not passively indulge in him; they responded and acted, "taking their drinks and dinners in the name of Shakespeare." They demonstrated their "enthusiasm, " and, we may rest assured, also their dissatisfaction. In short, they participated. It was an activist audience. Dunn was one of the first critics to ascribed the popularity of Shakespeare to the dominance in the audience of oral traditions. "The knowledge of parts and speeches which reposed in the heads of auditors everywhere, whether among the Georgia State Fathers or the gentlemen of Greenville, North Carolina, or in a thriving centre like St. Louis, make a close interrelationship between actor and listener."12 A knowledgeable audience can exercise control over the action, by interrupting, hissing, applauding, or by literally stepping on the stage. Many unhappy actors would learn this when touring the country. As Levine has pointed out an engagement of this kind occasionally blurred the boundary between the stage and the audience.13 Shakespeare was shared culture.

  • 14 P. 50.

5What above all appealed to the audience were the scenes of melodrama, action, and oratory, which does not mean that the audience only appreciated violence and sensationalism. Moral values and ideas were embedded in the texts underlying these scenes. Americans loved the passages where a Shakespearean character was possessed by devastating passion or astute determination. These were "the same Americans, " explains Levine, "who found diversion and pleasure in lengthy political debates, who sought joy and God in the sermons of church and camp meeting, who had, in short, a seemingly inexhaustible appetite for the spoken word, thrilled to Shakespeare’s eloquence, memorized his soliloquies, delighted in his di al ogues."14 In a true oral performance of this kind the speaker and the audience constitute a whole; they have established a mutually binding contract that collapses however if one of them violates it. The engagement on part of the audience thus presupposes that this agreement is respected. There are innumerable instances in the nineteenth century history of Shakespeare’s reception of fatal ruptures of the oral performance entente. These are interesting not only as reflections of the organic mechanisms of orature, they also bring home one of the main points of this essay. As long as Shakespeare was immersed with American popular style and culture, as long as Shakespeare was entertainment, there was little questioning about the contexts of his texts. But when the codes were violated, what one would call, a "meta-Shakespeare" appeared on the stage. Shakespeare was then converted to history; compartmentalization set in. Antitheses were restored and England and English culture became visible. Let us study a few of these manifestations.

  • 15 Shakespeare on the American Stage, p. 31.
  • 16 William W. Clapp, Jr., A Record of the Boston Stage, Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe, 1853, p. 1 (...)
  • 17 Shattuck, pp. 42-3.
  • 18 Ibid., p. 43; see also Levine, p. 60.

6Traditionally English actors had toured the country ever since the beginning of the postcolonial period. Foremost among these were George Frederick Cooke, Edmund Kean, and Julius Brutus Booth, whom Charles H. Shattuck has named the "Wild Ones" because of their unbridled passion for the "flesh and riotous living without concern for the devil, themselves, or their neighbours."15 But they were extremely successful and drew large houses who admired their vigorous acting and eloquent speeches. The sympathy they attracted could, however, easily be turned into violent disapproval. Edmund Kean who arrived in the USA in 1820 was one of the first to experience Yankee rage. Originally a favourite of the Bostonians – according to one he "threw ladies in the side boxes into hysterics"16 – Kean was outlawed when on one occasion during the summer season he refused to play because the house was thin.17 This was deemed an outrageous example of British hauteur and Boston never forgave him. He had insulted Yankee pride and his theatrical career in the country was virtually stopped. The consonance of his much approved energetic acting with American preferences could not save him. He insisted, however, on returning a few years later (1825) to Boston to make his apology, but was pelted with nuts, cakes, and bottles containing "offensive dump." He was ostrasized out of Boston with a turbulence that has been called "the first really all-out theatre riot in America."18

  • 19 See Shattuck, pp. 70-87; Marder, pp. 308-11; Levine, pp. 61-2.
  • 20 Shattuck, p. 63.
  • 21 "The Drama: Mr Macready’s Macbeth, " The Literary World, 3 (1848), 734.

7The most tragic of them all is the well-known incident named The Astor Place Riot, in 1849, when thirty-one persons were killed after the military had started shooting into a mob gathered to confront the English actor William Charles Mcready.19 Between him and the American actor Edwin Forrest a rivalry had started. Forrest’s ambition was to encourage American drama and American acting; the latter objective converted him into a frantic point-maker as "a sort of theatrical frontiersman, a huge, fierce male animal."20 But Forrest’s style was highly American, flamboyant and active. Mcready belonged to a "school" that had become more and more popular with "connaisseurs, " a new tradition that tried to accomodate acting with the inspiration received from actual studies of the texts. A review of his performance of Macbeth is couched in strong antithetical terms. His impersonation is not, it is explained, "a piece of stage fustian of a periwig-pated player, the conventionalism of a theatrical hack, the literal declamation of a mere elocutionist, – but a development of character, consistent with itself and life."21 In the description of what Mcready is lurks the caracterization of a whole generation of American actors, including of course Forrest. The Astor Place Riot was not, technically speaking, triggered off by these divergences of interpretation, but they did add the fatal sparks. And Shakespeare was, for good or bad, in the centre of a national catastrophe. Significantly, Shakespeare, an English playwright, was immersed in an American battle that dealt with the institution of an American identity and the search for American values and qualities. In other words, the integration of Shakespeare in American culture was an ongoing process; the expressions of it are therefore unexpected and transient. The integration did not consolidate or stop, but progressively found new outlets. In the ever increasing heterogenity of America there were always new posts for Shakespeare to occupy.

  • 22 Clapp, A Record of the Boston Stage, p. 220.

8Shakespeare was, as we have seen, part of the American "show, " a "multi-art" form that could feature "readings” from Shakespeare, i.e. a presentation of famous scenes such as "Othello and Iago, " "Antony over Ceasar’s body, " "Hamlet’s soliloquay", as well as fencing, singing, and so on. Moral values and attitudes were always present in the entertainment; honour, courage, humor were the raw ingredients. Different social milieus generated naturally different types of entertainment, yet the moral tone remained the same. A frontier divertissment featuring a Shakespearian vaudeville and moralities would hardly have been a shock to a sophisticated Boston audience, although their Shakespearian "multi-art" version developed along other lines. In 1823 Boston Theatre had decided to commemorate Shakespeare with a stage pageant. The Jubilee became very popular and, it was reported, "invariably attracted a large and highly gratified audience".22 A procession of celebrated Shakespeare characters passed across the stage against the background of Shakespeare’s house at Stratford-on-Avon;

  • 23 Ibid., p. 220.

the tragedies preceded by the tragic muse with her appropriate emblems in a chariot drawn by fiends; and the comedies in a car drawn by satyrs. and surrounded by youth, frolic and good humor. In illustrations of the genius of the great poet of human nature, a selection of scenes was made by different performers.23

A "Prize Ode, " especially composed for the occasion, was recited during the whole length of the procession. The Ode written by Charles Ssprague was much quoted and anthologized and became one of the many Shakespearian manifests of the period. It last stanza runs as follows:

  • 24 Writings of Charles Sprague, Now First Collected. New York: Charles S. Francis, 1841.

Realms yet unborn, in accent now unknown
Thy song shall learn, and bless it for their own.
Deep in the West, as Independence roves,
His banners planting round the land he loves,
Where Nature sleeps in Eden’s infant grace,
In time’s full hour shall spring a glorious race.24

Ths stage in Boston had been transformed into the New Republic populated by her people, the "youth, frolic, and [with] good humour." The wisdom of the old country pours into the new where it is received, blessed, and reactivated. Shakespeare affects the "land of Eden, " inspiring it, drawing its loose end together, uniting the West with the East. The Shakespeare Jubilee on the Boston stage in 1823-24 was a celebration of the integrating power of Shakespeare.

  • 25 M. R. Warner, Barnum, New York: Garden City Publishing, 1923, p. 65.
  • 26 P. T. Barnum, Struggles and Triumphs; or, Forty Years’ Recollections, Buffalo, New York: The Courie (...)
  • 27 "Shakespeare’s House, " The Literary World. 2 (1848), 233. See also Churchill, p. XXIX.

9To move from a Boston theatre to a New York circus would seem to suggest a shift of the social perspective and, as a consequence, also of the artistic expression. Again, this is only partly true. The Jubilee, it is more correct to say, was only a "politer" concretization of Shakespeare’s unremitting relationship with the American people. For P. T. Barnum, one of America’s most reputed nineteenth century entrepreneurs in show business, to include Shakespeare in his programme was then really concurrent with the public demands. In his "Museum" he staged models of the Niagara Falls, mermaids, notorious "curiosities" (such as apes, Africans, and deformed human beings), whatever would attract an audience and a dime. In the adjacent Lecture Room the visitor could also enjoy theatrical performances of "Moral Dramas." The entertainment should combine in the best American tradition moral principles and amusement. His objective was, he declared stoutly, to "elevate and refine such amusements as I dispensed, " and he added cautiously, "even Shakespeare’s dramas were shorn of their object ignoble features when placed upon the stage."25 Shakespeare in America was at home among charlatans, humbugs, and mountebanks. Barnum’s nose for what his public revered made him cherish the fabulous idea of buying Shakespeare’s house at Stratford-on-Avon and transport it to America to make it part of his circus.26 27He knew perfectly well that this project – if accomplished – would have been a commercial and patriotic knock-out. However, the English, realizing finally that the American was serious, allied their forces. A society was founded at Stratford-on-Avon and the house was bought and preserved for his countryman.

  • 28 The full title runs An Essay on Charles Knight’s Imperial Shakespeare, Embracing Biographical Sketc (...)
  • 29 See, i-e., Dictionary of Shakespearian Quotations. Exhibiting the Most Forcible Passages Illustrati (...)
  • 30 Happy Thought! Dempsey & Carroll; Gleanings from Shakespeare. Ed. George D. Carroll, New York; Demp (...)
  • 31 The Prompt-Book. Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet as Presented by Edwin Booth. Ed. William Winter, N (...)
  • 32 Today it is. Yet bowdlerizing goes on in American schools. See Dorothy Wickenden, "How to Protect Y (...)

10Shakespeare was indeed common property that could be exploited almost for any purpose. The morals of it were seldom questioned. Is this "reverence cum exploitation, " you may ask, the best confirmation of a writer’s enduring influence; of his being alive? I think so. Shakespeare was useful in so many ways- Special manuals with odds and ends from the Shakespeare treasure house were composed to cater to various needs. Businessmen were encouraged to consult John C. Yorton’s An Essay on Charles Knight’s Imperial Shakespeare;28 foreigners and young people (!) were advised to study editions that had been thoroughly pruned;29 women and children, another cherished group were offered handbooks with appropriate "scenes" from Shakespeare; the publishers Dempsey & Carroll specialised in arty books with quotations from Shakespeare to go with invitations, letter heads, etc.30 To accustom Shakespeare to contemporary sensibilities was a task enthusiastically adopted and marvellously accomplished. The actor, reader, educationalist, businessman projected Shakespeare in cooperation with a public constantly on the look-out for new merchandise. The adaptations of his texts, were made according to this overriding rule- We have already seen what happened if the rule was violated and the public urges ignored- Edwin Booth, the most celebrated of the American actors to appear in the 1860’s, shortened his Hamlet by at least 1000 lines, rejecting certain speeches as "impediments to... directness of dramatic effect, " transposed, altered, softened phrases, but declared that a "conscientious effort has been made to construct an Acting version... which yet should escape the reproach of having garbled the original."31 This dual and antagonistic purpose was in no way considered hypocritical.32

  • 33 See, i. e., The American Shakespeare Magazin for the year 1894.
  • 34 Henry W. Simon, The Reading of Shakespeare in American Schools and Colleges; An Historical Survey. (...)

11The Americans loved to be thrilled by the eloquent phrase, moved by the pathos in it, agitated by the action. In Shakespeare there was a superabundance of it- Mediating it became a craft and a trade- Readers and lecturers of Shakespeare toured the country and filled the halls; schools or centres of recitation cropped up in many places; Shakespeare societies were founded in most big cities during the last quarter of the century. Newspapers and magazines swarmed with advertisements in the 80’s and 90’s where readers of Shakespeare offered their customers exercises and drills in recitation, oratory, stage technique, and even full-length scenes from plays. From Anna Randall-Diehl’s Shakespeare service one could rent "The Marriage of Falstaff: A Shakespearean Comedy" that put on show characters such as Cleopatra, "the star-eyed goddess worsted in a fencing bout, " Falstaff, "the perennial lover becomes a happpy Benedict, " and Juliet, who "flirts without a ba lkony."33 The American fondness for recitation, elocution and the farce is combined into a marketable product. The scenes her firm offers for sale or rent are the Moral Dramas (although here perverted for comic purposes) of the amateur troops touring the frontier towns or the "half professionals" of the Barnum circus. Not unexpectedly these resembled the more or less similar scenes or set speeches that were included in the early (1830-1860) American "readers, " such as the Mc Guffey Readers.34 These taught thousands of Americans throughout the antebellum years the art of elocution and standards of behaviour. Shakespeare’s name was not memntioned in these early books- Like in oral culture issues such as authorship or origin were not essential. The "text" survived through memorization and repetition, and because it could be transliterated. "Oral" and "graphic" Shakespeare existed side by side for a long time, interacting and strengthening each other.

II. INTERACTION

12If, in our search for the American image of Shakespeare, we leave the Frontier saloon, the metropolitan theatre, the class of elocution and recitation, and the street corner and enter the lecture hall, the reading club, and the Shakespearean society, we will probably meet another Shakespeare, another mode of presenting him and perhaps also "more informed" readers. What remains the same is the enthusiasm for his art. What is dissimilar is the viewpoint. The readers we now confront placed Shakespeare in a continuum of history. Shakespeare, the Renaissance man, was restored; his biography, lineage, heritage became issues of vital significance. In the process towards an independent American expression and style, an American literature, he was allocated the rôle of an intermediary and a monitor. He revitalized the bonds with the Old Country; he was a synthesizer of the past and the now; of universal and continental values and local, national aspirations; of dependence, association, expansiveness, and originality.

  • 35 Lectures on Shakespeare. 2 vols., New York: Barber and Scribner, 1848, p. vii.
  • 36 Anon. Review of H. N. Hudson’s Lectures of Shakespeare. The Literary World. 3 (1848), 302.
  • 37 Ibid., p. 302.
  • 38 Review of Hudson’s Lectures. The North American Review. 67 (1848), 102.
  • 39 "Miscellany, " Shakespeariana. 5 (1888)), 45.
  • 40 Shakespeare; A Biographical Aesthestic Study, Boston; Lee and Shephard Publ., 18793 pp. 20-1.
  • 41 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare with a Life of the Poet, Explanatory Foot-Notes, Critical (...)
  • 42 Approximations of the Bible and Shakespeare characterize a number of manuals that appeared in the m (...)
  • 43 Cf. William J. Rolfe, Shakespeare the Boy. New York; Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1896.
  • 44 See, i.e., Charles W. Stearns, Shakespeare Treasury of Wisdom and Knowledge, New York; G. P. Putnam (...)

13In a survey of this kind one is immediately struck by the recurrence of a dilemma that faced every second critic of Shakespeare in nineteenth century America. How to combine the alleged "immensity" of Shakespeare, his overreaching "sublimity, " genius, and universality, with the dreariness embodied in the urge to introduce him and teach him to layers of the population for whom he was at best a household name? The educationalist point of view was furthermore complicated by the desire to use Shakespeare as the purveyor of local American norms. H. N. Hudson, one of the century’s most influential American Shakespearians, teacher, editor, and scholar, admitted that his lectures of Shakespeare, published in 1848, were not "so properly on Shakespeare as on human nature, Shakespeare being the text."35 The "text" is here the keyword. In reference to Shakespeare it came to signify a number of things. On one level it signalled an analogy with the reverence and deification that the Scriptural text normally carried with it; on another it represented the idiom and style of household and proverbial Shakespearee; and on a third, it invited close scrutiny and emendation of his language. When understood in its spiritual sense the "text" embodied a world inhabited by the "moving maze of humanity."36 In it pulsates life in all its sundry aspects, it was said. "It is the oneness of humanity, this harmony with life, which stamps the greatness of Shakespeare, " explained one reviewer of Hudson’s book.37 "The wonder is, " commented Edwin Percy Whipple, "not that Shakespeare could have created so many characters, but that he could comprehend a world in so few."38 The content and scope of Shakespeare’s vision are so large and comprehensive, it was declared, that they only could have been conceived by someone "possessed" with Godlike inspiration. Shakespeare’s competitor was God himself. Romantic cliches of this kind were frequently adhered to. W. J. Rolfe, another prominent educationalist and school book editor of Shakespeare, called Shakespeare’s works a "lay Bible" that insspired and taught.39 George Henry Calvert compared the wisdom contained in the text with that of the old prophets, "Shakespeare’s mind was an intensely glowing spark from the celestial soul of the universe, "40 and Hudson acknowledged the tendency of the time to "replace the Bible with Shakespeare as our master-code of practical wisdom and guidance."41 So the Bible is being substituted by the Shakespeare canon. In it the Americans discovered a synthesis of home-spun wisdom and spiritual truth. The deification of Shakespeare was accompanied by the secularization of the Bible.42 The scientific leanings of the time favoured this development. Shakespeare’s works were spiritualized. The explorers of his texts were on the lookout for comprehensive structures of beliefs, for aesthetic and moral principles that could be adhered to by everyone – and they found them. Shakespeare thus became a cult figure with messianic gifts. Hagiographic studies focused on what was believed to be the creator of the Shakespeare world. They were commonly presented in the form of anecdotes or parables.43 In these he was projected as the Chief Reformer or the supreme possessor of the Emersonian "Over-Soul."44 Typical expressions of the exaltation of Shakespeare are the following ejaculations:

  • 45 Calvert, Shakespeare: A Biographic Aesthetic Study, p. 111.

What an ideal of human mental power! What an individuality for the expansion and elevation of the standard of man’s capacity! How grandly and tenderly populous must have been that large, deep viviparous brain!45

Shakespeare was not only the man sanctified by God, the universal man, the representative man in whom had merged human and spiritual qualities, he was also the Genius and the Hero of his America. The devaluation of the classics, and the search for national modus of expression, and, indeed, for national heroes, paradoxically, boosted the worship of him. The "otherness” of his background could be adjusted and modified by the attention paid to aspects of his works that were considered American subjects. So Shakespeare developed into a local hero, a true Transcendentalist. His works could thus be studied as exemplary of the fusion of art and life; every line in his text could be examined for the light it cast on the whole; every line required the reader’s cooperation, moral, emotional, and intellectual. The keynote in most late-century representations of his art was then the very American concept "organic.” In Hiram Corson’s books on Shakespeare, intended for colleges and Shakespeare societies, there is a combination of all the various usages of Shakespeare we have considered in this section. The moral, the spiritual and the aesthetic lesson of Shakespeare, he admonished, must moreover be responded to on a personal level.

  • 46 An Introduction to a Study of Shakespeare, Boston: D. C. Heath & Co., Publishers, 1980, p. 24. See (...)

What material for an artistic education is everywhere present in Shakespeare!... The whole organism of a play is made to serve the soul of the play... there is a higher vital unity which results from a dominant, all-pervading, moulding and unifying feeling.46 [original italics]

  • 47 See a note about his lecturing in The Literary World. 8 (1851), 94-5.
  • 48 The Shakspearian Reader. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1858, pp. viii, X. His Historical Shakspearia (...)
  • 49 Hows, The Shakspearian Reader, p. vii.
  • 50 See, i.e., William Dodd, The Beauties of Shakspeare Regularly Selected from Each Play with a Genera (...)
  • 51 How to Study Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday & Mc. Clure Co., 1898, p. vii. In the Preface Rolfe m (...)

14Although the systems of thoughts through which Shakespeare emerged in America were European, the content of his reception was definitely American. The educationalists, as we have seen, adopted him without hesitation. He was deemed extremely valuable in many ways. We have noted the use made of him in classes of elocution and rhetoric. Public readings, interspersed with references about his canon, style, and biography, were extremely lucrative business. Shakespeare was the teacher of the American people. Sometimes a public reader "acted" his text, thus combining in his performance the rôles of the reciter, interpreter, and actor. Such a public reader, among hundreds of others, was John W. Hows. He "performed, " taught classes, and published text books.47 His Shakespearian Reader (first issued in 1845) became the standard edition in literary education throughout the country. The book includes extracts from "sixteen of Shakespeare’s most approved Dramas, " prepared with "such a carefully expurgated Text, that the Book may be introduced into our Schools with perfect confidence by the most fastidious teacher; and with equal propriety it can be used for reading aloud in the most refined and pure-minded Family, or Social Circle."48 Apart from impressing "upon the mind of the pupil that words are the exposition of thought, and that in reading, or speaking, every shade of thought and feeling [in Shakespeare] has its approppriate shade of modulated tone, "49 selections of this kind professed two other purposes: to furnish examples of wisdom and to offer practical, everyday instruction. So the "approved Dramas" in these selections were uncermoniously distilled to exhibit virtues such as manhood, dignity, courage, love and marriage, but also handy information about gardens, foreign towns, follies of travellers, weak women, insanity.50 But the didacticism pursued always had an American bent, an American content. To use Shakespeare as an overall ideological moral tool and repository had become an obsession. All kinds of persuasive means were adopted to suggest new functions and usages. William H. Fleming made his How to Study Shakespeare "a small, handy edition, " to facilitate reading while making "exits and entrances as on the stage, and introducing gesticulation and byplay at discretion."51 Explanatory notes, annotations, references, surveys of contemporary discussions filled the pages of the editions and the manuals. Specialized studies of Shakespeare’s music, law, language, etc. proliferated. There seemed to be no slackening of interest.

  • 52 C. Alphonso Smith, "Why Young Men Should Study Shakespeare, " in How to Study Shakespeare. New York (...)
  • 53 See, i.e., Wn Taylor Thom, "Introduction of Shakespeare into the Schools, " Shakespeariana, 1 (1883 (...)
  • 54 Hamilton Wright Mabie, "How to Study Shakespeare", in How to Study Shakespeare, 1907, p. 2.

15On the most mundane level, in the classroom, the presentation of Shakepeare was infinetely rehearsed, and varied. Through familiarity with the grand ideals that Shakespeare stood for the student was to attain self-knowledge, a better understanding of moral values, better knowledge of human nature, because, it was pointed out, "no one can expect to become a successful preacher, teacher, doctor, editor, lawyer, or businessman, who does not have a keen appreciation of the motives that govern men in the ordinary affairs of life-"52 But the study of Shakespeare was also to improve, as we have noted, the student’s sense of style and language. Energy of expression, clarity, strength, beauty, and sublimity were some of the pedagogical or prescriptive goals that could be reached through the use of Shakespeare as a text book. Ambitious batteries of study questions and notes were integrated with the extracts and the characterizations.53 Symptomatically, these matter-of-fact suggestions were not too seldom accompanied by warnings The student must never "lose the feeling of reverence which such a spirit inspires; that he is handling human documents and not the stuff of which grammars and rhetorics are made."54 This double perspective caused a di lemma.

  • 55 William Allan Neilson, Ashley Horace Thorndike, The Facts about Shakespeare, New York: The Macmilla (...)

16In all these delineations of Shakespeare prophet and the teacher of the Americans, the associations and the circumstances of his life, place and period were acknowledged. England, the country of Shakespeare’s origin and inspiration, was not lost sight of. "In a democracy still young and widely separated from older nations and cultures, Shakespeare has become one of the links that bind the American public not only to the common inheritances of the English-speaking races, but to the traditional culture of Europe-"55 The national and cultural background of Shakespeare was projected in several ways. One was to allege that the superiority of British culture originated in the genius of the Bard. "So great is his power and influence for good, " said Charles W. Steam,

  • 56 P. 350.

that it is admitted that he has much to do with developing and fixing some of the best traits in the character of the British people, and that their national greatness at this day is no small part due to the teaching of his single mind. Would that we of America, while our material character is yet forming, might be brought under the same wise and ennobling influence.56

  • 57 A History of Literature in America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904; William Shakespeare; A (...)
  • 58 See, "A Word on English Literature in America, " Poet Lore, 1 (1889), 210-13, Shakespeare and "Demi (...)
  • 59 The Works of Shakspeare. Ed. Hudson, 12 vols., Boston: Estes and Lauriat [1871], I, XIV, First publ (...)

Shakespeare was the empire builder; he was the spiritual and dynamic centre in which America was conceived. Barrett Wendell derived the caracteristics of American literature and culture from the "ancesstral" base; the emergency of a national literature in the nineteenth century departs from Elizabethan concepts such as spontaneity, versatility, brotherhood, and universality, which, he claimed, constitute singularly American qualities.57 Felix E. Schelling was another champion of these correspondences.58 The greatness of Shakespeare’s dramas, said Hudson, emanates from the "concentration of the whole spirit and efficacy of the English race and character." The plays are inexhaustible not because "Shakespeare was the greatest of human intellects, but rather because he was an Englishman."59 Thus the parading of the English character, English history, the English language was to instill in the mind of the reader ideas and values that were incumbent for the building of the New Republic.

  • 60 Wn. Taylor Thom, "Introduction of Shakespeare in the Schools, " p. 187.

If the American people is to remain true to its origin and worthy of its heritage from the race of Shakespeare, he must be studied by the American boys and girls- Nowhere else in our literature, is to be found so much of his ancestral instinct and passion for general and individual freedom, the greatest contribution of the Teuton to modern civilization.60

Statements of this nature were commonplace in the literature of Shakespeare. What is contemplated above all is the recycling of history- Present-day America is recapitulating the energy that once inspired the settlements- The activating of Shakespeare by American educationalists and propagandists for a national culture was motivated in this manner .

  • 61 Neilson, Thorndike, The Facts about Shakespeare, p. 187.

17So, as we have seen, Shakespeare was resorted to in endless ways and for a variety of reasons, ranging from the teaching of simple moral maxims and "useful facts" to the incorporating of him in the discussions about an indigenous culture. Shakespeare was also history and a sense of belonging was what the Americans longed for- Shakespeare could bridge the gaps and restore continuity- The enormous output of studies of Shakespeare, of his person, his place in history, his language, his style, and his way of thinking were oftent motivated by the urges to shape a nationality-By professing kinship with Shakespeare, by identifying themselves with the Elizabethans, with their acquisitiveness and boldness, the Americans formulated and processed traits imperative for the enforcement of an American culture, free from foreign influences. Shakespeare was "an important element in the education of a great democracy. "61

III. APPROPRIATION

  • 62 New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917, p. 191.
  • 63 Ibid., p. 192.
  • 64 Caroline Healy Dall, What We Really Know About Shakespeare, Boston: Robert Brothers, 1886, p. 83.
  • 65 Dunn, p. 267.
  • 66 "Walt Whitman on the Historical Plays, " The Literary World, 15 (1884), 376.
  • 67 "Shakespeare for America, " Poet Lore, 2 (1890), 492; it was a reply to a previous article in the m (...)
  • 68 See, Falk, pp. 114-15.

18In the annotated school editions of Shakespeare’s dramas in the reading club versions, in the biographical and other critical material on him, he was demonstratedly and ostentiously presented as the prototype of an American freedom fighter. He represented the ideals of personal worth, duty, civil rights, poignant passion, poetic imagination, all dear to the Americans. "It is to Shakespeare’s England that... Americans of today, of whatever stock they be, owe – the historic privileges that have made the New World a refuge for the oppressed and a hope for humanity, " said Charles Mills Gayley in a book entitled Shakespeare and the Founders of Liberty in America.62 This appropriation often took the form of rejection and was formulated as antitheses- America the land of liberty, where merit governs, is a stark contrast to England, a country ruled by "the favoritism of Kings or their fabled divinity."63 But Shakespeare, it was insisted in a handbook for children, "shows in his Plays that he sprung from the people; he cared for the people, their liberties, their rights, and their interests."64 The reception of Shakespeare was, as we have repeatedly discovered, charged with contradictions and paradoxes. The world views extracted from the dramas were open to antagonistic interpretations. Republic ideals could easily be identified in the plays. But the same readers who had discovered an embodiment of the temper of the young nation in the plays were confused by other findings. The hierarchical moral universe, the feudal system and the absolutism of divine order, in which Shakespeare’s plays were laid, jarred badly with the egalitarian impulses. It seemed impossible to unite these two views of Shakespeare; critical confusion was the consequence. Walt Whitman, although a great admirer of Shakespeare – well-known is the story about him sitting in the omnibuses on Broadway declaiming "stormy passages" from Julius Caesar or Richard III to passers-by65 – became later in life uncertain about what Shakespeare could contribute to American life. He vacillated between seeing in Shakespeare’s history plays a "controlling plan" according to which "the progression of the last two centuries has built this democracy which now holds secure lodgment over the whole civilized world, "66 and completely conflicting observations. On occasion, and especially when reflecting on the Comedies, he relegated Shakespeare to the dead past, which in opposition to the "region of the future” (the New World), is constituted of "the aesthetic, palaces, etiquette, the literature of war and love, the mythological gods, and the myths anyhow."67 Shakespeare, he implied, should be separated from the flux and flow of American critical thought and installed merely as a subject for historical research. But he realized of course that this was unlikely.68 Much more straightforward than Whitman was the spirited sports journalist Georg Wilkes who accused Shakespeare of altogether lacking human sympathy. Writing from "an American point of view, " he thought that Shakespeare had demeaned himself:

  • 69 Shakespeare, From an American Point of View; Including. an Inquiry as to His Religious Faith. and H (...)

Nay, worse than this, worse than this servility to royalty and rank, we never find him speaking of the poor with respect or alluding to the working classes without detestation or contempt.69

Shakespeare had betrayed his class and his proletarian origin. The complexity of views that his "world" encompassed was a mare’s nest in nineteenth-century orthodox thinking. The same questions were asked over and over again:

  • 70 Louis Marder, His Exits and Entrances; The Story of Shakespeare’s Reputation, p. 166.

Could a boy from a dirty market town in central England have produced the mightiest literature of mankind? Could a young man who was registered at neither Oxford nor Cambridge be familiar with Latin, Greek, court life, the customs of Italy, the pomp of heraldry, the intricacies of law – could he have taken all knowledge for his province?70

At no other time and place were the speculations and the inquiries about his authorship, the blank periods of his life, his physical appearance, etc. so fantastic and spectacular, but also so ambitious, as in nineteenth century America. The Americans simply had to know everything. Knowledge turned out to be a proviso, as it were, for their acceptance of him as their leader- When they failed to fill in the gaps they created their own image of the man and the writer and filled it with their own expectations and longings. Iconoclasm and idolatry thus worked hand in hand, each emerging from an American mould.

  • 71 Letter of Hawthorne to William D. Ticknor 1851- 1864, Newark, New Jersey: The Charterer Book Club, (...)
  • 72 See, i.e., Marder, pp. 170-71. The North American Review objected to her theory as "impertinent and (...)
  • 73 Hamlet’s Notebook, Boston and New York: Houghton, Miffler and Company, 1886, pp. 7-8.
  • 74 Discovery and Opening of the Cipher of Francis Bacon, Lord Verulan. Report to the British Museum, S (...)
  • 75 The Shakespearean Myth: William Shakespeare and Circumstantial Evidence. Cincinatti: Robert Clarke  (...)
  • 76 Shakspeare: in Fact and in Criticism. New York: William Evarts Benjamin, 1888, p. 280-

19It is foreseeable then that the most illustrious controversy of them all, the Baconian heresy, should have a local stamp. It reflected the concern about Shakespeare’s social allegiance and the allegations that he did not qualify as a carrier of democratic values. To claim that the plays were written by Bacon was to pronounce their affiliation with the English and English culture and discredit their unique importance for the Americans. The Baconian rage in the USA had definite nationalistic and political features. The American Baconians were as a rule Anglophiles. The most bizarre of them all was Delia Bacon, "this poor woman" as Hawthorne called her.71 She was anxious to please an English audience and published her notorious Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded simultaneously in both Boston and London (1857).72 In America she instigated long-winded debates and an immoderate book-selling industry that throve on the Shakespeare lore and cult. Delia Bacon embodied many American nineteenth century themes in the reception of Shakespeare: the inordinate curiosity about Shakespeare the author, the idealistic longings to capture the "spirit" of his text, the confusion over the ideological credos of his plays, and the determination to "dig up" the truth about him at any cost. She was the occultist. William Douglas O’Connor had a sounder mind than Miss Bacon, but was as persuasive and tenacious in projecting his view, in Hamlet’s Note Book. that Bacon and Shakespeare had collaborated. The authoratative camp that he appealed to for support included Lord Palmerstone, "the incarnation of solid British common sense" (as well as two judges of the Supreme Court of the United States).73 C. F. Ashmead Windle of San Francisco, one of the many possessors of the "keys" to the Shakespearian riddles, sent her version of the cipher method to the British Museum in the hope of reaching a more positive and understanding audience.74 The appropriation of Shakespeare in America could be painfully "unAmerican." Appleton Morgan, a fervent collector of Shakespeariana and a writer on many books on Shakespeare, tried the middle way and developed the thesis that Shakespeare was an editor and not an original writer.75 But Morgan, typically, also suggested that "Shakespeare may have been in the present United States" (he had found out that there were at least 30 persons named Shakespeare in the USA!).76 Here patriotism combined with iconoclasm, another strange feature in the American Shakespeare reception.

  • 77 "A List of Shakespeare Societies, " Shakespeariana. 5 (1888), 88-92. See also, J. V. L. "Shakespear (...)

20The Baconian heresy illustrated then a schism in the appropriation of Shakespeare in the USA. This rift was prominent in the organization of the Shakespeare societies, which were founded in most big cities in the 1870’s and 80’s. In fact, most of the perspectives of Shakespeare that we have examined hitherto are present here. The relationship between Shakespeare and nationalism was reflected in their goals, whether it was geared towards wining and dining, elocution and reading, studies of English culture, organization of festivals, or antiquarian research. In a list of Shakespeare societies published in the Shakespeariana of 1888 a column indicates whether the club opposed the Baconian theory or not; even the number of pro-Baconians is indicated.77 The registration was a demarcation line with implications far beyond the Shakespeare controversy. It gauged the particular society’s position as a carrier of national values.

  • 78 What We Really Know About Shakespeare, pp. 60-81.
  • 79 "Shakespeariana: Shakespeare’s Bones, " The Literary World, 14 (Oct. 6, 1883).

21Many of these clubs and societies were centres for hysteric worshipping of the man conceived as Shakespeare or retrieval of odd bits of information about him. If the referential segments of Shakespeare’s works (familiarity with his canon, his time, his style) were missing in the conception of him as an early nineteenth century saloon entertainer, his "text" or "voice" was still there addressing and communicating with the audience. In the cult movement of Shakespeare there was a little left of the writer and his "text." It is Shakespeare rejected and replaced by needs that had completely annihilated his art. The weirdest examples of this idolatry and romance could be picked up. Caroline Healey Dall, for instance, in her Shakespeare book for children already referred to, included as a piece of vital information a picture of Shakespeare’s gloves "in the possession of Horace Howard Furnass."78 Another well-know example is Delia Bacon’s project to explore Shakespeare’s tomb in England, which stirred a lot of feelings on both sides of the Atlantic.79 The cult of Shakespeare perverted the interest in him. Sarah Warner Brooks, one of the many New England women literati, was so paralysed by the obligation to write on Shakespeare in her Engl ish Poetry and Poets that she was only able to quote:

  • 80 English Poetry and Poets, Boston; Estes and Lauriat, 1890, p. 143.

My unaccustomed pen may not dare attempt to gauge a mind whose myriad powers have been for three hundred years the fond and inexhaustible theme of scholar, poet, and sage; and here I can but quote literally from Craik....80

  • 81 Wit. Humor. and Shakespeare, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1879, p. 251.

Thus Shakespeare, literally, had become a monument, his text untouchable. It was safer to tread the bypaths. Naturally the indulgence in the paraphernalia and fantasy that the Shakespeare studies were buried in were attacked and ridiculed. John Weiss remarked that Shakespeare’s plays had been turned into "a system of theology." "These operations have enriched literature with its most grandiose specimens of futility,” he added.81 The most virulent of the debunkers of "the wonder-seeking school of Shakespearian criticism" was Richard White, the famous editor and textual critic of Shakespeare.

  • 82 "The Anatomizing of William Shakespeare, " At l ant ic Monthly, 53 (1884), 595. See Robert P. Falk, (...)

More inflated nonsense, more pompous platitude, more misleading speculation, has been uttered upon Shakespeare and his plays than upon any other subject but music and religion.82

An English viewpoint was provided by William Jaggard, no less ruthless in the castigation of the idolatry of Shakespeare than the American critics. However, it is noteworthy that his rebuke is complemented by a condescending British attitude.

  • 83 Shakespeare Bibliography; A Dictionary of Every Known Issue of the Writings of Our National Poet an (...)

It is not surprising that a land of extremes like America should furnish Baconian cranks and Shakespearian zealots at the same moment. Great Britain sincerely thanks the daughter-country for both. Even our friends the cranks have their uses. They encourage zealots... to study the glorious age of Queen Elizabeth to their infinite pleasure and advantage.83

Invectives of this kind hardly hide the inter-continental competetiveness that always has been an issue in Shakespearean scholarship. Shakespeare had sunk deep into the American soil and the Americans were erecting their own "monuments to honour him". Idolizing him was just another expression of it. The British laughed on occasion, but more often they were simply astounded at the energy with which the American appropriated Shakespeare.

  • 84 See, Jane Sherzer, "American Editions of Shakespeare; 1753-1866," PMLA. 22 (1907), 633-96-

22He really was an "American" writer. The Americans persistently demonstrated the network of alliances than united them with him; they sought to be acknowledged as his staunch and competitive critics and well-informed readers; they insisted on his unlimited resourcefulness and exploited it disrespectfully and audaciously. Shakespeare’s position in American culture was repeatedly confirmed and qualified, in editing, commemorating, and emphasizing American connexions, American scholarship. Chauvinism not too often replaced nationalism, as the Americans were busy "nationalizing" him. Very early in the century there came forth suggestions to produce an American edition of Shakespeare’s plays and not just unoriginal, unauthentic reprints of English editions.84 The following extract from 1829 explains the reasons for such a venture and in what ways it would qualify as an American one;

  • 85 Anon. review of Nathan Drake’s Memorial of Shakspeare, The American Quarterly Review. 6 (1829), 32.

During the last four years... the plays of Shakespeare were performed much less frequently in London than in New York and Philadelphia... and there are no longer any sources of information to be obtained in England, which are not equally accessible here; all that is requisite has been done to revise and correct the text, ... what remains is to be rather the work of judgment, taste, and genius, than of labour and research.85

  • 86 A. M. [Appleton Morgan], "Shakespeare’s American Editors, " Shakespeariana. 6 (1889), 539.
  • 87 Falk, "Shakespeare in America; To 1900, p. 111.
  • 88 The Literary World, 4 (1852), 263.
  • 89 Shakespeare’s Scholar; Historical and Critical Studies of his Text, Characters, and Commentators, w (...)
  • 90 E. A. Abbot, "White’s Shakespeare, " North American Review, 88 (1859), 251. See also, "The American (...)
  • 91 "Shakespeare in America, " p. XXXIX. See, also, "American Shakespearians, " The Literary World. 12  (...)
  • 92 The Works of William Shakespeare, Boston, Little Brown and Company, 1865, I, XXXIV.

The edition should be an artifact produced by American intelligence and imagination for the American people (and, it was implied, not primarily a contribution to Shakespearian research). The Americans got their own editions. In 1847 Gulian C. Verplanck published the first independent American edition, without the load of continental "imbecility" as one American critic put it.86 Then followed the eleven-volume edition by Hudson, "the indefatigable publicist and romantic salesman of Shakespeare."87 For some years at least it was thought the best American edition, having greatly advanced the "manliness of the country, " as one reviewer termed it.88 It was vastly superceeded by Richard Grant White’s Work of William Shakespeare (1857-65). His editorial principles were for the time original. "I read Shakespeare pure and simple, " he said, "no thinking man, or ordinary information and intelligence need the aid of editors and commentators to help him to full understanding and enjoyment of nearly every passage that come from Shakespeare’s pen."89 His textual criticism based on a close scrutiny of the word in context was helpful in instigating a tradition that a generation later was considered a new phenomenon in literary criticism. White’s position was antithetical: he reacted against the idealization of Shakespeare’s text that had its origin in Europe. His contemporaries were soon to recognize the "American" direction of his scholarship; "common sense is the characteristic of this edition, both in plan and in execution."90 Howard Horace Furness, the third great American nineteenth century editor (the "New Variourum" Shakespeare, 1871-1907), was also lauded for his diligence and exact scholarship; "no greater monument has been erected to Shakespeare in America than Furness’s own work, " said George B. Churchill addressing the German Shakespeare Society in 1906.91. The American editions of Shakespeare, it was recognized, were grandiloquent expressions of American scholarship and enterprise; they also constituted the long sought-for affirmation that Shakespeare in the USA was not only "popular" culture. Shakespeare spanned the country and helped to harmonize the discordant parts." Here is my peace-offering, " said White when he had finished his momentous edition in 1865.92 "American" studies of Shakespeare were differentiated in many areas; in editing, in education, in scholarship, in popular publishing, in advertising, in business. The American Shakespeareans became a caste of their own acquiring a special kind of national reputation and recognition.

23A "national" hero and an "American" classic should not only have his monitors and interpreters, a real monument, a statue, was required and funds were solicited. It was finally erected in Central Park, New York City, in 1872, amid 6,000 people who had gathered to honour the occasion-The event triggered an enormous outburst of patriotic and sentimental feelings; poems, encomiums, songs and articles celebrated the bard, whose birth three hundred years earlier seemed to the Americans a sheer anacronism- A few lines from one of the poems composed for the event sum up the possessiveness and enthusiasm the Americans experienced at that time. Shakespeare was their prophetlike leader and their revolutionary, "the Land’s first Citizen":

  • 93 Churchill, p. XXX. See, also, Marder, pp. 325-6.

To urge, resist, encourage and subdue
He came, a household ghost we could not ban;
He sat on winter nights, by cabin fires;
His summer fairies linked their hands
Along our yellow sands;
He preached within the shadow of our spires;
And when the certain Fate draw night to cleave
The birth-cord, and a separate being leave.
He in our ranks of patient-hearted men
Wrought with the boundless forces of his fame,
Victorious and became
The Master of our Thought, the Land’s first Citizen.93

24Cultural nationalism, we have discovered, often defined itself in antithetical terms. American culture as it was expressed in the reception of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century departed from, or was provoked to depart from, composite views or "images" pertaining to Europe or England-The Americans viewing Shakespeare saw then a variety of things dependent on their reference point. "Seeing" him could be taking part in an extemporal cultural event, such as the Barnum "circus, " the Boston Jubilee, or the New York class of elocution. The object here was the "text" itself. It was part of the communicative process. When this process was disturbed, dislocation occurred and alien features became visible. Shakespeare’s "text" was shattered and the viewer of Shakespeare had to accomodate its various bits and pieces to make it conform with his own world view. The "alien" culture intervened. The "text" had expanded temporally and spatially- Two things now happened (each part of the same process): interaction and appropriation. The interaction involved a new form of communication between the subject and the dislocated object. The viewer of Shakespeare adopted foreign models of thinking but transformed them to suit the requisites and pecularities of his own life and culture. Approximations took place. Shakespeare, universal man and prophet, became an American Redeemer and moralist; Shakespeare the Renaissance man became the hereditary principle that provided the young Republic with a history. The viewer of Shakespeare was here compelled to scrutinize the reflection he received and assess its importance for himself. The more pronounced the appropriation of Shakespeare the more self-conscious was the expression of cultural nationalism. The nationalization of Shakespeare (one emblem of it being the bust in Central Park), the transfiguration of him into a political leader, and the idolizing of him, were only possible as overt acts of discrimination and dislocation. England was viewed, but it was no longer Shakespeare’s England. They were seen as separate entities. The reception of Shakespeare in the nineteenth century America was as complex as was many-coloured the cultural landscape of the country.

Notes de fin

1 For these generalizations about the "image" I am indebted to Thomas Bleicher. See his article, "Elements einer komparatistischen Imagologie, " in Literarische Imagologie – Formen und Funktionen nationaler Stereotype in der Literatur, Komparatistische Hefte, 2 (1980), 12-24.

2 See George B. Churchill, "Shakespeare in America; An Address Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the German Shakespeare Society. April 23, 1906," Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft. Weimar. Jahrbuch. 42 (1906), XIII-XLV; Charles F. Johnson, Shakespeare and his Critics, Boston and New York; Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909; Robert Witbeck Babcock, The Genesis of Shakespeare Idolatry 1766-1799; A Study in English Criticism of the Late Eighteenth Century, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1931; Esther Cloudmann Dunn, Shakespeare in America, New York: The Macmillan Company 1939; Alfred van Renssela Westfall, American Shakespearian Criticism- 1607-1865. New York: The H. W. Wilson Company, 1939; Louis Marder, His Exits and Entrances; The Story of Shakespeare’s Reputation, Philadelphia, New York; J-B. Lippincott Company, 1963; James G. Me. Manaway, "Shakespeare in the United States, " PMLA. 79 (1964), 513-18; Robert Falk, "Shakespeare in America; A Survey to 1900," in Shakespeare Survey; An Annual Survey of Shakespearian Study and Production. 18, Cambridge: University Press, 1965, pp. 102-18; Lawrence W. Levine, "William Shakespeare and the American People: A Study in Cultural Transformation, " American Historical Review, 89 (1984), 34-66.

3 Dunn, p. 3; Falk, p. 103; Levine p. 58.

4 "Freron’s Critique on Shakespeare", Port Folio. 5 (1815), 8.

5 "Reply to Freron’s Critique on Shakespeare, " Port Folio, 5 (1815), 242-43.

6 bid: , p. 243. The performance that is reviewed is George Frederick Cooke acting Richard III. See Charles H. Shattuck, Shakespeare or the American Stage: From the Hallams to Edwin Booth, Amherst; The Folger Shakespeare Library, 1976, pp. 32-6.

7 "What is the Chief Excellence of Shakespeare?, " The Port ico, 5 (1818), 414.

8 Levine, p. 40.

9 Dunn, pp. 188-89.

10 Notions of the Americans; Picked Up by a Bachelor, 2 vols., Philadelphia: Carey, Lea, and Carey, 1828, I, 97.

11 "Shakspeare in America, " review of Thomas de Quincey’s Biographical Essays, in The Literary World 7 (1850), 348.

12 Pp. 187-8.

13 P. 45.

14 P. 50.

15 Shakespeare on the American Stage, p. 31.

16 William W. Clapp, Jr., A Record of the Boston Stage, Boston and Cambridge: James Munroe, 1853, p. 133.

17 Shattuck, pp. 42-3.

18 Ibid., p. 43; see also Levine, p. 60.

19 See Shattuck, pp. 70-87; Marder, pp. 308-11; Levine, pp. 61-2.

20 Shattuck, p. 63.

21 "The Drama: Mr Macready’s Macbeth, " The Literary World, 3 (1848), 734.

22 Clapp, A Record of the Boston Stage, p. 220.

23 Ibid., p. 220.

24 Writings of Charles Sprague, Now First Collected. New York: Charles S. Francis, 1841.

25 M. R. Warner, Barnum, New York: Garden City Publishing, 1923, p. 65.

26 P. T. Barnum, Struggles and Triumphs; or, Forty Years’ Recollections, Buffalo, New York: The Courier Company, 1880, p. 89.

27 "Shakespeare’s House, " The Literary World. 2 (1848), 233. See also Churchill, p. XXIX.

28 The full title runs An Essay on Charles Knight’s Imperial Shakespeare, Embracing Biographical Sketches of Author. Editor, Artists, Engravers. etc- with R. H. Stoddard’s Poem, Recited by Edwin Booth at the Unveiling of the Shakespeare Monument, Central Park, New York, May 23, 1872, 1976.

29 See, i-e., Dictionary of Shakespearian Quotations. Exhibiting the Most Forcible Passages Illustrative of the Various Passions. Affections and Emotions of the Human Mind. Selected and Arranged in Alphabetic Order, from the Writings of the Eminent Dramatic Poet. Philadelphia: F. Bell, 1851; Appelton Morgan, Digesta Shakespeareana. Being a Topical Index of Printed Matter (Other Than Literary or Aesthetic Commentary of Criticism) Relating to William Shakespeare, or the Shakespearean Plays and Poems. London; Trüber R. Co., Brentano Brother, New York, Washington, Chicago, 1877.

30 Happy Thought! Dempsey & Carroll; Gleanings from Shakespeare. Ed. George D. Carroll, New York; Dempsey & Carroll, The Art Stationers and Engravers, 1882.

31 The Prompt-Book. Shakespeare’s Tragedy of Hamlet as Presented by Edwin Booth. Ed. William Winter, New York; Francis Hart & Co., 1878, p. 4. – The "star system" was to be criticized, but only towards the end of the century, see, i-e., H. T. Parker, "Shakespeare the Playwright, " The Harvard Monthly. 6 (1838), 138-44.

32 Today it is. Yet bowdlerizing goes on in American schools. See Dorothy Wickenden, "How to Protect Your Kids from Shakespeare: Bowdlerizing the Bard, " The New Republic, June 3, 1985, pp. 17-19.

33 See, i. e., The American Shakespeare Magazin for the year 1894.

34 Henry W. Simon, The Reading of Shakespeare in American Schools and Colleges; An Historical Survey. New York; Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1932, pp. 26-7.

35 Lectures on Shakespeare. 2 vols., New York: Barber and Scribner, 1848, p. vii.

36 Anon. Review of H. N. Hudson’s Lectures of Shakespeare. The Literary World. 3 (1848), 302.

37 Ibid., p. 302.

38 Review of Hudson’s Lectures. The North American Review. 67 (1848), 102.

39 "Miscellany, " Shakespeariana. 5 (1888)), 45.

40 Shakespeare; A Biographical Aesthestic Study, Boston; Lee and Shephard Publ., 18793 pp. 20-1.

41 The Complete Works of William Shakespeare with a Life of the Poet, Explanatory Foot-Notes, Critical Notes, and a Glossary. Index. 10 vols., Harvard edition, Boston: Binn & Heath, I, XIV.

42 Approximations of the Bible and Shakespeare characterize a number of manuals that appeared in the mid-century: i.e. Religious and Moral Sentences Culled from the Works of Shakespeare Drawn from Holy Writ; Being a Selection of Religious Sentiments and Moral Precepts, Blended in the Dramatic Work, & c. of Our Immortal Bard, London; Calkin & Budd, 1843; Religious and Moral Sentences Culled from the Works of Shakespeare, Compared with Sacred Passages Drawn from Holy Writ. Boston and Cambridge; James Munroe and Company, 1853; Shakespeare Morals; Suggestive Selections, with Brief Collateral Readings and Scriptural References. Ed. Arthur Gilman, New York; Dodd, Mead and Company, 1880.

43 Cf. William J. Rolfe, Shakespeare the Boy. New York; Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1896.

44 See, i.e., Charles W. Stearns, Shakespeare Treasury of Wisdom and Knowledge, New York; G. P. Putnam & Son, 1863; Denton J. Snider, System of Shakespeare’s Dramas, 2 vols., St. Louis; G. F. Jones and Company, 1877.

45 Calvert, Shakespeare: A Biographic Aesthetic Study, p. 111.

46 An Introduction to a Study of Shakespeare, Boston: D. C. Heath & Co., Publishers, 1980, p. 24. See also his A Primer of English Verse Chiefly in its Aesthetic and Organic Character, Boston: Ginn and Company, 1832; for early Romantic criticism of Shakespeare, see, i.e. Henry Reed, Lectures on English History and Tragic Poetry, as Illustrated by Shakespeare, Philadelphia: Parry & Mc. Miller, 1855.

47 See a note about his lecturing in The Literary World. 8 (1851), 94-5.

48 The Shakspearian Reader. New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1858, pp. viii, X. His Historical Shakspearian Reader. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1864, was another popular edition in American instruction of Shakespeare. See also, Thomas Bulfinch, Shakspeare Adopted for Schools and Reading Classes. Boston; B. W. Tilton and Company, 1877.

49 Hows, The Shakspearian Reader, p. vii.

50 See, i.e., William Dodd, The Beauties of Shakspeare Regularly Selected from Each Play with a General Index, Digesting Them under Proper Heads. Boston; T. Bedlington, 1827; Stearns, Shakspeare Treasury of Wisdom and Knowledge; Hudson, Plays of Shakespeare; Selected and Prepared for Use in Schools, Clubs, Classes, and Families, Boston: Ginn Brothers and Company, 1870; and Rolfe’s many school editions of various Shakespeare plays (The Merchant of Venice, The Tempest, Henry VIII. Julius Caesar, King Lear: ca- 1870- 1890).

51 How to Study Shakespeare. New York: Doubleday & Mc. Clure Co., 1898, p. vii. In the Preface Rolfe maintained that Fleming’s book was the only American edition indented for use in Shakespeare clubs; the English edition was not suitable in America (p. xi).

52 C. Alphonso Smith, "Why Young Men Should Study Shakespeare, " in How to Study Shakespeare. New York: The University Society, 1907, p. 14.

53 See, i.e., Wn Taylor Thom, "Introduction of Shakespeare into the Schools, " Shakespeariana, 1 (1883), 10- 11; Theodore D. Weld, "Shakespeare in the Class-Room, " Shakespeariana. 3 (1886), 437-50.

54 Hamilton Wright Mabie, "How to Study Shakespeare", in How to Study Shakespeare, 1907, p. 2.

55 William Allan Neilson, Ashley Horace Thorndike, The Facts about Shakespeare, New York: The Macmillan, 1913, p. 187.

56 P. 350.

57 A History of Literature in America. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904; William Shakespeare; A Study in Elizabethan Literature. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1894.

58 See, "A Word on English Literature in America, " Poet Lore, 1 (1889), 210-13, Shakespeare and "Demi-Science"; Papers on Elizabethan Topics. Philadelphia: Press of the University of Pennsylvania, 1927; Shakespeare’s Biography. And Other Papers Chiefly Elizabethan, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1937.

59 The Works of Shakspeare. Ed. Hudson, 12 vols., Boston: Estes and Lauriat [1871], I, XIV, First published in 1851 .

60 Wn. Taylor Thom, "Introduction of Shakespeare in the Schools, " p. 187.

61 Neilson, Thorndike, The Facts about Shakespeare, p. 187.

62 New York: The Macmillan Company, 1917, p. 191.

63 Ibid., p. 192.

64 Caroline Healy Dall, What We Really Know About Shakespeare, Boston: Robert Brothers, 1886, p. 83.

65 Dunn, p. 267.

66 "Walt Whitman on the Historical Plays, " The Literary World, 15 (1884), 376.

67 "Shakespeare for America, " Poet Lore, 2 (1890), 492; it was a reply to a previous article in the magazine, in; Jonathan Trumbull, "Walt Whitman’s View of Shakespeare, " Poet Lore, 2 (1890), 168-71.

68 See, Falk, pp. 114-15.

69 Shakespeare, From an American Point of View; Including. an Inquiry as to His Religious Faith. and His Knowledge of Law; with the Baconian Theory Considered, New York; D. Appleton and Company, 1882, p. 4. The reviewer in The Literary World. 8 (1877), 7, could not believe him to be serious!

70 Louis Marder, His Exits and Entrances; The Story of Shakespeare’s Reputation, p. 166.

71 Letter of Hawthorne to William D. Ticknor 1851- 1864, Newark, New Jersey: The Charterer Book Club, 1910, 2 vols., II, 33.

72 See, i.e., Marder, pp. 170-71. The North American Review objected to her theory as "impertinent and a merely, fine-spun, fanciful speculation." 85 (1857), 493.

73 Hamlet’s Notebook, Boston and New York: Houghton, Miffler and Company, 1886, pp. 7-8.

74 Discovery and Opening of the Cipher of Francis Bacon, Lord Verulan. Report to the British Museum, San Francisco, 1882.

75 The Shakespearean Myth: William Shakespeare and Circumstantial Evidence. Cincinatti: Robert Clarke & Co, 1881.

76 Shakspeare: in Fact and in Criticism. New York: William Evarts Benjamin, 1888, p. 280-

77 "A List of Shakespeare Societies, " Shakespeariana. 5 (1888), 88-92. See also, J. V. L. "Shakespeare Societies of America; Their Methods and Work, " Shakespeariana, 2 (1885), 480-88.

78 What We Really Know About Shakespeare, pp. 60-81.

79 "Shakespeariana: Shakespeare’s Bones, " The Literary World, 14 (Oct. 6, 1883).

80 English Poetry and Poets, Boston; Estes and Lauriat, 1890, p. 143.

81 Wit. Humor. and Shakespeare, Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1879, p. 251.

82 "The Anatomizing of William Shakespeare, " At l ant ic Monthly, 53 (1884), 595. See Robert P. Falk, "Critical Tendencies in Richard Grant White’s Shakespeare Commentary, " American Literature. 20 (1948), 144-54.

83 Shakespeare Bibliography; A Dictionary of Every Known Issue of the Writings of Our National Poet and Recorded Opinion theron in the English Language, Stratford-on-Avon: Shakespeare Press, 1911, p. vii.

84 See, Jane Sherzer, "American Editions of Shakespeare; 1753-1866," PMLA. 22 (1907), 633-96-

85 Anon. review of Nathan Drake’s Memorial of Shakspeare, The American Quarterly Review. 6 (1829), 32.

86 A. M. [Appleton Morgan], "Shakespeare’s American Editors, " Shakespeariana. 6 (1889), 539.

87 Falk, "Shakespeare in America; To 1900, p. 111.

88 The Literary World, 4 (1852), 263.

89 Shakespeare’s Scholar; Historical and Critical Studies of his Text, Characters, and Commentators, with an Examination of Mr. Collier’s Folio of 1632, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1854, pp. ix, xv.

90 E. A. Abbot, "White’s Shakespeare, " North American Review, 88 (1859), 251. See also, "The American Editors of Shakespeare; Richard Grant White, " Shakespeariana, 7 (1889), 406-9.

91 "Shakespeare in America, " p. XXXIX. See, also, "American Shakespearians, " The Literary World. 12 (1881), 88-9.

92 The Works of William Shakespeare, Boston, Little Brown and Company, 1865, I, XXXIV.

93 Churchill, p. XXX. See, also, Marder, pp. 325-6.

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