26. ON SHAKESPEARE
The letter from Lincoln to the actor Hackett,
given below, reflects Lincoln's deep interest in Shakespeare.
Some of Shakespeare's plays I have never read; while
others I have gone over perhaps as frequently as any unprofessional
reader. Among the latter are "Lear," "Richard III.," "Henry VIII.,"
"Hamlet," and especially "Macbeth." I think nothing equals "Macbeth." It
Unlike you gentlemen of the profession, I think the
soliloquy in "Hamlet" commencing "Oh, my offense is rank," surpasses
that commencing "To be or not to be." But pardon this small attempt at
criticism. I should like to hear you pronounce the opening speech of
Richard III. Will you not soon visit Washington again? If you do, please
call and let me make your personal acquaintance.
LINCOLN TO HACKETT, AUGUST 17, 1863.
The "First Reading of the Emancipation
Proclamation" was painted by Francis B. Carpenter in 1864 during a six
months' period he spent in the White House for that purpose. It portrays
the scene at the moment Lincoln has finished reading to his assembled
Cabinet members the draft of his proposed Emancipation Proclamation.
Each of the personages represented in the painting sat for his portrait,
and all the furniture and various objects were
sketched and painted from the originals.
The portraits from left to right represent: Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary
of War; Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury; Abraham Lincoln,
President; Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy; Caleb B. Smith,
Secretary of the Interior; William H. Seward, Secretary of State
(seated); Montgomery Blair, Postmaster General; Edward Bates, Attorney
General. Reproduced from the original painting in the Capitol.