dumbing down shakespeare: are americans too intellectually lazy to appreciate his genius?

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chances are, unless you’re an english grad student or engaged in a lifelong swoon over shakespeare, you haven’t read or seen “timon of athens.” or even heard of it. heck, my job is covering shakespeare and i’ve never seen it. so the folger theatre’s mission at the moment — staging a modern-dress version of this obscure work, often consigned to the filing cabinet of classical drama labeled “deeply flawed” — begins as strikingly esoteric.but it also strikes me as marvelously vital. because in our age, the canon of classical works to which audiences are exposed shrinks by the year. oh, the old favorites aren’t going anywhere. romeos and hamlets will continue to wax poetic before our eyes — although, methinks, in smaller and smaller venues — and costume shops will be backed up into the future with orders for macbeth’s tunics and desdemona’s nightgowns. yet the fact that many theater companies seem to believe they can fulfill their classical mandates with only the most widely known plays, or worse, sacrifice more challenging plays to the popular-entertainment demands of the box office, makes me wonder whether these are signs of a deeper problem. that is to ......

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