Katherine Duncan-Jones

Of Plagues & Players

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of 'Lear'

By James Shapiro

Faber & Faber 423pp £20 order from our bookshop

This book’s threefold rhyming subtitle – ‘Shakespeare’, ‘Year’, ‘Lear’ – is charmingly witty. It is also slightly misleading. In the manner of such currently fashionable formulas as ‘the long 16th century’, James Shapiro has assembled an exceptionally generous ‘year’. It encompasses a lot of material, not all of which belongs strictly to 1606. He has also made a practical decision not to trouble his readers with the complexities of Old and New Style dating, which leaves some chronological boundaries rather blurred. As a whole, however, 1606 is richly packed with accounts of court masques, turbulent political events and the composition and performance of three major Shakespeare plays.

Perhaps because so much is included,

Sara Stewart


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