Lincoln quoted Shakespeare. Obama quotes Lincoln.





Given Mr. Obama’s particular fondness for Lincolnesque oratory, it’s surprising that he hasn’t adopted one of Lincoln’s favorite habits: quoting Shakespeare.

Lincoln was a lifelong Bardolater and serial Shakespeare-quoter, as Mr. Obama noted in remarks at the recent reopening of Ford’s Theater. Lincoln regarded Shakespeare, whose 445th birthday was last week, as many things: an oracle to be consulted for wisdom; a pastor with whom to share confidences and from whom to seek comfort, a friend. He kept a “Complete Works” close at hand in the White House.

Sitting for one official portrait, for instance, Lincoln fought the tedium with a spontaneous performance of the opening soliloquy from “Richard III,” along with running commentary on how most actors he’d seen play the role had botched it.

He knew much of “Hamlet” by heart, and shared with one correspondent his still unorthodox view that the best speech by the villain Claudius, “the soliloquy commencing, ‘O, my offense is rank’ surpasses that commencing ‘To be or not to be.’ ” It was “Macbeth,” though, that seemed to haunt Lincoln. He quoted from it countless times, and the “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” soliloquy gripped his imagination with unusual power.



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