Harper’s Weekly – October 7, 1871

During Nast’s era, William Shakespeare’s plays were an inherent part of the school curriculum. In addition to reading and writing, Shakespeare was used to help teach history, civics, elocution and ethics. Even relatively uneducated people were attracted to Shakespearean theatre after their schooling ended.

Nast idolized Shakespeare and referenced 23 of his 37 plays in more than 100 cartoons — sometimes with just a recognizable line or two, but generally with pictorial content. Thirteen of his plays are indexed below.

In retrospect, Shakespeare’s line of “All the world’s a stage, And the men and women merely players” fit Nast like a glove. (As You Like It, Act II, Scene 7.) His caricatures were the “players” and his cartoon settings, the stage. In fact, by the way, Nast groomed and dressed himself, and carefully cultivated his own public persona, he probably would have met Shakespeare’s standard for an actor — with one fundamental exception: he was always uncomfortable facing an audience unless he had a crayon in his hand and a sketch pad next to him so he could effectively speak through his pictures.