This anthology traces the surprising story of how Americans made Shakespeare their own through a wide range of genres. The writers included range from the 1800s to the present day, and offer testimony to Shakespeare's profound and enduring influence.
But for the most part, Shakespeare in America is a soundly chosen, thoroughly readable collection. Some of its contents, such as Cole Porter’s lyric for “Brush Up Your Shakespeare,” are familiar. Others are real finds, among them a previously uncollected article in Saturday Review by the underrated film critic Hollis Alpert, writing about Joseph Mankiewicz’s 1953 screen version of Julius Caesar. Taken together, they go a long way toward answering the question implied in Shapiro’s pithy introduction: Why does Shakespeare continue to be more widely read than, say, Mark Twain or Robert Frost—or Arthur Miller? And of all the imaginative writers working in the English language, how did he become the only one in any genre to achieve something close to true ubiquity in a country whose citizens mostly prefer pop culture (or none at all) to high art?