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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: April ::
Current Views on Why Shakespeare Matters
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0653  Sunday, 11 April 1999.

From:           Daniel Traister <
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Date:           Thursday, 8 Apr 1999 12:58:45 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Current Views on Why Shakespeare Matters

The following comes from a freely-available NEH website

        http://www.neh.gov/html/corner/corn199904.html

and may interest Shakespearians:

                The Chairman's Corner: April 1999
                Humanities in Action

                Why Shakespeare Speaks To Our Time

                        By William R. Ferris

Nearly 400 years after his death, William Shakespeare is an honored
household name universally recognized as the greatest playwright in the
English-speaking world.  Judging from this year's Academy Award winner
for Best Picture, "Shakespeare in Love," people still cannot get enough
of the bard.

Just what is the secret of Shakespeare's timeless popularity? He told
stories in which he created some of literature's most memorable
characters and penned the most beautiful English poetry ever written. He
wrote both comedies and tragedies, and we understand the human condition
better in our own time because he wrote about it so penetratingly in
his.

Shakespeare is for everyone, but he is only one example of the
humanities in action. The humanities are the subject areas of history,
literature and languages, which taken together offer the best insights
we have into our values, traditions and ideals. Focusing on these ideas,
discussing them, drawing strength from them and becoming more human
because of them is the humanities in action. The humanities bind us
together as a nation and help us live more meaningful lives.

At the National Endowment for the Humanities, a federal grant-making
agency in Washington, D.C., we provide funding for hundreds of
humanities projects each year in the fields of preservation, public
programs, education and research.

One of our hottest educational projects is EDSITEment, a website at
http://edsitement.neh.gov/ that allows you to explore Shakespeare and
hundreds of other fascinating topics. You can amble along a timeline of
Shakespeare's life, see the 16th-century houses in which he lived and
the theaters in which his plays were staged, visit Queen Elizabeth on
her throne, study the Renaissance world in which Shakespeare lived, and
read about dozens of Shakespeare festivals that take place each year in
all parts of the United States.

You can learn about all of the humanities on this wide-ranging website,
which is supported by MCI WorldCom Foundation. Like Shakespeare, the
humanities link us to each other through a deeper understanding of the
human condition.  It is the mission of the National Endowment for the
Humanities to bring the humanities to you, so that you can see for
yourself.

William R. Ferris is chairman of the National Endowment for the
Humanities.

Doubtless all Shakespearians will readily agree that "the humanities
link us to each other through a deeper understanding of the human
condition." I was thus somewhat surprised to discover, first, that the
prospect of a "visit [to] Queen Elizabeth on her throne" did not seem
entirely appropriate to me, as likely to enhance my sense of our common
human linkages only in a fairly restricted sphere; and, second, that the
website so admirably advertised failed to provide any obvious route to
this distant (I devoutly hope) prospect anyway. Despite these
minnow-like carps, I trust this e-column to speak for itself as a guide
to the Cultural Currency of the bard people still cannot get enough of.

Daniel Traister, Curator, Research Services
Walter H. and Leonore Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, University of Pennsylvania
 

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