Monday, April 23, 2012

Shakespeare and the Presidents : George Washington

Since I was vacationing in Washington D.C, Home of the Presidents, I thought it would be fun to go hunting for Shakespeare connections.

Washington, as you could well imagine, was all over the place.  We spent our Friday at Mt. Vernon, as a matter of fact.  Toured his house, saw his study.  Spoke with a lady doing her best Martha impression. No Shakespeare to be found at all.

Disappointing, really, especially given how much we know that Lincoln did with Shakespeare.

I went googling when I got back to the hotel, and low and behold I found Folger's Shakespeare in American Life series, so I'll just let them do the talking:
 As president, Washington lived in Philadelphia, the nation’s temporary capital. There he once hosted an amateur Shakespeare production, probably in the winter of 1790. William Duer, assistant to the treasury secretary, wrote that Duer “had the honor of appearing before him as one of the dramatis personae in the tragedy of Julius Caesar... in the garret of the Presidential mansion, wherein before the magnates of the land and the elite of the city, I performed the part of Brutus to the Cassius of my old school-fellow, Washington Custis.”
There's also record of his attendance at a Hamlet, and I believe a Tempest as well.  Not too much of a connection with the father of my country.

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