When the Declaration of Independence was first circulated through the thirteen American colonies, it was read aloud in town squares and other public places. It’s in that spirit that Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts, held its annual Independence Day reading of the nation’s founding document.
Governor Deval Patrick was among about a thousand people, many wearing festive, patriotic gear, who crowded onto a sloped lawn at Shakespeare & Company this afternoon for its twelfth annual reading of the Declaration of Independence.
A mood of Americana was conjured with songs like “You Are My Sunshine” and this version of “Oh, Susanna” performed by Company artists.
The Declaration was divided into some three dozen parts. A procession of community members, Shakespeare & Company actors and elected officials took turns reading the prose that sprang from the pen of Thomas Jefferson.
Governor Patrick read some of the famous opening words.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with their Creator by certain unalienable rights.”
The crowd was engaged and frequently applauded, especially when the words had a contemporary resonance. Organizers say the Declaration, like Shakespeare, truly comes alive when it’s read out loud.
Artistic director Tony Simotes led the crowd in a call-and-response recitation of the Declaration’s closing words, with attendees pledging to each other their “lives, fortune, and sacred honor.”