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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599by James Shapiro
Synopses & Reviews
An intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year — 1599 — that changed not only his fortunes but the course of literature
How was Shakespeare transformed from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year we follow what he reads and writes, what he sees, and whom he works with as he invests in the new Globe Theatre and creates four of his most famous plays — Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet.
James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare's staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599: sending off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathering an Armada threat from Spain, gambling on the fledgling East India Company, and waiting to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.
This book brings the news and intrigue of the times together with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.
"The year 1599 was crucial in the Bard's artistic evolution as well as in the historical upheavals he lived through. That year's output — Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and (debatably) Hamlet — not only spans a shift in artistic direction and theatrical taste, but also echoes the intrigues of Queen Elizabeth's court and the downfall of her favorite, the Earl of Essex. Like other Shakespeare biographers, Columbia professor Shapiro notes the importance of mundane events in Shakespeare's art, starting here with the construction of the Globe Theatre and the departure of Will Kemp, the company's popular comic actor. Having a stable venue and repertory gave Shakespeare the space to write and experiment during the turmoil created by Essex's unsuccessful military ventures in Ireland, a threatened invasion by a second Spanish Armada and, finally, Essex's disastrous return to court. Shapiro is in a minority in arguing for Shakespeare initially composing Hamlet at the same time Essex was plotting a coup; there's little textual or documentary evidence for that dating. Still, Shapiro's shrewd discussion of what is arguably Shakespeare's greatest play, particularly its multiple versions, rounds out this accessible yet erudite work. 8 pages of color illus., 22 b&w illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Anne Edelstein. (Oct. 18)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Book News Annotation:
In its simultaneous narrow and far-reaching gaze, this biography stands apart from the many recent studies of Shakespeare's life. Shapiro (English, Columbia U.) confines his focus to a single year but, in addition to Shakespeare's formidable achievements in that year, he considers the important political and cultural events that affected Shakespeare and his work. Shapiro reports on all Shakespeare's activities, associations, reading and writing in 1599, while depicting the experiences of all Elizabethans as their country engaged in war, invested in the new East India Company, and speculated about the Queen's successor. Annotation ©2006 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
About the Author
James Shapiro, aprofessor at Columbia University in New York, is the author of Rival Playwrights, Shakespeare and the Jews, and Oberammergau.
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