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A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare CD: 1599

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  3,173 ratings  ·  366 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 September 1st 2005)
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Michael Finocchiaro
Truly an excellent, in-depth look at the year 1599 in Elizabethan England. We see the Bard working on Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Hamlet as the Globe Theater rises from the ground. The Queen’s lover Essex makes an ill-fated invasion of rebellious Ireland as the old modes of chivalry and codes of honor begin to crumble. Painted with an even hand between history and textual analysis, Shapiro does an outstanding job of getting behind the curtains and trying to reveal to us a Shakespe ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
This book's delves into to hemispheres: the royal world and the plays of Shakespeare. Essex and his downfall are discussed. Nothing new there
What was interesting, and could be a help to those who may write a research paper, is the analysis of the plays. Synopses are given along with character profiles and plot evaluations. I wish I had had this book about 20 years ago!

2017 Lenten Buddy Reading Challenge book #14
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Jonfaith
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crit
Shakespeare didn’t conceive of his tragedy in Aristotelian terms—that is, as a tragedy of the fall of a flawed great man—but rather as a collision of deeply held and irreconcilable principles, embodied in characters who are destroyed when these principles collide.

Ten stars. The greatest book of literary criticism I have seen in years, possibly decades. dazzling erudition and an Impressionistic historiography combine for something special. I admit I wasn't expecting something this astute, this po
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Mercedes Rochelle
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first discovered James Shapiro by accident when stumbling across a documentary called "Shakespeare, The King's Man". This show demonstrated how contemporary events found expression in his writing, especially in the early years of King James' reign. I was totally inspired by his train of thought, which prompted me to purchase this volume; it covers a year near the end of Elizabeth's reign, driven by totally different influences. As a result, my understanding of Shakespeare has undergone a massi ...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. These circumstances must have played a role in James Shapiro's decision 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
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Michelle Curie
Shakespeare is probably one of the most myth-enshrouded men in theatre. Who doesn't know his name, his plays, his stories? But what hides behind the persona remains a mystery for most part. And yet, literary critics like James Shapiro do their best to bring some light into the dark.



1599 was an important year for both England as well as the playwright. It was not only the year Shakespeare wrote four of his plays (Henry V, As You Like It, Julius Caesar and Hamlet), but also when the Globe theatre
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Bettie
Description: 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 new
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Alan
Sep 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Roman Clodia
Jun 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for a standard biography of Shakespeare then this definitely isn't it: Shapiro eschews the usual methods of writing a life and instead concentrates on a single year in Shakespeare's life.

He examines what was happening politically and culturally and how those events both manifest in the plays Shakespeare was writing that year, and also how they might have affected his future work. As he admits himself, this is mostly speculation and cannot ever be confirmed, but it's an imaginat
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Shanelle Sorensen
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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Gumble's Yard
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2006
A biography of the year in Shakespeare’s life in which Globe was established with Shakespeare as one of the partners and in which he completed “Henry V”, wrote “Julius Caesar” and “As You like It” and drafted “Hamlet”. Shapiro argues that these plays were a turning point in his career – as he moved away from popular and formulaic plays to a more demanding spectacle. To Shapiro a crucial symbol of this was Shakespeare’s break with the company’s clown Will Kemp who until then had often dominated t ...more
Diana
Apr 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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Brian Willis
Mar 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Numerous biographies of Shakespeare exist, most of which follow the usual pattern of 1564-1616 connect-the-dots narrative speculations that map the landscape of Shakespeare studies. They are worthwhile, and most are insightful regardless of whether the reader agrees with the conclusions drawn. Most of what we know will rely upon the parcels of data we have as well as the interior evidence of the plays and poems themselves.

What James Shapiro masterfully achieves is to look in depth at a key momen
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Barbara
Sep 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Wayland Smith
I found the title slightly misleading. When I hear or read "A Year In The Life..." I usually expect it to focus fairly tightly on the subject that comes next. This book had a good bit about Shakespeare, but it spent a lot of time on events happening that year, some with the most tenuous connections the great playwright.

1599 was a very eventful year. Shakespeare's company built the Globe Theater, and even that was something of an adventure involving "creatively acquired" lumber. Shakespeare hims
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QUINNS
Nov 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Shakespeare was brought to Tudor London, the English capital city of playhouses and theatregoing public. He has gained success from his works and invested in a permanent theatre company himself. His later works on the stage feature a series of dramas and tragedies exploring the great questions of the day such as religious conflict and assassination. By the end of the year in 1599, Shakespeare had become a recognised brand. He was widely admired as the finest dramatist of the day.
Alan
Mar 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Alan by: F R Jameson
Shelves: non-fiction, lit-crit
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
Donna
May 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m not a Shakespeare aficionado but I was drawn to this book because of its focus on Elizabethan England in 1599 and the interaction of that particular year’s social and political events with Shakespeare’s writing and performances. Shapiro takes this approach in lieu of a traditional biography in part because he believes we just know too little about Shakespeare as a person.

Shapiro makes the case that 1599 was a turning point year for England and for Shakespeare. England was dealing with an upr
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Rex Fuller
Dec 31, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
No doubt being an English lit nerd helps to appreciate this book. That way the endless digression that is probably necessary to encompass not just what Shakespeare wrote in 1599 but the context of it as well won’t gripe you. In fact, you’ll come to give up expecting a recognizable analytical structure and just go with the pleasantly readable flow.

Shapiro lays out the plays of 1599, Henry V, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, and Hamlet. Putting out such a list in one year is astonishing enough. And
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Susan
Nov 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting look at a single year in the life of William Shakespeare and the political and social events which were happening at the time. In 1599 Shakespeare was thirty five and, that year, would write four plays - Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It and Hamlet. Not a bad year's work you would think, but Shapiro is full of insight about the plays and the events which inspired, or shaped them.

During this year, there would be an Irish rebellion, the threat of invasion from Spain and
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Daniel
Nov 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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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David
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Biography, yes. Theatre,of course, Lit Crit, certainly. Add History, politics, social change, royalty, semantics, exploration, religion, the seasons and much more and this becomes a feast of Elizabethan life built on the life and works of WS. A smack in the face for all of those bogus academics who bend facts to prove that Shakespeare didn't write the plays and expect us to believe that the likes of Marlowe or Oxford(both dead by 1599) did!

Great stuff from James Shapiro and I have 1606 ready to
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Christine
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.
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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. ...more
H.J. Moat
Some of this book I really loved and some... was a bit of a slog.
It's not the author's fault, Shapiro does warn you right from the start that a lot of the book is about the social and political climate Shakespeare was living in during 1599, and that patience would be required to see how Will and what he was up to fits into it all, but my god, I wish he hadn't preceded it with an amazing story about Shakespeare, Richard Burbage and their pals doing a real Ocean's 11 on a dodgy landlord and puttin
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Adrienne
Listened via audible.

I know what you are thinking - why did I read this book? Well, its because I read "Hamet" a few months back and then picked it for our book club and decided since I had already read the book I should probably read some history on Shakespeare! Only problem is that there really ISN'T a history of Shakespeare. Very little is known of the man! Hardly anything from his original writings still exist so historians basically have to assume things based on the history that was happen
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Todd Stockslager
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Review title: 1599: A Year in the life of William Shakespeare

Shapiro has done the seemingly impossible for the notoriously undocumented Shakespeare: written a full length treatment of just one year of Shakespeare's life. He succeeds by focusing on possibly the most productive year of his writing career (responsible for "As You Like It", "Hamlet", "Henry the Fifth", and "Julius Caesar"), documenting the political and cultural events swirling around him, and pulling in events before and after the
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Terri-Lynn
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! It was wonderful to learn so much about the political and social environment in which Shakespeare wrote. I was expecting it to be a bit dry but was very pleasantly surprised to find it a bit of a page turner! Definitely recommended for Shakespeare fans
Sammy
Apr 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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Richard Seltzer
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book as research for my novel The Shakespeare Twins.
Provides insightful analysis of four plays by putting them into historical context as well as the context of Shakespeare's life. The plays are: Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like it, and Hamlet.
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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.

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