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As They Like It: What Shakespeare Suggests about the Arab Spring

Ann Marlowe

Seeing the fine new production of As You Like It at Shakespeare in the Park, and then bicycling downtown through the leafy precincts of Central Park West, through Times Square, watching the tourists from around the world and the United States chatting at the café tables and chairs in the pedestrianized zones and in general behaving with civility and grace to each other, even at midnight, it’s clear what a great thing this republic of ours is and why it is worth defending at almost any cost.

Here you have art and culture of every sort (including bad), and wealth, and the chance for almost anyone to make it, and the freedom for women to walk down the street scantily clad with nary a comment at midnight, as many women I passed were doing, and the freedom for men and women to appear openly gay, and the promise, in the stunning public art space that is Times Square, that this is indeed the center of the world.

As I was swerving to avoid the pedestrians walking in the bike lanes, and refraining from yelling at them because I too wanted to maintain the tone of civility, I was thinking about a conversation I had as I was leaving that fine production of As You Like It. A Turkish journalist friend was expressing his pessimism about the Arab Spring and his worry that if Turkey goes to war with Syria over the downing of its jet Friday, it will still not lead to democracy for Syria. Then he spoke of his sadness about the unwinding of the Egyptian revolution. . . .

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