The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

S. & S. Oct. 2015. 384p. photos. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781416541646. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781476745794. LIT
While often cited for their eternal qualities, William Shakespeare's plays were very much rooted in a specific time and place. Following his successful A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599, Shapiro (Larry Miller Professor of English, Columbia Univ.; Contested Will) looks at the momentous year of 1606, during which Shakespeare wrote three of his great tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. As with any full-length biographical work on Shakespeare there is a good amount of conjecture, but Shapiro builds on the few established facts of the playwright's life (1564–1616) by taking a broader look at the political and social factors that influenced his work. There was a lot going on in 1606: the proposed union of Scotland and England under King James; the aftermath of the infamous Gunpowder Plot that nearly wiped out the Royal Court and Parliament in a single blow; and the continued persecution of English Catholics. Shapiro effectively shows how the beliefs, fears, and politics of Shakespeare's day were reflected in his plays.
VERDICT Highly recommended for readers interested in Shakespeare or British history. [See Prepub Alert, 4/24/15.]

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