Transatlantic Bard

Terry Teachout, in Commentary, on an anthology celebrating the Shakespearean tradition in the US:

Among the most prescient pieces in “Shakespeare in America” is a 1947 essay by the actor-producer Maurice Evans about the abridged “G.I. Hamlet” he mounted and performed for American combat troops in World War II. What struck Evans most forcibly was the way in which his wartime audiences had identified with Hamlet and his existential dilemma: “I was somewhat startled by a G.I. at one performance who could not refrain from commenting on a line in the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy: I had reached the point where Hamlet exclaims, ‘Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,’ when a voice, clearly audible to me on the stage, remarked, ‘Boy, you ain’t kiddin’!’”

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