Public Shakespeare

It is a testament to Shakespeare’s generic flexibility – his mixture of comedy and tragedy – that his works are appropriated to explain the news in both comic ways (the light-hearted mockery done in citation opportunism) and tragic ways (the solemn-minded analysis done by public Shakespeareans). If citational opportunism involves cultural critics using Shakespeare, public Shakespeare is scholars doing cultural criticism. Usually, allusions to Shakespeare in instances of citational opportunism are decorative, but allusions in public Shakespeare are substantive. Where citational opportunism tends to be about the Shakespearean line or character, public Shakespeare attends to the scene or situation. Citational opportunism employs a Shakespearean quotation or allusion with little or no analysis, but public Shakespeare presents sometimes extensive analysis of the text. Thus, the symbol of citational opportunism is the equals sign: it suggests one-to-one correspondences between Shakespearean lines or characters and modern politicians. Here Shakespeare’s value is rhetorical – his writing can make learning fun and memorable – and the purpose is usually to mock, to satirize, to suggest absurdity, and to elicit self-satisfied laughter. In contrast, the symbol of public Shakespeare is the lens: it identifies similar situations (and is at pains to qualify the analogy) to suggest similar interpretations. It exploits Shakespeare’s analytical value – knowledge derived from Shakespeare studies has valuable applications in non-literary contexts – and the purpose is to provide clarity, to make sense of the modern situation. In the end, the citational opportunism that attempts to establish equals signs between Shakespearean characters and modern people will always be suspect, but the public Shakespeareans who do a close reading of some Shakespearean text in an effort to do a close reading of some aspect of modern culture have the potential to be a productive force.

In a sense, public Shakespearans are doing in written, argumentative essays what modern-dress productions of Shakespeare have always done: reframing his texts in overtly modern terms to suggest similar interpretations of similar situations. Modern-dress productions used to be the first point of contact to discover the on-going resonances of Shakespeare’s plays in modern society. Now, public Shakespeare is reaching those audiences faster; more importantly, public Shakespeare is reaching more and different audiences. The modern resonances of Shakespeare’s plays are no longer restricted to theater-goers and those who can afford the price of the ticket: a democratization of Shakespearean appropriation.


Marjorie Garber, "The Bard Meets the Undead," New York Times (Nov. 25, 1994).

Marjorie Garber, "As they like it," Harper's (April 1999).

Stephen Greenblatt, “Friends, Americans, Countrymen…,” New York Times (Oct. 3, 2004).

Paula Marantz Cohen “Shylock, My Students, and Me.” The American Scholar (December 1, 2009).

James Shapiro, "Alas, poor Shakespeare," Los Angeles Times (April 11, 2010).

James Shapiro, "Hollywood Dishonors the Bard," New York Times (Oct. 16, 2011).

Noah Berlatsky, "Shakespeare's Conservatism," The Atlantic (Aug. 5, 2014).

Hannah Walser, “I Crave the Law,” Arcade (Dec. 20, 2014).

Holly Cricker, "The Hamlet Effect," Arcade (2015).

Stephen Greenblatt, “Teaching a Different Shakespeare From the One I Love,” The New York Times Magazine (Sept. 11, 2015).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner,  "Why We (Mostly) Stopped Messing With Shakespeare's Language," The New Yorker (Oct. 5, 2015).

James Shapiro, "Shakespeare in Modern English?" New York Times (Oct. 7, 2015).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, "What Kind of Novels Did Shakespeare Write?" The New Yorker (Nov. 9, 2015).

R.L., “Why lawyers love Shakespeare,” The Economist (Jan. 8, 2016).

Damian Flannagan, “In search of Japan's own Shakespeare,” The Japan Times (April 23, 2016).

Stephen Greenblatt, “Shakespeare Explains the 2016 Election,” The New York Times (Oct. 8, 2016).

H.G., “How to translate Shakespeare into American Sign Language,” The Economist (Nov. 3, 2016).

Isaac Butler, "The Throne Room Where It Happens," Slate (Nov. 7, 2016).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, "Two Ways to Bring Shakespeare into the Twenty-First Century," The New Yorker (Dec. 2, 2016).

Matteo Pangallo, "You're All Liars: Donald Trump as Shakespeare's Saddest Villain," The Shakespeare Standard (Feb. 11, 2017).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, "The Radical Argument of the New Oxford Shakespeare," The New Yorker (Feb. 19, 2017).

Laura Collins-Hughes, “Using Shakespeare to Ease the Trauma of War,” The New York Times (March 9, 2017).

Sydnee Wagner, "Rewriting Othello in Get Out,” Racing Backwards (March 18, 2017).

Jesse Green, “Can Trump Survive in Caesar’s Palace?” The New York Times (June 9, 2017).

Matt Trueman, "Building Shakespeare’s Globe,” Globe Magazine (June 12, 2017).

Anita Diamant, “Who Will Believe Thee? Shakespeare's 'Measure For Measure' On Weinstein, Trump And Justice,” WBUR (Oct. 16, 2017).

Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore, “If a Shakespeare play is racist or antisemitic, is it OK to change the ending?” The Guardian (Nov. 3, 2017).

Alicia Andrzejewski, "Ophelia’s Rue," Synapsis (Nov. 26, 2017).

Mark Lawson, “Bard Example: Can Shakespeare Translate to the Small Screen?” The Guardian (April 2, 2018).

Matteo Pangallo, "Kids These Days: Romeo and Juliet and #NeverAgain," The Shakespeare Standard (April 10, 2018).

Alicia Andrzejewski, "Postpartum Exhaustion in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Now," Synapsis (April 29, 2018).

Kathryn Vomero Santos, “WTF, Shakespeare,” Shakespeare Quarterly Web Exclusives.

Kathryn Vomero Santos, "How Royal History is Changing the Future," CNN (May 23, 2018).

Austin Tichenor, “Shakespeare’s patriotic empathy,” Shakespeare & Beyond (July 13, 2018).

Walt Hunter, “When Hamlet Starts Showing Up in Federal Court,” The Atlantic (June 13, 2018).

Lee Seymour, “Is Shakespeare The Key To Detroit's Recovery?” Forbes (Sept. 10, 2018).

Michæl Lutz, "Love/Alters/Not: Bisexuality, History, and the Present," Medium (Sept. 12, 2018).

Peter C. Herman, "Shakespeare, Kavanaugh and an Ancient Theme of Sexual Hypocrisy," Times of San Diego (Sept. 24, 2018).

Benet Brandreth, “The Murderous Playwrights of Elizabethan England,” CrimeReads (Sept. 24, 2018).

Yuan Yang, “The Bard in Beijing: how Shakespeare is subverting China,” Financial Times (Oct. 5, 2018).

Paul Krause, “Shakespeare, a Political Theorist Too,” Marion West (Oct. 15, 2019).

Gary Taylor, “Death of an English Major,” Tampa Bay Times (Nov. 9, 2018).

Rebecca Yearling, “Snowflakes and Trigger warnings: Shakespearean Violence has Always Upset People,” The Conversation (Nov. 22, 2018).

Michael Anderegg, “Was it the first Shakespeare film? The silent King John,” Shakespeare & Beyond (Nov. 27, 2018).

Iman Lavery, “What Shakespeare Can Tell Us About School Shootings,” Public Seminar (Dec. 12, 2018).

Jeffrey Masten, "Philology's Queer Children: Imitation, Authorship, and Shakespeare's "Natural" Language," Arcade (2019).

Jane Hwang Degenhardt, "Between Shakespeare, the World, and Me," The Rambling 3 (Jan. 26, 2019).

Emily Lanthrop, "Teaching and Taming: On Bianca in The Taming of the Shrew and #MeToo," The Rambling 3 (Jan. 26, 2019).

Carol Mejia LaPerle, "Suicide and State Power at the Columbus Statehouse and in Othello," The Rambling 3 (Jan. 26, 2019).

Henry Turner, "Pragmatism, Race, and the Collective Subject in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors," The Rambling 3 (Jan. 26, 2019).

Emily Weissbourd, "Lee Garrett, The Bachelorette’s Incompetent Iago," The Rambling 3 (Jan. 26, 2019).

Laura Kolb, “The Very Modern Anger of Shakespeare’s Women,” Electric Literature (Feb. 6, 2019).

Stuart Kells, "How the Invisible Hand of William Shakespeare Influenced Adam Smith," Smithsonian (April 9, 2019).

Elizabeth Winkler, "Was Shakespeare a Woman," The Atlantic (June 7, 2019). Plus Responses by David Scott Kastan, Phyllis Rackin, James Shapiro, Mark Rylance, and David Ellis, "Shakespeare and Company," The Atlantic (June 8, 2019).

Marcos Gonsalez, "Caliban Never Belonged to Shakespeare," Literary Hub (July 26, 2019).

Alex Grayson, "Disney Meet Shakespeare," Northern Kentucky Tribune (May 3, 2019).

Philip LaPorte, "The Bard and Bollywood," Spectator USA (May 7, 2019).

John Wells, "5 Best Shakespeare Adaptations (& 5 Terrible Ones) According To IMDb,” ScreenRant (May 16, 2020).

Jordan Mubako, "Learning to Hate Shakespeare," Public Seminar (June 17, 2019).

Seven Richmond, "The Outcast State: Shakespeare’s Unlikely Connection to Black Subjectivity," Public Seminar (June 18, 2019).

Mercedes Sapuppo, "How Shakespeare Helps Us Challenge the Far-Right in Europe," Public Seminar (June 19, 2019).

Max Serrano-Wu, "An Unexpected Concertmaster: How Shakespeare Influenced the Romantic Era," Public Shakespeare (June 20, 2019).

Luke Williams, "Shakespeare on Helicopter Parenting," Public Seminar (June 22, 2019).

James Shapirio, "An Unexpected Letter from John Paul Stevens, Shakespeare Skeptic," The New Yorker (Aug. 6, 2019).

Ruben Espinosa, "Shakespeare and Your Mountainish Inhumanity,” The Sundial (Aug. 16, 2019).

David Sterling Brown, "The “Sonic Color Line”: Shakespeare and the Canonization of Sexual Violence Against Black Men,” The Sundial (Aug. 16, 2019).

Jason Scott-Warren, "Milton’s Shakespeare?" Centre for Material Texts (Sept. 9, 2019).

Jonathan Beecher Field, "Got Shakespeare?" Boston Review (Sept. 20, 2019).

Hyde Flippo, "Reading Shakespeare in German,” Thought Co. (Nov. 4, 2019).

Paul Yachnin and Hannah Korell, "Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ Explores Colonialism, Resistance and Liberation,” The Conversation (Nov. 5, 2019).

Nate Jones, "How The King Rewrites Shakespeare’s Most Famous Dialogue,” Vulture (Nov. 6, 2019).

Jonathan Hope, "Beyond the Grave,” The Sundial (Nov. 12, 2019).

Austin Tichenor, "‘Our humble author will continue the story’: Shakespearean Prequels and Sequels,” Shakespeare & Beyond (Nov. 26, 2019).

Katherine Gillen and Lisa Jennings, "Decolonizing Shakespeare? Toward an Antiracist, Culturally Sustaining Praxis,” The Sundial (Nov. 26, 2019).

Kimberly Anne Coles, Kim F. Hall, and Ayanna Thompson, "BlacKKKShakespearean: A Call to Action for Medieval and Early Modern Studies," Profession (Fall 2019).

Ben Broadribb, "#Rethinking2020: Shakespeare on Film,” ‘Action is eloquence’: (Re)thinking Shakespeare (Dec. 27, 2019).

Gemma Allred, "#Rethinking2020: Reclaiming Shakespeare,” ‘Action is eloquence’: (Re)thinking Shakespeare (Dec. 31, 2019).

Erin Blakemore, "The Rowdy Women of Early Modern Theater,” JSTOR Daily (Jan. 1, 2020).

Ronan Hatfull, "#Rethinking2020: Shakespeare in Performance,” ‘Action is eloquence’: (Re)thinking Shakespeare, Part 1 (Jan. 3, 2020)Part 2 (Jan. 7, 2020).

Lauren Shook, "Cursing Coriolanus and Combating Cornhoarders,” Shakespeare & Beyond (Jan. 7, 2020).

Umaru Fofana, “The Interview: Prof. Eldred Jones, a Towering Figure in Africa Literature Turns 95,” Politico SL (Jan. 12, 2020).

Daniel Swift, "Reading Shakespeare in the Anthropocene," Los Angeles Review of Books (Jan. 15, 2020).

Moeko Fujii, “Let them Misunderstand: Seeing Shakespeare with Ninagawa,” The Point (Jan. 28, 2020).

Daniel Blank, “Making Shakespeare a Classic,” OUP Blog (Jan. 29, 2020).

Dominic Cavendish, "The Woke Brigade are Close to ‘Cancelling’ Shakespeare,” The Telegraph (Feb. 9, 2020).

Valerie M. Fazel, "'Perform what you command': Fan Ethnodramaturgy and YouTube Shakespeares,” The Sundial (Feb. 10, 2020).

"The Madness of Hamlet and King Lear: When Psychiatrists Used Shakespeare to Argue Legal Definitions of Insanity in the Courtroom,” Shakespeare & Beyond (Feb. 11, 2020).

Gareth Sturdy, "It’s Not Racism that Makes Us Value Shakespeare,” Spiked (Feb. 12, 2020).

Scott Newstok and Alexander C. Kafka, "Why Students Should Think Like Shakespeare,” The Chronicle of Higher Education (Feb. 23, 2020).

Brid Phillips, “To Be or Not To Be (Sad)?: Engaging with Negative Emotions,” Synapsis (Feb. 28, 2020).

James Shapiro, "The Mirror That Shakespeare Holds Up to America,” The Wall Street Journal (March 5, 2020).

Ben Cohen, "The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign,” Slate (March 10, 2020).

Emma Smith, "'Out damned spot': The Lady Macbeth Hand-Washing Scene that Became a Coronavirus Meme,” Penguin Books (March 12, 2020).

Sarah Enloe, “Teaching Shakespeare With Play from Far Away,” American Shakespeare Center (March 13, 2020).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, “Shakespeare Wrote His Best Works During a Plague,” The Atlantic (March 14, 2020).

Kathryn Harkup, “Why Shakespeare Would have been Obsessed with Coronavirus,” The Telegraph (March 15, 2020).

Emma Smith, "Top Five Shakespeare Plays that Speak to the 21st Century,” The Independent (March 16, 2020).

Emily Temple, "So Shakespeare Wrote King Lear During a Plague. Well, Good for Him, Say All the Writers," Lit Hub (March 16, 2020).

Andrew Dickson, “Shakespeare in Lockdown: Did he Write King Lear in Plague Quarantine?” The Guardian (March 22, 2020).

Simon Godwin, "An Unsung Masterpiece Finds Its Moment of Truth in the District,” The Washington Post (March 27, 2020).

Haylie Swenson, "Shakespeare’s much-maligned toads and frogs," Shakespeare & Beyond (March 27, 2020).

Ian Wheeler, “Shakespeare Survived Quarantine With a Little Help From His Patrons,” New York Times (March 26, 2020).

Emma Smith, “What Shakespeare Teaches Us About Living With Pandemics,” New York Times (March 28, 2020).

Paul Budra, "What Shakespeare Can Teach Us About Conspiracy Theories Today,” CBC Radio (March 31, 2020).

Emma Smith, "The Page's the Thing – Take It from Shakespeare's Earliest Readers,” The Guardian (April 1, 2020).

Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, "What Shakespeare Actually Did During the Plague," The New Yorker (April 1, 2020).

Katherine Scheil, "Celebrating Shakespeare in a Pandemic,” University of Minnesota College of Liberal Arts (April 1, 2020).

Hanh Bui, "For the love of laughter," Shakespeare's Globe (April 1, 2020).

Paul Yachnin, "After the Plague, Shakespeare Imagined a World Saved from Poison, Slander and the Evil Eye,” The Conversation (April 5, 2020).

Kate Maltby, "What Shakespeare Can -- and Can't -- Teach us About Covid-19,” CNN (April 8, 2020).

James Shapiro, "The Shakespeare Play That Presaged the Trump Administration’s Response fo the Coronavirus Pandemic,” The New Yorker (April 8, 2020).

Jeffrey R. Wilson, "Which of Shakespeare’s Tragic Heroes is Donald Trump?” New York Daily News (April 13, 2020).

Emma Poltrack, "Edward Dering and the earliest record of an amateur private performance of a Shakespeare play," Shakespeare & Beyond (April 14, 2020).

Jeffrey R. Wilson, "Social Distancing with Shakespeare,” North Philly Notes (April 15, 2020).

Rupert Christiansen, "Can Silicon Chips Ever Be a Match for Shakespeare?” The Telegraph (April 17, 2020).

Jeffrey R. Wilson, "10 Scenes from Shakespeare that Fit Donald Trump’s Presidency — Streaming Now,” MarketWatch (April 17, 2020).

Emma Smith, "How to Read Shakespeare for Pleasure,” The Conversation (April 21, 2020).

Scott Jaschik and Scott Newstok, "How to Think Like Shakespeare,” Inside Higher Ed (April 21, 2020).

Alys Daroy, "Shakespeare and climate change," Shakespeare's Globe (April 22, 2020).

Laura Jayne Wright, "Shakespeare on Zoom: How a Theatre Group in Isolation Conjured up a Tempest,” The Conversation (April 23, 2020).

"5 Shakespeare Scholars on the Past, Present, and Future of Theater Amid COVID-19,” Literary Hub (April 23, 2020).

Emma Smith, "Shakespeare’s Answer to the Plague? More Sex and Comedy,” Prospect (April 23, 2020).

Scott Newstock, "How to Think like Shakespeare (Quarantine Edition),” Linked In (April 23, 2020).

Kayleigh Donaldson, “The Weird Sisters of Shakespeare and the Witchcraft Trials of His Times,” SyFy Wire (April 29, 2020).

Will Tosh, "Just good friends? Same-sex intimacy in The Two Noble Kinsmen," Shakespeare's Globe (May 3, 2020).

Alexis Soloski, "Is This a Livestream I See Before Me?” New York Times (May 13, 2020).

Gemma Allred and Ben Broadribb, "Lockdown Shakespeare: the State of (the) Play,” ‘Action is eloquence’: (Re)thinking Shakespeare (May 18, 2020).

Scott Newstok, "How to think like a sonnet, or, fourteen ways of looking around a room," Shakespeare & Beyond (May 19, 2020).

David B. Goldstein, "The dinner table as classroom: Home-schooling gone wrong in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’," Shakespeare & Beyond (May 22, 2020).

Farah Karim-Cooper, "Anti-racist Shakespeare," Shakespeare's Globe (May 26, 2020).

Emily Pitts Donahoe, "Troilus and Cressida and a Diseased Body Politic: Reading Shakespeare in a Time of Plague,” Public Seminar (May 28, 2020).

Ayanna Thompson, “From Wall Street to Shakespeare,” Transformations (May 28, 2020).

Scott Newstok, "We Would All Do Well to Think More Like Shakespeare,” Dallas Morning News (May 31, 2020),

Tana Wojczuk, "How Shakespeare Paperbacks Made Me Want to Be a Writer,” New York Times Magazine (June 2, 2020).

Alan Gillespie, "Has Coronavirus Signalled the End for Shakespeare?” TES (June 8, 2020).

Brandi K. Adams, "The King, and Not I: Refusing Neutrality,” The Sundial (June 9, 2020).

Gary Taylor, "What Hamlet Can Teach Us About Black Lives Matter,” Tampa Bay Times (June 14, 2020).

Andrea Crow, "Teaching Shakespeare Under Quarantine," LA Review of Books (June 27, 2020).

Nora Williams, "Canon-Making/Canon-Busting," NotInOurStars (July 7, 2020).

Keith Hamilton Cobb, "The irony of the American Moor," Shakespeare & Beyond (July 14, 2020).

Debra Ann Byrd, "BECOMING OTHELLO! A gender-flipped journey onstage and in the archive," Shakespeare & Beyond (July 24, 2020).

Caroline Siede, "William Shakespeare Invented Every Romantic Comedy Trope We Love Today," AV Club (July 31, 2020).

Geoffrey Way, "Introducing the Qualities of Mercy Dispatches," The Sundial (Aug. 12, 2020). Plus entries from Vanessa CorrederaKatherine GillenKathryn Vomero SantosBrooke CarlsonMary Janell MetzgerJonathan Burton, and Ambereen Dadabhoy.

Arsh Dhillon, Phillip Michalak, Bernadette Looney, Sonia Kangaju, and Charles Onesti, “Black Lives Matter in the Public Theater’s Much Ado About Nothing,” Literary Hub (Aug. 14, 2020).

Alexandra E. LaGrand, "William Charles Macready and the restoration of William Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’," Shakespeare & Beyond (Aug.18, 2020).

Harry R. McCarthy, "Leave to speak: Allyship and Shakespeare Studies," Shakespeare's Globe Blog (Aug. 21, 2020).​​​​​​​

Robert McCrum, "For ever and a day: why we turn to Shakespeare at times of crisis," The Guardian (Aug. 22, 2020).

Ruben Espinosa, "A Darker Shade of Shakespeare," Shakespeare's Globe Blog (Aug. 23, 2020).

Charlotte Scott, "Talking back to Shakespeare: theatre in women’s prisons," Red Pepper (Aug. 26, 2020).

Madeline Sayet, "Interrogating the Shakespeare System," HowlRound (Aug. 31, 2020).

Peter C. Herman, "As for Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear,’ Tragic Darkness May Follow Nov. 3," Times of San Diego (Sept. 1, 2020).

Andrew G. Van Camp, “Shakespeare Travesties, the Philosophical and the Popular,” Shakespeare and Beyond (Sept. 1, 2020).

Stanley Wells, "Introducing Shakespeare to Young Readers," OUP Blog (Sept. 7, 2020).

Kristina Straub, "Strange Shakespeare: Transforming ‘The Tempest’, classifying Caliban," Shakespeare & Beyond (Sept. 11, 2020).

Ajay Kamalakaran, "When Russia appeared in William Shakespeare’s plays," Russia Beyond (Sept. 18, 2020).

Mira ʿAssaf Kafantaris, "Why Race before Race Now?" Petites Nouvelles (Sept. 21, 2020).

Austin Tichenor, "'In the brave squares': The Show Must Go Online," Shakespeare & Beyond (Sept. 29, 2020).

Eliot A. Cohen, "The Feckless King," The Atlantic (Oct. 5, 2020).

Catherine Butler, "Hamlet is Shakespeare’s Greatest Villain," The Conversation (Oct. 13, 2020).

Marissa Joseph, "Toni Morrison’s Desdemona and #BlackGirlMagic," The Sundial (Oct. 13, 2020).

Jami Rogers, "Pioneers and the Shakespearean glass ceiling," Shakespeare's Globe (Oct. 19, 2020).

Vanessa I. Corredera, "Pleasure and pain in Black Shakespearean performance history," Shakespeare's Globe (Oct. 22, 2020).

Austin Tichenor, "“Comic sport”: Shakespeare’s depictions of governments in chaos," Shakespeare & Beyond (October 30, 2020). 

William Thornton, "Spending the pandemic with Shakespeare," (Oct. 31, 2020).​​​​​​​

Joseph Pearce, "William Shakespeare and the Saints," National Catholic Register (Nov. 1, 2020).

Paul Yachnin, "Shakespeare’s ‘Timon of Athens,’ penned in plague-time, shows money corrupts but can also heal," The Conversation (Nov. 2, 2020).

Will Tosh, "Darkness does the face of earth entomb," Shakespeare's Globe (Nov. 4, 2020).

Peter Marks, "Shakespeare wrote ‘King Lear’ during a plague. What great work will emerge from this pandemic?" Washinton Post (Nov. 6, 2020).

Daniel O’Quinn, "Strange Shakespeare: The anti-Shylock in the boxing ring," Shakespeare & Beyond (Nov. 10, 2020).

Chloe Gong, "These Violent Delights: Retelling Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare & Beyond (Nov. 17, 2020).

Austin Tichenor, "William Shakespeare: International Man of Mystery," Shakespeare & Beyond (Nov. 27, 2020).