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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare CD: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare CD

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,674 ratings  ·  196 reviews
An intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year that changed not only his fortunes but the course of literature.

How did Shakespeare go from being a talented poet and playwright to become one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this one exhilarating year we follow what he reads and writes, what he sees, and who he works with as he invests in t
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Audio CD, Abridged, 0 pages
Published October 18th 2005 by HarperAudio (first published January 1st 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Barbara
Feb 03, 2010 Barbara rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Barbara by: Paula Fowler - Utah Symphony and Opera Education Director
This is what I wanted in a biography about Shakespeare. It looked into the events of his time and discussed how those events contributed to his work. It also talked about why his writing appealed to both the rustic and the aristocracy of his time. It also discussed how he grew and progressed as a writer. As we know, Shakespeare was great at stealing stories from others and reworking them into a better story. The book also discusses this and why his versions are such improvements on the originals ...more
Fionnuala
1599 was the year that the famous Globe theatre was built and the year that Shakespeare created Hamlet, probably the first character in the history of the theatre to wrestle so intelligently and so eloquently with his own demons. For these reasons it seems, James Shapiro chose to focus on 1599 when he set out to write his "intimate history of Shakespeare" as the blurb on the back of the book puts it. But very little documentary evidence exists relating to Shakespeare's life, apart from his plays ...more
Malakalima
I don't know that I could say exactly why, but I absolutely loved this book. It was such an interesting read and I just drank it all in.
I felt it was well done, although perhaps not exceptionally so, but I had one major issue with it. I felt there were several points where Shapiro draws conclusions about what Shakespeare must have felt about a certain issue based on something that a character says in one of his plays. This is extremely fallacious, in my opinion, and really bothered me. The one I
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Jorge
Acudí al Bardo de Stratford upon Avon para llenar mis soledades e incertidumbres, pero ahora desde otro punto de vista no necesariamente el de su obra, quise hurgar un poco en su vida y en sus inspiraciones, sumergirme en su biografía, en sus razones y en sus incertidumbres. Mucho se ha dicho del genio de Shakespeare, de su conocimiento del alma humana y en vano he tratado de entender la grandeza de sus obras y de su pensamiento. A veces pienso que su obra para mí resulta un pozo muy hondo y osc ...more
Alan
Jun 02, 2010 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: F R Jameson
don't read much non fiction, but this one caught my eye in the library (after a recommendation from F R Jameson). As some of you know I take a keen interest in local writers (eg I've recently read Anthony Cartwright's 'Heartland' set in Dudley, Mez Packer's 'Among Thieves' set in Coventry and Raphael Selbourne's 'Beauty' set in Wolverhampton). Well here is a local lad who did quite well for himself - Shakespeare. I live less than twenty miles from Stratford and am often hanging about the same ha ...more
Chris
A pretty good look at how the events in one year - both nationally and personally - might have impacted Shakespeare's writing. Unlike some authors I can think of, Shapiro keeps the guesswork to almost non-existent and is always very clear when he is guessing.

I would've liked a look at connection between Hamlet and Scotland, though I must admit.

Nice combination of history, biography, and criticism.
Susan
I love Shakespeare and am not an anti-Avonian. I started reading this book as a birthday present to me and I am glad that I did.

I am absolutely agog over the brilliance of James Shapiro. Granted, there are many -- many, perhaps most -- writers who tackle Shakespeare who might as well be writing fiction. Shapiro does veer into this category but there is so little known about Shakespeare that speculation is inevitable and speculation does, at times, become certainty.

Shapiro, however, presents some
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F.R.
Part history, part textual examination and part biography; ‘1599’ does an excellent job of putting Shakespeare’s work – and the man himself – into context. It was a momentous year for The Bard, he wrote ‘Henry V’, ‘Julius Caesar’, ‘As You Like It’ and started on ‘Hamlet’. But it was also a tumultuous year for England, with an aged queen, over-ambitious lords and the threat of invasion (and indeed insurrection) hanging in the air. Shapiro takes on the task of showing how the events of the world a ...more
Sammy
A beautiful read. In "1599", Shapiro tackles one year in the history of the citizens of London. It also happens to be the year William Shakespeare wrote "Henry V", "As You Like It", and "Julius Caesar", and began work on "Hamlet".

Despite the book's title, "1599" spreads its time equally between Elizabeth and her citizens, and the Bard himself. As Shapiro openly states, we know so little about what exactly led Shakespeare to write his plays, and about specific events in his life, that anything i
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Diana
I can't praise this book highly enough: an inspired idea, meticulously researched, executed with consummate skill and insight.

Professor James Shapiro takes as his subject the year in which Shakespeare completed Henry V, wrote Julius Caesar and As You Like It and drafted Hamlet. He relates the content of the plays to the playwright's life, to what was happening in the London playhouses, to the court of Queen Elizabeth, to current affairs such as the English invasion of Ireland and the fear of ano
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Steve
This book wasn't really what I expected. The book title is, in reflection, ambiguous for the book uses 1599 as a fulcrum date and Shakespeare almost as a context. As Shapiro notes early on a true biography of Shakespeare is impossible due to the paucity of contemporary reports on his life. The result is a detective story of inference, context and supposition that seeks to find evidence of Shakespeare's influences and activity.

Shapiro does get sidelined by his 'bromance' with the Earl of Essex at
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Kevin
Wonderfully written survey of an important year in Shakespeare's life and Elizabethan culture. This book combines the best of literary criticism, history, and cultural studies. A worthy read for experts and general enthusiasts alike. Shapiro directs our attention to a period in Elizabethan history when tensions and anxieties were peaking. This is an important tale to remember: we often celebrate the end of the century as the Golden Age of English culture and literary achievement; but just around ...more
Daniel
This is an absolutely fascinating read! It is NOT a biography of Shakespeare -- those are abundant, despite the meager information available about the man -- but rather a study of the significant events which most certainly influenced the writer.

While some of the information grew a little tedious for me (specifically the long chapter on Essex's battle with Tyrone of Ireland), I found much of the examination quite remarkable.

Most certainly I learned some things about Shakespeare and about his wr
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Alan
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 bo
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Dayna
Completely awesome, and a very nice complement to the book I just read, Will in the World. Shapiro covers a little bit of the same territory, which helped to solidify that information in my brain. But he does a fascinating close up of four plays in particular and the circumstances surrounding their creation: Julius Caesar, Hamlet, As You Like It, and Henry V, Part 2. It makes me want to watch that BBC Elizabeth series again starring Helen Mirren, all about the entanglement between the Queen and ...more
Louise
What is wonderful about this book, is that the thesis is very academic, as is the thinking behind it, but the book is marvelously accessible to the general reader!

Shapiro's thesis is that the public events of 1599 (The Irish Rebellion, the fall of Essex, the fear of a second Armada, and the nearing succession of Eliz. I - of which it was treasonous to speak) and the events in the personal/professional life of WS (the new theater, the loss of his popular comic actor, the unauthorized publication
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Johanna
What a neat idea! Interdisciplinary approach to exploring the zeitgeist of late Tudor England while also providing a refreshing literary analysis of the plays Shakespeare wrote in 1599, including some insights about Hamlet that I hadn't really known about until I read the book. One of the most informative and yet enjoyable books I have read, it is dense but I finished it relatively quickly. I totally recommend this book to lovers of Shakespeare, lovers of Tudor history, lovers of literary analys ...more
Christian Schoon
so far, so fascinating.... And now that I'm done: A deeply researched, lively and totally engaging summation of not only a fateful year in the life of England but a year or so of unparalleled creativity from Shakespeare - including his re-working/transformation of the existing story of Hamlet. Worth the read as both history and biographical snapshot.
Robert Dodds
This is an excellent read for anyone frustrated by the paucity of biographical information about William Shakespeare. By connecting strands of events in the year 1599 - political, military and theatrical - Shapiro derives some keen insights into what Shakespeare's influences and interests would have been. He applies this to illuminate the plays first written and performed during that year, including 'Julius Caesar', 'As You Like It' and 'Hamlet'. Although it's a scholarly book, I certainly didn' ...more
Ann
I think this is the best book on Shakespeare I have read yet in terms of the current events, and prevailing culture during Shakespeare's life.
Toast
Better than the average dull, dry Shakespeare critic although it does have its moments. The work on As You Like It is very good, on Hamlet (my fav) it could never be good enough, the political and social background is amazingly informed, anything to add colour to this period and add knowledge to this incredible year is wrung out and knowledge learnt. Shapiro really has done his homework and made an readable book, especially the opening chapter when the actors steal The Theatre in the icy night. ...more
Jennifer
Terrible. The author states in the prologue that "rather than litter the pages" with "hedging" words like "maybe, surely, probably" that he has dispensed with them for the sake of easier reading. What emerges is sloppy scholarship-- there is so little information on WS's life and especially his thoughts, that claiming that Shakespeare felt this or that at any point is impossible.

Besides this massive, massive problem there is also the fact that this is basically a textual analysis of Henry V, As
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Daisy
This book was an engaging read, but at the same time very tiring and meandering. There were some chapters that I really, really loved (such as 'A Battle of Wills' and 'Simple Truth Suppressed'), as they actually explored something that was about Shakespeare and what he did in 1599, but other chapters I found myself not taking in or just skipping over, because, to me, they didn't feel relevant or interesting. I can see where the author was coming from on the events and people he wrote about, but ...more
Bobby Thym
Great book. Devoured it. Most of the best scholars will talk about how difficult it is to write a biography on the Bard because there simply isn't much documentation. Then they'll turn around and write a biography. But I have to admit that Shapiro picked a pivotal year in Shakespeare's life. The Earl of Essex is playing games with Queen Elizabeth who is running on fumes, the English are bogged down in a war with Ireland, and Shakespeare and his fellow actors build the Globe on the southern side ...more
Leah
This book started off strong, but dragged a bit in the middle. The author is clearly very good at this subject: the world of William Shakespeare in the year 1599. The book is broken up into sections: spring, summer, fall, and winter.

The spring was interesting because of the legal difficulties of Mr Shakespeare and his fellow players, as they moved their theater to a new location, without their landlord's approval.

The summer got a little slow because of the war in Ireland. The war was apparentl
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Sarah
James Shapiro is one of my favorite Shakespeare scholars, primarily because he is able to transport the reader back to the Elizabethan age with a sentence. He does so at the beginning of 1599, when he asks his audience to imagine the moving of the Globe Theatre from one side of the Thames to the other, commenting on the odd band of brothers doing the moving, the actual trick of transplanting all that timber, and even remarking on what the weather must have been like that winter.

It's a great set-
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Erik
Twenty-some years ago – between the ages of fifteen and twenty – I devoured the bulk of Shakespeare’s dramatic works. Nowadays, I usually pick up a single contemporary retrospective on the Bard of Avon; the last two being Stephen Greenblatt’s A Will in the World and Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as Stage . Having recently come across Shapiro’s latest nonfiction offering in paperback while scouring the remainder tables of the U Bookstore, I was more than happy to shell out six bucks for an ...more
Zoe Brown
To begin with, it must be said that I generally can't enough of Shakespeare. It's been a low level passion of mine for decades. The four stars I gave it tell you that I enjoyed this book which attempts to show how the momentous events of 1599 in Elizabethan England may have worked their way into the plays that Shakespeare wrote that year.

Interestingly, 1599 has some things in common with 2013 - a time of unease, societal transformation and changing values. Shapiro explores the failing Irish war
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Ed
Shapiro is a scholar who has done a decent job of writing for a larger, non-specialist audience--something which seems to be a dying art. This is examplary popular scholarship.

He begins with the last days of 1598 and the audacious recreation (actually the reassembling) of the theater that the company to which Shakespeare belonged had been forced to take down. The reader understands quickly that Shapiro has a very full grasp of just about everything involving his subject and his times most especi
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  • Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare's Wife
  • Becoming Shakespeare: The Unlikely Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard
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James S. Shapiro is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University who specialises in Shakespeare and the Early Modern period. Shapiro has served on the faculty at Columbia University since 1985, teaching Shakespeare and other topics, and he has published widely on Shakespeare and Elizabethan culture.
More about James Shapiro...
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World's Most Famous Passion Play Shakespeare and the Jews Shakespeare in America: an Anthology from the Revolution to Now Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare

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