Shakespeare in Nineteenth-Century Chicago: An Evolving Cultural Identity


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Shakespeare’s plays have been an integral part of Chicago's history ever since the city’s incorporation in 1837. Inspired by Lawrence W. Levine's seminal book Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America (1988), this website offers several windows into Shakespeare's cultural presence in Chicago during the latter half of the nineteenth-century:

  • timeline of major milestones of Shakespearian production in late nineteenth century Chicago;
  • collection of playbills that offer a quick panorama of Shakespeare productions during that period in Chicago;
  • then-and-now look at the sites of Chicago's historic, now-demolished theaters; and
  • an interactive walking-tour map of the nineteenth-century downtown Chicago theater district.

The site highlights the role that "highbrow" productions of Shakespeare plays played in establishing Chicago’s evolving cultural identity, while also setting the stage for Chicago's world-renowned twentieth and twenty-first century theater scene.