Katherine Duncan-Jones

Of Plagues & Players

1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of 'Lear'

By

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,

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,
    • 'Seventy years on, the time we have left to gather such first-hand testimony is running out.' John Keay on the sig… ,
    • The author 'seethes with contemptuous indignation at the shiny junk that an unregulated construction industry dumps… ,
    • 'The physical courage he demonstrated as a young man [...] gave way to intellectual power; radical thought, gifted… ,
    • 'While Jane Austen didn’t perhaps achieve the full recognition that she deserved in her lifetime, even then she out… ,
    • 'All I have is a voice To undo the folded lie, The romantic lie in the brain Of the sensual man-in-the-street And t… ,
    • 'You are interested in a particular subject; basic research hardens this interest into an obsession, after which th… ,