The radio program On The Media aired a superb program about the appeal of Shakespeare that transcends his English origins and conquered the world.
In the first part of the show, host Brooke Gladstone discussed with James Shapiro, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University and author of Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us About Our Past and Future, about how and why Shakespeare became so central to US literature that America now considers him as their own and how the political, social, and cultural dimensions of his work resonates so widely. Shapiro is a droll speaker and his anecdotes made for riveting listening. (32 minutes)
In the second part, Gladstone talks with Qais Akbar Omar, author of A Night in the Emperor’s Garden, who put on performances of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2005 after obtaining a copy of the play that had been translated into Dari. (19 minutes)
This was the first time a Shakespeare play had been performed in the country in 35 years, at a time when the Taliban were vying to regain control after the US invasion. He spoke about the challenges faced by the female performers and how much the play’s themes resonated with the actors and audience, many of whom who had never encountered Shakespeare before. One person was convinced that Shakespeare was actually the same person as the 13th century Persian poet Rumi, so similar were their poetic styles and themes.