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Why Do We Still Care about Shakepeare?

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Painting by Martin Droushout; Photo by Emery Walker
/
Wikimedia Commons
William Shakespeare

Four hundred years and over 35 plays later, William Shakespeare is still a household name. So why does the British playwright’s work continue to be studied, while his contemporaries fall to the wayside?

“Even though it has been 400 years, we still continue to make new discoveries," says Adam Hooks, an Associate Professor in the University of Iowa English Department, and author of Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade.

“I was a Midwestern farm boy, and I was always curious as to why we still talked about Shakespeare, and that still motivates my work.”

“My job is to find out what constitutes the truth at different times, because there are a lot of myths and truths about Shakespeare. To find out why Shakespeare became the kind of author that we think of him as today, rather than as an actor or a member of his theater company," he says. 

With a name synonymous with great literature and theater, it’s no wonder that countless biographies have been written about the man.

“The sort of cradle-to-grave biography has been exhausted at this point,” says Hooks. “So instead of the story of Shakespeare as a man, I wanted to focus on Shakespeare as an author. I decided to tell the biographies of the books, biographies of the people who published the books, to see how his reputation changed and developed into the man we know today.”

Duirng this hour of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with University of Iowa Associate Professor of English Adam Hooks about his new book, Selling Shakespeare: Biography, Bibliography, and the Book Trade, Shakespeare’s publishing history, and Oxford University Press’ new addition to the authorship of Henry VI.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa