In 1599, an epochal year for Shakespeare and England, Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays while Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, and gambled on a fledgling East India Company. Shapiro brings together the news and the intrigue of the times in this gripping account of an ...
In 1599, an epochal year for Shakespeare and England, Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays while Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, and gambled on a fledgling East India Company. Shapiro brings together the news and the intrigue of the times in this gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.
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As soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. So little is known for certain about William Shakespeare's life that it makes sense to explore his work in tandem with the goings-on of the day. This book is a fair balance of history and conjecture. Shapiro does not make up imaginary dialogues, but paints a thorough picture of what the Bard's life could very well have been like in the crucial year he wrote _Hamlet_. I have taught that play several times, and was thrilled to learn so much more about the process Shakespeare went through in writing it. Shapiro explains many of the ground-breaking features of other plays such as _Julius Caesar_ and _As You Like It_ as well, giving solid support for the vague contention that Shakespeare remains one of the greatest writers of the English language. The only (minor) error I noticed was that he claims introducing scenes with a Chorus is an innovation on Shakespeare's part, when Marlowe had done it in _Doctor Faustus_ a decade previously. A great way to learn more about the writer and his era.
Publishers Weekly, 2005-07-18 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) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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