1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear

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9780571235780: 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear
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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)

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Shakespeare turned 42 in 1606. He had written more plays and had been writing plays for longer than any other dramatist in England. Twenty-nine comedies, histories, and tragedies and all of his sonnets and poems were behind him. But there was much more to come. 1606 would witness another of Shakespeare's great creative outbursts, for during these turbulent months, when England was suffering from an outbreak of plague and feeling the aftershocks of the infamous Gunpowder plot, he would write three of his most remarkable tragedies: King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. This book is about that year. The Year of Lear traces Shakespeare's life and work from the autumn of 1605, when he came upon an old and anonymous play - The True Chronicle History of King Leir - in one of the bookstalls near his Silver Street lodgings. From there, he traces the story's shocking and brilliant transformation into King Lear as we know it - and then to Macbeth, written in a white heat in the tumultuous spring of 1606. For most authors, writing and revising Lear, then rapidly composing Macbeth, would have been a lifetime's accomplishment. But Shapiro's new book goes on to explore how, with the theatres closed indefinitely for plague in autumn 1606, and with time on his hands, Shakespeare began a third great tragedy, Antony and Cleopatra. Never before, and never again, would Shakespeare's plays explore so relentlessly the problems of aging, of losing authority, and of mortality. Following the biographical style of 1599, a way of thinking and writing that Shapiro has made his own, The Year of Lear promises to be one of the most significant and accessible new works on Shakespeare in the decade to come.

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