Saturday, February 2, 2013

the last book I ever read (Rise to Greatness by David Von Drehle, excerpt ten)

from Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Most Perilous Year by David Von Drehle:

Though Lincoln enjoyed being away from Washington, he still wore the pall of grief that was his constant garment. Willie was never far from his thoughts, even amid the rumbling guns and tense hours of military planning at Fort Monroe.

During a break one evening, the president turned the conversation to one of his favorite topics, Shakespeare. More than one friend commented that Lincoln seemed to feel a connection to the Bard that erased the centuries between them. His relish for Shakespeare was intimate, not awed; he had strong feelings about the plays that mattered most to him. Of Hamlet, for example, he insisted that “To be or not to be” was not as good as its reputation. He much preferred the soliloquy of King Claudius, in which the murderer ponders his guilt and the judgment of eternity. Macbeth was perhaps Lincoln’s favorite play; he responded powerfully to that harrowing dramatization of the lure and cost of political power (and the challenges of living with a tempestuous, goading wife). More generally, Lincoln was known to say, “I have only one reproach to make of Shakespeare’s heroes—that they make long speeches when they are killed.”

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