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1599: A year in the life of William Shakespeare


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Having made a search I can find no review of this book, so thought I would put one here. Hope this is the right place.


1599 was, according to Shapiro, a pivotal year in the life of Shakespeare. It was the year the Globe was built, in which he had both a professional and financial interest, it was the year he wrote prolifically and the year he advanced that writing to another level of expertise. It was also an important year politically.


For me this was a book of many surprises. I was surprised by Shapiro's fluid prose; he write about the politics, the events surrounding Shakespeare's life and work and the life and times of the peoples who inhabited London. I was surprised by the deft way the reading of history can be woven into, and enhance, the understanding of Shakespeare's work.


I would never profess to know all of Shakespeare's work, but the little I do know I love. Reading this book has given me another point of view for some of his plays and tempted me to revisit many again. Julius Caesar, Henry the Fifth and Hamlet are definitely on my list to be read and viewed very soon, especially now that I have a new perspective on so many aspects of their construction and implications during 1599.


We know that Shakespeare's life is a mystery to us in many respects. So much of what he wrote was lost, so much of him as a man in unknown. Nevertheless, for me, Shapiro brings the playwright to life in a profound yet undemonstrative way. I never felt Shapiro was banging a drum saying 'it definitely happened this way' but more a matter of 'there is this evidence and that evidence and therefore we can presume...', which I felt left me more comfortable with his statements.


In my opinion this is definitely a book any lover of Shakespeare's work would enjoy.

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Here, here! I bought this about two years ago. Shapiro's work in putting Shakespeare's plays in that particular historical context certainly brought something new to my understanding of his output of that time.



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    • By chuntzy
      Having really enjoyed Shapiro's  '1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare'  I was keen to read this later book.
      There is, for example,  much detail about the background and the aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot of late 1605 including the effects of tougher  censorship and the types of plays put on. You only have to look at the end of the book to see how many sources  the author has tapped into to recognise his erudition.
      However, it makes for dense reading at times and somewhat of a slog to get through. 
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