Reading Lear at the Justice Department
JANET RENO: When I went to Washington, I found that people were fascinated by the issues that we faced and often talked about precedent that could help better understand the situation. One afternoon I suggested that we have a Shakespeare reading and everyone just looked around at me like, "What?" They didn't understand.
I explained that we had, upon occasions on cold winter nights before a fire, had Shakespeare readings in which I provided ten books of, say, King Lear, all on the same format, and we would read before the fire. It was an extraordinary experience because you would watch the play take over the situation and the scene, and the words and the power of Shakespeare would grasp the whole collected body there.
I said I would get the books and they were welcome to come, they didn't have to come. A number showed up and they started reading, first with chuckles and nervousness, and then with increased power as each line went by. Their faces changed, they listened with a listening ear, they read with beautiful sense of what Shakespeare was at, and by the end of the hour and a half, we had learned so much in terms of the human nature of age, of Lear, of what he had been about, of his relationship with his daughters, of the responsibility of ruling, and the problems you face in trusting people and understanding people.
I watched at the attorney general's office as people read from the book and suddenly it seemed to go beyond the book and it was their voice, Shakespeare's words, and it was powerful as it came together. There were my secretaries, there were senior staff, there were—I recall a great collection of people.