The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 - Read Online

James Shapiro - The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 epub book

James Shapiro – The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 pdf book

James Shapiro - The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 epub book

James Shapiro – The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 pdf book

The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

Author : James Shapiro
Publisher : Simon & Schuster 
Release : October 6, 2015
Genre : Literature & Fiction

Book Review

Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events in England in 1606 affected Shakespeare and shaped the three great tragedies he wrote that year—King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.

In the years leading up to 1606, since the death of Queen Elizabeth and the arrival in England of her successor, King James of Scotland, Shakespeare’s great productivity had ebbed, and it may have seemed to some that his prolific genius was a thing of the past. But that year, at age forty-two, he found his footing again, finishing a play he had begun the previous autumn—King Lear—then writing two other great tragedies, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.

It was a memorable year in England as well—and a grim one, in the aftermath of a terrorist plot conceived by a small group of Catholic gentry that had been uncovered at the last hour. The foiled Gunpowder Plot would have blown up the king and royal family along with the nation’s political and religious leadership. The aborted plot renewed anti-Catholic sentiment and laid bare divisions in the kingdom.

It was against this background that Shakespeare finished Lear, a play about a divided kingdom, then wrote a tragedy that turned on the murder of a Scottish king, Macbeth. He ended this astonishing year with a third masterpiece no less steeped in current events and concerns: Antony and Cleopatra.

The Year of Lear sheds light on these three great tragedies by placing them in the context of their times, while also allowing us greater insight into how Shakespeare was personally touched by such events as a terrible outbreak of plague and growing religious divisions. For anyone interested in Shakespeare, this is an indispensable book.


“James Shapiro [is] the liveliest and most accessible of Bardologists. . . . The book is crammed with stimulating research that again and again produces startling connections. . . . It is to be hoped that Mr. Shapiro might be persuaded to write a book for every year of Shakespeare’s life: Then we might finally find ourselves face to face with the Sphinx of English literature.” (Simon Callow The Wall Street Journal)

“In The Year of Lear, Shapiro takes a closer look at the political and social turmoil that contributed to the creation of three supreme masterpieces. . . . Exciting and sometimes revelatory.” (Michael Dirda The Washington Post)

“Illuminating. . . . Shapiro captures a Shakespeare moved by – and moving – history.” (The New Yorker)

“Shapiro has a marvelous ability to use his formidable scholarship, not to pluck out the heart of Shakespeare’s mysteries, but to put the beating heart of the contemporary back into them. His great gift is to make the plays seem at once more comprehensible and more staggering.” (Fintan O’Toole The New York Review of Books)

“Shapiro’s investigation of Shakespeare’s professional fortunes is as fascinating as his scrutiny of the plays. . . . [His book] draws on a mountain of reading, yet is persistently original. It takes us onto the streets of Shakespeare’s London, and it reminds us of the brutal culture from which his plays sprang.” (John Carey The Sunday Times (UK))

“No one writes about Shakespeare as Jim Shapiro does; it’s so immediate and alive. . . . His passion for Shakespeare, his excitement and pure joy infect everyone he comes in contact with and absolutely come through in each of his books.” (F. Murray Abraham)

“James Shapiro’s insightful new book, The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, performs a kind of archaeological excavation of the three plays Shakespeare wrote in this year – King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra– to reveal the rich matrix of factors that molded their themes and language.” (Nick Romeo The Christian Science Monitor)

“Like other Shapiro works, [The Year of Lear] is a brilliant, acessible fusion of meticulously researched historical narrative and keen-eyed literary criticism.” (Celia Wren Commonweal)

“Shapiro demonstrates once again his skill in shaping quantities of research into a brisk and enjoyable narrative.” (Charles Nicholl The Guardian (UK))

The Year of Lear is a masterpiece, weaving together brilliant historical insight with acute literary analysis. James Shapiro is one of our great Shakespearean scholars, but he is also a master storyteller. . . . This book belongs on the very short shelf of required Shakespearean texts. Anyone who wonders whether Shakespeare still matters to us will find a resounding ‘yes’ in The Year of Lear.” (Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of the Public Theater)

“Probing and original. . . . Shapiro shows how [Shakespeare] was not only for all time, but also very much of his age.” (Sameer Rahim Prospect (UK))

“James Shapiro’s particular gift as a literary historian is to combine great good sense with daring imaginative reach—so that as we read his pages, we simultaneously look down into the workings of Shakespeare’s mind, and around him at the landscape of his tumultuous times.” (Andrew Motion, former poet laureate of the United Kingdom)

“The Shakespeare Shapiro painstakingly and subtly presents here is a virtuoso remix artist, a textual sponge, a magpie, a master-orchestrator of the Zeitgeist. . . . All the world, as this terrifically interesting book shows, really was a stage.” (Sam Leith The Spectator (UK))

“Shakespearean scholar Shapiro links the tumultuous events of 1605 and 1606 to three of the Bard’s greatest works. . . . Shapiro’s discoveries of long-lost sources and missed connections make this a fascinating tale. His well-written, scholarly exploration will stand as an influential work that is a joy to read.” (Kirkus Reviews (starred review))

The Year of Lear is a book for anyone interested in history, or literature, or in the creation of the greatest play ever written.” (Richard Eyre, former director of the National Theatre (London))

“Shapiro delivers his narrative with colour and reassuring erudition. . . . One of the book’s real achievements is how hard it makes you think for yourself about the plays, not only in the context of their times, but in the context of each other.” (Tom Payne Sunday Telegraph (UK))

“In a difficult year for England, Shapiro recognizes a fruitful time for the country’s greatest playwright. . . . An impressively fine-grained Shakespearean inquiry.” (Booklist (starred review))

“A fascinating account of the events of 1606 and how they may have influenced three tragedies the Bard is thought to have written that year or soon afterwards. . . . Shapiro is as compelling when documenting historical events as when analyzing Shakespeare’s text, and his sizable bibliographic essay provides ample fodder for readers wanting to dive deeper into his research.” (Publishers Weekly)

“Shapiro effectively shows how the beliefs, fears, and politics of Shakespeare’s day were reflected in his plays. Highly recommended for readers interested in Shakespeare or British History.” (Library Journal)

About the Author

James Shapiro is the Larry Miller Professor of English at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985. He is the author of several books, including 1599 and Contested Will, and is the recipient of many awards and fellowships. Shapiro is a Governor of the Folger Shakespeare Library. He lives in New York with his wife and son.

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