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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare:…
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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

by James Shapiro

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I read James Shapiro's 1599 three hundred and six years after its subject, the year it came out. It is the best written book on Shakespeare I have read in decades, and since Shakespeare is only known because he wrote so well, Shapiro's is the the most Shakespearean book on Shakespeare. From the first page account of the deconstruction (no, not the French mind-game, but a carpentry event) of The Theater
at night to prepare for the construction of the Globe miles south and across the river, this book reads like gripping narrative in parts.
When I saw James Shapiro at the Shakespeare Association of America, he told me he had spent three years revising it. So here is an ideal model for scholars, one unlikely to be followed under the pressures for publication. Research and write for years, then revise for three more. ( )
1 vote AlanWPowers | Sep 23, 2012 |
Knockout. Explains how WS got the complexity of viewpoint into his writing; link between him as poet, dramatist, actor, businessman. Surprising amount of hard evidence of his activities which by implication knocks on the head the "other writer" nonsense. Also gives insight into the plays and the stresses of Late Elizabethan England. Lot of names and details but the reader is taken by the hand. ( )
1 vote vguy | May 16, 2012 |
i listened to this and the segments were about 12 minutes long. i stop listening about every 5 minutes. i have no pause and my machine starts at the beginning of each segment .
so this was a big problem and the book was hard to listen to and remember. ( )
  mahallett | Sep 21, 2010 |
I found this book both fascinating and infuriating.

On the one hand, it's well-written on a sentence level, contains a wealth of detail about the context Shakespeare was writing in, and does an excellent job of connecting that context to the texts.

On the other, it seemed sloppy to me in several ways. For one thing, it is far more willing to speculate on the interior life of historical figures than I'm comfortable with, and since its citation takes the form of a bibliographical essay rather than specific endnotes, it's not always possible to figure out where its speculations are coming from. For another, I noticed occasional bits of carelessness in its discussion of the Shakespearean text (which I'm more familiar with than its historical context -- part of the reason I was interested in reading the book in the first place). For example, when discussing the metaphorical use of the word "brother" in Henry V, it talks about how Henry refers to "his aristocratic kinsmen" Bedford and Gloucester as brothers, without making note of the fact that they are quite literally his brothers.

All of this means I'm not quite willing to trust the book, even though it is as I said fascinating. ( )
1 vote tortoise | Sep 5, 2010 |
Having never read Shakespeare, I wanted to know something about him. This is a fine read. It delves into the political influences and power plays of everyone who was anyone. It also demonstrates where some of his ideas came from, and how treacherous life in the 16th century really was. One day, I will read Shakespeare. ( )
1 vote LoreleiLouise | Aug 10, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060088745, Paperback)

1599 was an epochal year for Shakespeare and England

Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare’s staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times 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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:54:12 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen. James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare's staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599, bringing together the news and the intrigue of the times 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.… (more)

» see all 4 descriptions

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