Criminal Justice

ISU Professor’s Book Delves Into Shakespeare In The Prison

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A new book examines how Shakespeare speaks to prisoners.  Indiana Public Broadcasting’s Jill Sheridan reports on the story told by an Indiana State University professor.

Laura Bates has spent more than 25 years teaching prisoners behind bars, but it was a program that took her into the depths of the penitentiary that fueled the book “Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard.”  The book chronicles the time Bates spent with prisoner Larry Newton who is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.  Newton found a connection to Shakespeare’s work… specifically the play MacBeth, where the title character kills after giving into pressure and temptation.

“He’s examining why is MacBeth deciding ultimately to do something he doesn’t really want to do.”

Bates says the prisoners she worked with are living in the worst possible prison situation… long term disciplinary segregation.  The book released earlier this month delves into how Shakespeare is still relevant and can be used to open eyes.

“After 400 years, I do think it gives you a new way at looking at Shakespeare, because of the way that not just Larry but all these prisoners came to relate with Shakespeare in their own lives.”

Bates says today’s readers can easily relate to Shakespeare’s topics of violence in society.  She and Newton will be interviewed on NPR’s “Tell Me More” show April 23rd, Shakespeare’s birthday.   For Indiana Public Broadcasting, I’m Jill Sheridan.



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