Professor Shapiro's book is history, but not past history. It's ongoing and all too painfully still-relevant history.

As he bounces back and forth between 1833 or 1916 and today, the similarities between Then and Now overwhelm the differences and Shapiro's title resonates a new, reminding us how divided we've been since our very beginnings with historical-tragical constantly muscling out pastoral-comical.

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.

Shakespeare in a Divided America : What His Play Tell Us About Our Past and Future by James Shapiro.

AMERICA is massive. Shakespeare is massive. When two such cultural hyper-objects meet, they are bound to create a black hole strong enough to suck in and warp just about anything around them.

James Shapiro analyzes the effects of their collision in his terrific new book, ''Shakespeare in a  Divided America : What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future.

If Jill Lepore and the late Tony Judt had collaborated, this taut, swift and insightful tract might have been the offspring. Yet Shapiro's subtitle is misleading : His subject is us, the U/S., not Shakespeare plays.

If you're worried about the current state of the Republic, this is a book that you will stoke your fears - while educating you on why you might justifiably be having them.
Shapiro is already a master of creating  Shakespeare treats for the literate common reader. His  ''1599'' : A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare"' and ''Contested Will; Who wrote Shakespeare?'' are as entertaining as nonfiction of recent year. Now he's outdone himself - no surprise, given his qualifications for this new volume.

He not only teaches English and comparative literature at Columbia, he serves on the board of directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company and is the Shakespeare scholar in residence at the Public Theater in New York.

He also edited the comprehensive ''Shakespeare in America'' anthology. Here, his combined scholarship and and theatrical experience help him examine - brilliantly - the notorious 2017 ''Julius Caeser'' in Central Park, in which a Donald Trump look-alike as Caesar was assassinated nightly to fierce outrage from the political right.

Did you know there was an epidemic of men spanking women in movies in the decade after 1938?

That young, pre-bearded Ulysses S Grant was cast as Desdemona in an Army production of ''Othello'' and rehearsed but never went on. Did you know that Steve Bannon wrote a screenplay for a sci-fi  ''Titus Andronicus'' as well as an alt right ''Coriolanus''? [Neither was produced]

That Abraham Lincoln's favorite play was ''Macbeth,'' one that helped secure the reputation of John Wilkes Booth. Lincoln's own Macbeth to be? It's all here and much more     :

The honor and serving of this outstanding book and work, continues. The World Students Society thanks Book Review author, David Ives.

David Ives is the author of many plays including ''All in the Timing,'' ''Venus in Fur'' and ''New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza.''


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