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[Detail] A French officer and his British ally at the front read the New York Times.

A Tribute to Shakespeare

In 1916, the New York Times issued a ten-part commemorative series in honor of the Shakespeare Tercentary, 1616-1916. The series began on February 20, 1916; the last issue in the series ran on April 23. The series featured numerous scholarly articles about Shakespeare and his work; for example, the April 2 issue presented an article by University of Minnesota professor Dr. Richard Burton entitled “And Not Properly Presented, Even Today.” In the March 5 issue, early feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman began an article with the following words

In so large a picture of life as opens to the reader of Shakespeare we may look with confidence for the facts, even as we should look for them in studying the vast original.

Indeed, as the artist sees more than an ordinary observer, and, by virtue of his art, makes the ordinary observer see what he would not otherwise have noticed, we find the characteristics of humanity more plainly to be studied through the great dramatist than as they push and tumble confusedly before us in living persons.

From “Shakespeare’s Heroines as Human Beings.” New York Times, March 5, 1916 [3].

Think about this quotation as you examine the New York Times tribute to William Shakespeare on the 300th anniversary of his death:

  • What was Charlotte Gilman Perkins saying in the two paragraphs quoted above? Paraphrase the quotation; that is, restate it in your own words.
  • Does the idea expressed by Perkins help explain the enduring appeal of Shakespeare’s plays? Why or why not? What other explanations for this appeal do you find in the Times’ stories about Shakespeare?
  • In the introduction to the series, how did the editors of the New York Times describe Shakespeare? What was their purpose in producing the ten-part series? How did the paper’s weekly feature promote the celebration of the tercentenary?
  • Look closely at the statues of Shakespeare shown on page 2 of the February 20 issue. How are the depictions similar? How are they different? Do you think they reflect the cultures of the nations where they are found? Why or why not?
  • If you were an editor of the New York Times, which article(s) would you reprint to mark the quadricentenary (400th anniversary) of Shakespeare’s death in 2016? Justify your selection.

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