Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type







The purpose of this thesis was to examine William Shakespeare’s role in American ideology. Utilizing the theoretical approaches of Louis Althusser, Michel Foucault, adaptation and appropriation theories, and Critical Race Theory, I argue that Shakespeare is an integral part of American history and culture by how his works factor into American ideologies, particularly within ideologies focusing on race and colonialism. Specific plays and Shakespeare’s texts are analyzed, and I also follow the literary history of Americans in response to these plays. My first chapter looks at the Revolutionary and early republic eras, with particular focus on John Adams, his son John Quincy Adams, and their analyses of Shakespeare’s works. The second chapter highlighted the Civil War era, and the Confederate sympathizer Mary Preston’s analyses of some of Shakespeare’s plays. The third chapter looked at how Shakespeare’s plays, particularly Julius Caesar, may have factored into President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. My final chapter analyzed the early twentieth century, and how Shakespeare was used to push both racist and progressive ideologies. The conclusion looks at how Shakespeare and the Humanities are relevant in America in the twenty-first century. The conclusion of the thesis is that authoritative power, whether that be in government, or in the perception of the Author, must always be challenged if society is to progress.