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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 Paperback – June 13, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
For those who enjoy juicy, well-researched historical detail on the Bard's life and times (such as Frank Kermode's -The Age of Shakespeare-), Shapiro goes to the next level in this book. He depicts Shakespeare's life as he lived it during one momentous year, 1599, a decision that is not arbitrary. Shapiro's close focus on that year succeeds in illuminating much about Shakespeare's imagination that was previously obscure. And what a year it was--producing the break-through plays Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet.
Shapiro describes how the year began as Shakespeare and his co-investors surreptitiously and hurriedly worked to save their financial investment by dismantling a theatre building on a site where they had lost their lease, in order to rebuild it as The Globe on the south side of the Thames. Shapiro then explains better than I have read anywhere else the nature of Shakespeare's relationship with the Court of Queen Elizabeth, and how his performances before the Queen and his understanding of the royal taste affected his decisions when he wrote his plays.
Shapiro provides fresh insight into how Shakespeare's financial prospects and artistic choices that year were interwoven with the rising, and then the plummeting, fate of Robert Devereaux, the tragic Earl of Essex.Read more ›
James Shapiro, a much respected Shakespeare scholar and professor at Columbia University, has applied his enormous fund of Shakespearean knowledge and his zeal for historical research to these home truths in a novel way. He narrows his focus down to a single year in Shakespeare's life and teases out of the four plays that occupied the Bard in that year a number of stimulating conclusions.
As a feat of sheer scholarly research, Shapiro's book is a mind-boggling performance -- his bibliography runs to 41 pages --- and his conclusions, while obviously personal and open to debate, will make readers go back to those four plays equipped with new tools for decoding them.
In 1599 Shakespeare finished "Henry the Fifth," wrote "Julius Caesar" and "As You Like It," and shaped his first version of "Hamlet" --- four truly great plays. He was also involved in the construction of the Globe Theater (of which he was part owner) and busy acting on its stage. Offstage noises in his life (though very much onstage for most Englishmen) were the ill-fated English expedition to subdue a rebellion in Ireland, the threat of invasion from a second Spanish Armada, a host of intrigues and plots at the court of Queen Elizabeth, England's attempt to shoulder its way into the lucrative East Indies trade, and even his own domestic affairs back home in Stratford.
Dealing with all this gives Shapiro's book a divided focus.Read more ›
A Prologue describes the building of the Globe from timbers secretly transported across the Thames by Shakespeare and Co. from The Theatre (on which the lease had expired). Then Shapiro trains his lens on 1599, dividing it into its four "seasons". Maintaining dynamic readability throughout, each season deals with a set of preoccupations at national, professional, and personal levels:
1. Winter - Shakespeare's artistic differences with his comic star, Will Kemp; the run-up to Essex's Ireland campaign, with mobilisation and departure - as well as pacifism.
2. Spring - logistics of building the Globe; censorship, book-burning and history; the appropriation of religious holidays for politcal purposes.
3. Summer - paranoia in London with rumours of a second Armada invasion); Shakespeare's anguish at an unauthorised, cobbled-together edition of his poems; sincerity, fakery, and learning the true nature of love.
4. Autumn - the decline of chivalric values and rise of empire via merchant-adventurers and the East India Company; the impact of Montaigne's essays on soliloquies; and finally, an elucidation of how the various versions of "Hamlet" reveal Shakespeare's changing view of this most problematic play.
Shapiro correlates these topics with the themes and language of Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet (the four dramas Shakespeare wrote in 1599). He also provides us with details so unexpected as to be poignant - for example, Shakespeare changing horses while riding home to Stratford.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
“First, my fear; then, my curtsy; last my speech. My fear is your displeasure; my curtsy, my duty; and my speech, to beg your pardons. Read morePublished 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
“First, my fear; then, my curtsy; last my speech. My fear is your displeasure; my curtsy, my duty; and my speech, to beg your pardons. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Kristi Richardson
Once again, Shapiro substitutes supposition, circular logic, conjecture and outright falsehood for biographical fact. Read morePublished 25 days ago by rWiggins
James Shapiro looks at the plays Shakespeare (may have?) written in 1599 (Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet) and juxtaposes them with the political events of the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by HT
I do not think there is a more knowledgeable and competent authority on the topic of William Shakespeare and the impact of the playwright's world on his work. Read morePublished 1 month ago by J. Lapin Zell
An incredibly interesting book about all aspects of England,the Queen,political and religious affairs, and how they were reflected in Shakespeare s plays. Read morePublished 1 month ago by foxx
Finally Shakespeare is a welcoming friend and no longer a mysterious challenge beyond reach. So grateful to James Shapiro for his very readable introduction to this endless source... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Cynthia Jones