The Illinois Shakespeare Festival (ISF) announces a revealing “Shakespeare in the Land of Lincoln” symposium, which will explore the unique fascination that Abraham Lincoln had with William Shakespeare’s writings. The symposium events coincide with ISF’s 2018 season of plays and other activities starting June 30.

Our 16th president’s affinity for the Bard is well known. According to Lincoln scholars, he kept a book of Shakespeare’s work on his desk in the White House, and Macbeth was his favorite play. However, the references to this connection were not definitive until author Michael Anderegg’s 2015 book, Lincoln and Shakespeare (University of Kansas Press).

“There is a rich local history involving Mr. Lincoln from the years he worked in Bloomington-Normal,” said ISF Managing Director William Prenevost. “It is celebrated every summer with Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66. After Dr. Anderegg agreed to come ISF to talk about his book with our patrons, local Lincoln scholars convinced me to expand it into a symposium.”

“Shakespeare in the Land of Lincoln” is produced in partnership with Bloomington-Normal’s Lincoln Festival and the Looking for Lincoln organization in Springfield, Illinois. The symposium includes four lectures by leading Lincoln scholars, a new play for young audiences, and exhibits on both Lincoln and Shakespeare. The lectures will be held at the historic Ewing Manor next door to ISF’s home stage, Ewing Theatre. The lectures are free. Reservations are recommended.

James M. Cornelius, Ph.D., July 14 at 2 p.m.
Curator of the Lincoln Collection in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Cornelius was previously at the University of Illinois Library’s Illinois Historical and Lincoln Collections for eight years.

Spotlight speaker, Michael Anderegg, Ph.D., July 21 at 4 p.m.
A professor of English for most of his career, Anderegg has written several books including Cinematic Shakespeare and Orson Welles, Shakespeare, and Popular Culture. In Lincoln and Shakespeare, Anderegg describes how Lincoln discovered the Bard’s works at a time when they were first being widely distributed and read in the U.S. The words and stories resonated with the future president. “It was to Shakespeare’s dramatic universe that Lincoln turned to again and again for intellectual nourishment, emotional support, and sheer pleasure he could find nowhere else,” Anderegg states.

Guy Fraker, Ph.D., July 28 at 2 p.m.
A Lincoln scholar and author, Fraker has written two books about Lincoln: Lincoln’s Ladder to the Presidency: The Eighth Judicial Court and Looking for Lincoln in Illinois: A guide to Lincoln’s Eighth Judicial Court, which is a part of the Looking for Lincoln book series.

Robert Bray, Ph.D., August 4 at 2 p.m.
Bray has authored multiple works on Lincoln including Reading with Lincoln, which describes the influence on the president’s speeches, writing, and policies. Bray also co-wrote the play Lincoln’s in Town! that tells of a young Lincoln’s historical connections to the Bloomington area.

Registration for the symposium is available on the ISF website,

Lincoln’s Festival on Route 66: Trails, Rails & Roads in Bloomington-Normal offers a weekend of events July 20–22. This festival is a celebration of Lincoln’s life and his historic legacy in the area. The three-day event offers Lincoln-related programming and experiences for all ages. All events are open to the public and most are free.

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival is a proud partner in the Looking for Lincoln-Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area. The National Heritage Area is a 42-county region in Illinois dedicated to preserving and sharing the legacy of Abraham Lincoln with visitors from around the world through authentic historic attractions, stories, and special events that capture the essence of Lincoln’s 30 years in Illinois. For more information, visit

The Illinois Shakespeare Festival is supported by the Illinois Arts Council and sponsored by Candlewood Suites, Bloomington. For more information about visiting Bloomington-Normal, visit