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1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (Hardback)
  • 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (Hardback)

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear (Hardback)

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Hardback 352 Pages
Published: 01/10/2015

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Ten years ago James Shapiro won the Samuel Johnson Prize for his bestselling book 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare.  Now, to mark the forthcoming 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, comes a compelling look at a no less extraordinary year in his life: 1606.

1606 is an intimate portrait of one of Shakespeare's most inspired moments, the year he wrote three great tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. James Shapiro 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, King Lear.  

1606, while a very good year for Shakespeare, was a fraught one for England. Plague returns to the capital. As the playwright struggles to assert himself in the court of the new king, there is surprising resistance to James I’s desire to turn England and Scotland into a united Britain. And fear and uncertainty sweep the land and expose deep divisions in the aftermath of a failed terrorist attack that came to be known as the Gunpowder Plot, a plot that comes perilously close to Shakespeare’s door.

As Shapiro shows, there are many ways in which these events make their way into Shakespeare’s great plays of the year, not least in the way that Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and King Lear all share common themes of conflict over land and ideology. Shakespeare was unrivalled at identifying the fault-lines of his cultural moment and Shapiro shows how those great works reveal a hidden history of that moment of great change and uncertainty.

Following the biographical style of 1599, a way of thinking and writing that Shapiro has made his own, 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear promises to be one of the most significant and accessible works on Shakespeare in the decade to come. James Shapiro deftly demonstrates how these extraordinary plays responded to the tumultuous events of this year, events that in unexpected ways touched upon Shakespeare's own life. By immersing us in Shakespeare's England, 1606 profoundly changes and enriches our experience of his plays, works that continue to speak to us with such immediacy.

“Shapiro demonstrated that, by paying attention to the interaction of play text and historical context, we could make important discoveries about Shakespeare’s creative context.” - The Observer

Publisher: Faber & Faber
ISBN: 9780571235780
Number of pages: 352
Weight: 639 g
Dimensions: 234 x 153 x 39 mm

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“Annus mirabilis”

James Shapiro takes a sharply focussed look at just one year, just a few key events, and just a few Shakespeare plays... It's a winning mix of detailed studies that forms a really compelling narrative about a... More

Paperback edition
2 similar books recommended
Helpful? Upvote 74

“Very enjoyable”

This book is really enjoyable as it combines history and literary criticism - personally I think you need to understand the history of the times when reading historic texts. The author demonstrates how contemporary... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 46

“Marvellous historical insight”

This did feel very much like using as a research tool a scholarly text – which is what it is meant to be, following Shapiro's previous work on Shakespeare – ‘1599.’ I do find, though, that books such as these... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 9

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