A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599 (Hardcover)


By James Shapiro

HarperCollins, 9780060088736, 416pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2005



An intimate history of Shakespeare, following him through a single year -- 1599 -- that changed not only his fortunes but the course of literature

How was Shakespeare transformed 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 whom he works with as he invests in the new Globe Theatre and creates four of his most famous plays -- Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet.

James Shapiro illuminates both Shakespeare's staggering achievement and what Elizabethans experienced in the course of 1599: sending off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathering an Armada threat from Spain, gambling on the fledgling East India Company, and waiting to see who would succeed their aging and childless queen.

This book brings the news and intrigue of the times together with a wonderful evocation of how Shakespeare worked as an actor, businessman, and playwright. The result is an exceptionally immediate and gripping account of an inspiring moment in history.

Praise For A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

“Shapiro’s scrupulous scholarship has given us a Shakespeare both for his time and our own.”
-David Scott Kastan, General Editor, The Arden Shakespeare

“Mr. Shapiro has given us by his encyclopedic scholarship and lucid narrative a hitherto unknown Shakespeare.”
-Jacques Barzun, author of From Dawn to Decadence

“Quite brilliant….It gives a whole large picture of his life, times, and achievement. Wonderful.”
-Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate (England)

“deliciously vivid....Shapiro weaves a tantalising narrative.”
-David Lister, The Independent

“an unforgettable illumination of a crucial moment in the life of our greatest writer.”
-Robert McCrum, The Observer

“[This] is one of the few genuinely original biographies of Shakespeare.”
-Jonathan Bate, Sunday Telegraph

“Superb—the product of marathon scholarship, inspired insight, narrative flair, astute surmise and searching intelligence.”
-Peter Kemp, Sunday Times (London)

“An intriguing addition to Shakespeare studies...open-minded readers will be stimulated and enriched by Shapiro’s contextual approach.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“a stunning exhibition of scholarly intelligence by an academic deeply committed to arriving at the truth.”
-Christopher Rush, Sunday Herald, Halifax

“As a yarn, this is up there with The Da Vinci Code but in 1599 it’s all true!”
-Sir Ian McKellen

“Very distinguished...captivating...Shapiro succeeds where others have fallen short.”
-William E. Cain, Boston Globe

“a brilliantly readable and revealing narrative.”
-Nicholas Hytner, The Guardian

“Only an extraordinary scholar could illuminate Shakespeare’s singular genius by demonstrating how much his work owes to Elizabethan cultureandsociety.”
-Alexandra Alter, Chicago Tribune

“This book is a masterpiece, simply a masterpiece.”
-Booklist (starred review)

“James Shapiro throws an unusually searching light across Shakespeare’s creative genius and makes him come truly alive.”
-The Economist

“[P]assionately written study, the product of deep scholarship and acute critical thought... fascinating.”
-Stanley Wells, Editor of The Oxford Shakespeare

“If Will in the World is essentially an extremely good historical novel, [YLOWS] is history itself”
-Jeremy Treglown, Financial Times

“Excellent book....superbly illuminating....Shapiro deserves whoops of applause.”
-Sam Leith, The Spectator

“For Irish readers...by far the best account yet written of the relationship between this island and Shakespeare’s work.”
-Fintan O'Toole, Irish Times

“Shapiro gives us a Shakespeare who chronicles his age, in a biographical form that speaks clearly to our own.”
-Francis Wilson, Saturday Telegraph