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352CIVIL WAR HISTORY Lincoln's intimate and longtime law partner, William Herndon, loathed by Mary even before he rather maliciously proclaimed that the only true love of Lincoln's life had been Ann Rutledge. Neely and Hölzer argue persuasively that the Lincoln family album from the White House years evinced a tenor of social and racial elitism that made it "more the pretentious Mary's than the egalitarian Abraham's" (6-7). Despite meticulous annotation and judicious language, their portrayal of Mary is that of an unhappy, unfulfilled, thoroughly unpleasant woman whose destructive traits of character warred with and usually vanquished her nobler attributes. Neely and Holzer utilize the narrative to offer Lincoln family insights beyond those informed by the photographs, including the finest extant character sketch of his intensely private, glacially snobbish son Robert, the boy's alienation from his father and Washington during the Civil War, and his subsequent feud with his emotionally unstable mother. The Lincoln Family Album persuasively attests to a family life that made Lincoln so uniquely a public man, more at home in his offices or around the crackerbarrel in general stores than in the bosom of his own wife and sons. Roger A. Fischer University of Minnesota-Duluth Assassin on Stage: Brutus, Hamlet, and the Death of Lincoln. By Albert Furtwangler. (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Pp. x, 168. $24.95.) In his massive cultural history, Reinventing Shakespeare (1989), Gary Taylor coins the term "Shakespeoritics" to describe the study of everything society does or has done in the name of the playwright or his works. Albert Furtwangler's Assassin on Stage is a superb example of Shakespeoritics that examines the Bard's impact on a single incident, Lincoln's assassination (an incident Taylor, oddly enough, never mentions). From a variety of approaches and at a number of levels, Furtwangler, a Canadian professor of English, explores the most pivotal tragedy in American history in terms of the interaction of Shakespearean characters and themes on both its perpetrator and its victim. In John Wilkes Booth's assault on Lincoln, he writes, "politics, poetry, and theater all converge more tellingly than any of the principals ever knew" (152). Furtwangler views Lincoln as "the most renowned and conspicuous American exemplar of the dying hero" (7). Though he rejects the contention of Don Fehrenbacher and others that Lincoln saw himself as a doomed figure, he lays out the variety of ways in which contemporaries or near contemporaries saw the president as protagonist in a great modern BOOK REVIEWS353 tragedy. Alexander Stephens claimed in 1868 that it was Lincoln's tyrannical war policy and contempt for the constitutional limits on his powers that sealed his tragic fate, while Walt Whitman suggested that his martyrdom was a necessary final touch of the Civil War, "the final gesture Lincoln could make to raise America to a place among nations" (114). To both, he had become a Caesar, and he died a Caesar's death. Furtwangler's primary focus is on the actor brothers—John Wilkes and Edwin Booth—and it is here that his book most intrigues, for both were closely identified with one of Shakespeare's two "most tragically self-conscious murderers," Brutus in Julius Caesar and Hamlet, each of whom sought to eliminate an established ruler—Caesar and Claudius— in response to what they felt to be serious abuses of power. John Wilkes played Brutus numerous times in his relatively brief acting career—he was only twenty-seven years old in April 1865—and came to identify quite explicitly with the character. While Booth and his misfit accomplices were a far cry from the honorable, intelligent Roman senators who shared responsibility with Brutus for his act of tyrannicide, the comparable stature of Caesar and Lincoln led to inevitable comparisons between the men who brought them down. The public nature of Booth's crime, the theatricality of his leap to the stage, shouting— in Latin no less—"sic semper tyrannus," and his paying with his own life for what he had done also suggest parallels with Brutus's actions as laid out by Shakespeare. Hamlet was written two years after Julius Caesar, and Furtwangler argues that...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 352-354
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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