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The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,555 ratings  ·  309 reviews
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
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 6th 2015 by Simon Schuster
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Nancy Most history students would know that the punishment for treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

PS Queen Elizabeth I had died before the Guy…more
Most history students would know that the punishment for treason was to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

PS Queen Elizabeth I had died before the Guy Fawkes Plot occurred.(less)

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Manuel Antão
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2016
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

A Good Year for Shakespeare but an Awful One for England: “1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear” by James Shapiro

“Faith, here’s an equivocator, that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven.”

In Macbeth, “1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear” by James Shapiro

In the last 2 years I've been thinking a lot about Shakespeare. One
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie by: laura

Description: Ten years ago James Shapiro won the Samuel Johnson Prize for his bestseller 1599: A YEAR IN THE LIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.

1606: WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND THE YEAR OF LEAR is a compelling look at a no less extraordinary year in his life. The book traces Shakespeare's life and times from the autumn of 1605, when he took an old and anonymous Elizabethan play, THE CHRONICLE HISTORY OF KING LEIR, and transformed it into his most searing tragedy,
Original take on the history of a pivotal British year through the lens of the words of Shakespeare, contemporaneous sermons, and a few diarists (in an era when critical words in a secret notebook were treated as treason). James Shapiro--a retired Shakespeare professor--begins the previous November 5, 1605: the exposure of the Gunpowder Plot. After the Kingdom first is relieved by the deliverance of the King, his family, the aristocracy and Parliament from being atomized, repercussions soon ...more
Oct 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week
Episode One : The Theatre

In 1606, Shakespeare was writing for a Royal Family hungry for new entertainment while the threats of plague, insurrection and rebellion threatened English society. At the peak of his powers, he was writing for actors who he knew well within a theatre company with which he had been involved for more than a decade. The resulting plays, KING LEAR, MACBETH and ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA were extraordinary.

Episode Two: The Gunpowder Plot

Lew Watts
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was interviewed a few weeks ago( One question was "If you could be present at any moment in history...what event would you visit and why?" My answer, at the time, was 66 million years ago, at the mass-extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous, where I could witness the kind of devastation from a future nuclear war. After reading James Shapiro's magnificent The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, I should have said the year 1606, hovering over ...more
Nov 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shakespeare
“The Year of Lear” is not an academic book—no aspiring assistant professor shooting for tenure would want to hang his career prospects on it as a first or even second book. It isn’t about how the academy views Shakespeare’s late works. Shapiro doesn’t attack scholarly rivals nor does he break new ground analyzing the plays. It is, however, a serious book, or at least a book for serious readers who are familiar with “King Lear”, Antony and Cleopatra” and “Macbeth”. Shapiro assumes the reader ...more
“Let every man be master of his time.”

In 1606, Shakespeare wrote three plays – King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. James Shapiro sets out to show how this burst of creativity reflected the events and concerns of the times and to reveal what Shakespeare may have been thinking as he wrote.

Shapiro reminds us that Shakespeare was as much a Jacobean playwright as an Elizabethan one, and suggests that these later plays show how the English world had changed since James I came to the throne
One of the main reasons I write the odd review on is to try and maintain my written English to at least a basic standard. I don't get much opportunity to write anything substantial these days and worry that my literacy level is in perpetual decline.
So when I saw a novel that combines history and the greatest writer ever to put pen to paper in the English language, I thought here is a chance for genuine self-improvement.

The history I loved, especially the minutiae which is right up
Jan 17, 2016 rated it liked it
I’d like to say that I was really wowed by this book because it seems that most readers were; but, truth to tell, I found it a bit tedious and plodding, so I’ll give it my honest reaction. This is not to say “The Year of Lear…” is not a worthwhile read. It’s meticulously researched. And that’s one of the problems I had with it. It seemed that there was not a detail too small or a linkage too tenuous for the author to claim its influence on Shakespeare. And perhaps it was so.

The year is 1606, the
Carol Douglas
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
James Shapiro is my favorite Shakespearean critic. This book, true to form, is excellent.
In an earlier book, Shapiro described what Shakespeare's life was probably like in 1599. I enjoyed that book, and this is just as enlightening.
The plot to blow up Parliament, and King James and his family with it, was set to culminate in November 1605. Although it failed, the public was traumatized. Protestants especially were upset at the thought of losing their king, and Catholics feared retaliation
M.L. Rio
Because I have such a massive literary crush on James Shapiro, it's quite possible this review is biased. But it's equally possible that Shapiro is simply a scholastic genius. As in 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare, Shapiro's wit and insight and--perhaps above all else, sense of narrative style--make for a read that is both delightful and informative in The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606. He weaves together with spectacular finesse what little we know of the man Shakespeare, ...more
Susan Liston
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book does what I HATE, which is presume all sorts of stuff about Shakespeare that is not known and present it as fact. There are so many egregious examples of this here that I was happy to see that there is available "Contested Year: Errors, Omissions and Unsupported Statements in James Shapiro's "The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606" which I read alongside it. I had read a good chunk before I discovered this, and I was already shaking my head at what seemed to me to be some bizarre ...more
Ed Erwin
Jan 29, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, history
I'm more interested in the history here than the thoughts about Shakespeare's plays. These were interesting times in English/British history. The perpetrators of "Gunpowder Plot" were being drawn and quartered, people were still adjusting to the break from the Catholic church, and were learning to live with a Scottish king in England. And we round the year out with plague, again.

I most enjoyed the chapter on "Equivocation". Catholics were concerned with just how close they could come to making
So this year is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. I didn’t realize that earlier in the year and it is just fortuitous that this has become my year of binge-watching and binge-reading the Bard. I’m having a grand time doing it too.

I heard about this book on CBC radio and since I think I saw King Lear twice last year (once live & once via film), I was intrigued enough to put a hold on our public library’s copy. I am so glad that I did! I haven’t read a great deal about the Bard
Dec 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
Although we tend to think of Shakespeare as an Elizabethan playwright, some of his greatest plays were written in the early Jacobean years - Lear, Anthony and Cleopatra, and Macbeth.

Shapiro places these plays in the context of the year they were completed in; England in 1606 after an attempt to behead the state by destroying all of the political establishment during the opening of Parliament (for Americans, probably equivalent to planting a massive bomb in the Capitol to explode during the State
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
Edit: I have put this review off for a long time and am not sure why. I struggled with getting through this one and I think maybe I was Shakespeared-out in terms of reading about him - I'd read A LOT around the time the First Folio was on display at the Durham. I think I will give this book another chance at a later date so I can put together a better review.

I wanted to love this book, because it's Shapiro and Shakespeare. But it was not nearly as engaging as Shapiro's other books about
Carol Storm
Apr 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book! King Lear is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and Columbia professor James Shapiro does a great job showing how Shakespeare rebuilt the story from the ground up by borrowing from an earlier play called "King Leir."

What I loved best about being a Columbia undergraduate more than thirty years ago was the way professors emphasized close reading of the text. Shapiro follows that approach here. In Shakespeare's play the word "nothing" takes on an almost terrifying
Stephen Goldenberg
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
If you've read and enjoyed Shapiro's previous Shakespeare books, especially 1599, then you'll know exactly what to expect from this one. A meticulously researched history of the year's dramatic events (the gunpowder plot, the plague etc) alongside detailed textual analysis of the plays Shakespeare wrote in 1606 (King Lear, Macbeth and Anthony and Cleopatra). Inevitably, when so little is known about Shakespeare's life, Shapiro has to resort to conjecture but his skilful use of the texts provides ...more
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love learning about history through targeted perspectives, like biographies or deep dives into specific events. This book was an engaging way to get an introduction to England in the 1600s. The author takes current events and shows how they manifested themselves in Shakespeare's plays. It was a real reminder of how much writers are influenced by what's going on around them as well as their own desire to provide commentary on these events. The chapters on the gunpowder plot were most ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-prose
The title made me expect more of a focused narrative history, but this is more a mishmash of historical and literary observations; it was fine to listen on audio and tune in and out to the more interesting parts -- mostly the Gunpowder plot and how the concept of 'equivocation' worked into Shakespeare's plays. I wouldn't say this is for casual history/Shakespeare readers, but moderately interesting if you are familiar with the plays (esp Lear, Macbeth and Antony + Cleopatra) and have a general ...more
Jill Lapin-Zell
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing

Being a former English teacher and ardent admirer of Shakespeare’s work, I was anxious to read this book on the enthusiastic recommendation of an ex-colleague of mine. I have always been fascinated by the whole mystique of Shakespeare (the man), and I have also always been intrigued by how Shakespeare’s world influenced his plays. Moreover, Macbeth is my favorite of all Shakespeare’s plays. I feel it is one of the best plays ever written, bar none. And while the title may lead one to believe
Dec 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shapiro's is a neat mixture of history and Shakespeare's plays as he zeroes in on that troublesome year, 1606. It was the year of the Gunpowder Plot, bringing us Guy Fawkes Day (5 November) to commemorate the day the designs of religious terrorists (Catholic, not Muslim) were foiled in their attempt to blow Parliament (complete with seated King James & fellow ministers in attendance) to Kingdom Come (and Gone).

Seems there was a basement below Parliament. Where there was a lot of wood and
Roman Clodia
May 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
In this follow-up to his groundbreaking 1599, Shapiro looks at the fateful year of 1606 and how it might have inspired, inflected and influenced Shakespeare's Macbeth, King Lear and Antony & Cleopatra.

1606 was the year that James I was negotiating the Union of England and Scotland; the year that the perpetrators of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 were brought to trial; and a year that, according to Shapiro's readings, changed the thought-world and language of England.

What Shapiro's books
Nancy Ross
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it
I was not as enamored of this as many Goodreads reviewers. Yes, I learned a lot about the year 1606, what was going on in London and elsewhere in England, the plague, and Shakespeare and other writers. But I've read other historical and literary works that were easier going! I had to make myself keep plugging at this book and did not find it all that compelling.
Jun 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
1606 was an important year for both Shakespeare and England, and this book looks at how the events that took place that year both influenced and are reflected in the three plays Shakespeare wrote that year. This was a momentous year in England as it dealt with the fallout from the Gunpowder Plot in November 1605, James I's efforts to created a unified England and Scotland, the attempts by the Jacobean government to establish control and a growing nostalgia for Elizabeth I and much more. The ...more
Nov 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. I am going to read Mr. Shapiro’s other books on Shakespeare as soon as I can find them. The revelations and fresh insights just kept coming in each chapter and have surprisingly enriched the plays that I thought I already knew so well. Being an addict of Will Shakespeare (and of his times), I have read numerous studies, critiques and biographies and this one is right at the top.
Tough read at times mostly due to the cunt that is Christopher Troy Mahrra being the worst person in the world destroying my life and my ability to read or think straight and rationally.
Nicholas Whyte

The excellent Brussels English-language bookshop, Sterling Books (on Rue du Fosse aux Loups / Wolvengrachtstraat, behind the Munt/Monnaie) had the excellent notion the other day of offering ARCs to interested customers (thanks to Aoife for alerting me). I had previously very much enjoyed two of Shapiro's other Shakespeare books, 1599 and Contested Will (the latter provoking one of the more rancorous comment threads I have had here), so I eagerly
Mercedes Rochelle
Jun 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
I purchased this volume after reading Shapiro’s “A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599”, for I really enjoy his efforts to place Shakespeare and his inspiration firmly within the issues of the day. The year 1606 was permeated with the Gunpowder Plot and its aftermath, as the government shifted from horror to relief to extreme paranoia, all while James I was doing his best to unite England and Scotland under one flag (a very unpopular effort). It was a busy year, and the more turmoil ...more
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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.
“No bishop, no king”; he might have added, “No devil, no divine right.” 1 likes
“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety. Other women cloy The appetites they feed, but she makes hungry” 1 likes
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