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The Year of Lear
The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 | James Shapiro
Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro shows how the tumultuous events in England in 1606 affected Shakespeare and shaped the three great tragedies he wrote that yearKing Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.In the years leading up to 1606, since the death of Queen Elizabeth and the arrival in England of her successor, King James of Scotland, Shakespeares great productivity had ebbed, and it may have seemed to some that his prolific genius was a thing of the past. But that year, at age forty-two, he found his footing again, finishing a play he had begun the previous autumnKing Learthen writing two other great tragedies, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. It was a memorable year in England as welland a grim one, in the aftermath of a terrorist plot conceived by a small group of Catholic gentry that had been uncovered at the last hour. The foiled Gunpowder Plot would have blown up the king and royal family along with the nations political and religious leadership. The aborted plot renewed anti-Catholic sentiment and laid bare divisions in the kingdom. It was against this background that Shakespeare finished Lear, a play about a divided kingdom, then wrote a tragedy that turned on the murder of a Scottish king, Macbeth. He ended this astonishing year with a third masterpiece no less steeped in current events and concerns: Antony and Cleopatra. The Year of Lear sheds light on these three great tragedies by placing them in the context of their times, while also allowing us greater insight into how Shakespeare was personally touched by such events as a terrible outbreak of plague and growing religious divisions. For anyone interested in Shakespeare, this is an indispensable book.
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Interesting and informative, this book wasn‘t what I expected. It‘s much more about Shakespeare‘s world than himself (naturally, as his life is so little known), so I learned a lot about the transition from Elizabethan to Jacobean times, the Gunpowder Plot, and some about the bubonic plague. Scattered throughout is info about the influences on the three plays most likely written this year: Lear, MacBeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. Accessible👇🏻

ravenlee to a relative newbie. I‘ve read just a few of the plays, some in high school and some on my own (but somehow none for undergrad literature degree and only one for MA in humanities…), but it did help that I just read King Lear a couple months ago. 2mo
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This book is full of interesting information about the writing of King Lear and Shakespeare's England in 1606.

#BookSpinBingo @TheAromaofBooks

TheAromaofBooks Woohoo!!! 13mo
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Part 2 of my #bookhaul and they‘re all for me! Merry Christmas to myself. Hubby wants to know where I‘m going to put them all, naturally 🙄. Tagged book is #blameitonLitsy and I can‘t wait to dice into it!

MidnightBookGirl Looks like a lovely, bookish Christmas haul! 3y
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I loved this, a book filled to the brim with research that reads as seamlessly as a novel. Reading the bibliographical notes at the back made me truly appreciate just how Shapiro incorporated all of his knowledge. Focusing on 1606 in which Shakespeare pulled off the incredible feat of writing three dense, complex plays--King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra--Shapiro paints a vivid picture of the social & political landscape at the time.

Butterfinger Looks very interesting. 3y
Bookwormjillk I started this audiobook a few years ago but didn‘t finish. I have to get back to it. 3y
TrishB Great review 👍🏻 3y
See All 20 Comments
Billypar Glad you liked it! I never realized that the Gunpowder Plot occurred while Shakespeare was alive and writing plays, let alone that it might have been an influence on Macbeth. It made me think about his much of my (limited) knowledge of historical events is completely decontextualized from what else was going on at the same time. 3y
batsy @Butterfinger Yes, so fascinating 👍🏽 3y
batsy @Bookwormjillk I hope you have better luck with it on the second round 🙂 3y
batsy @TrishB Thank you! 3y
batsy @Billypar Yes, I was pretty amazed to learn about that & his connections to certain people who supported the plot. Another thing was reading stuff like how he wrote the roles of the King & the Fool for King Lear with his two actors in mind; while reading the plays I'm always thinking about the text in isolation, but of course there would have been material considerations that are beyond a modern audience's understanding/knowledge. So interesting! 3y
Billypar I forgot about that: it's just like when writer-directors write a film role for a specific actor they've worked with on other films. From our perspective they seem like these timeless archetypal roles, but it's great that Shapiro lets us peak behind the curtain on those details of their origins. 3y
Graywacke Wow...fascinated by your review and the comments here. Guy Fawkes even. (my anniversary happens to be Nov 5 ☺️) 3y
UwannaPublishme Great review! 3y
batsy @Graywacke Oh, interesting! 😁 I think it's a book you'll enjoy. There's some interesting context about King Lear that I wanted to post to share with @GingerAntics @merelybookish & the #ShakespeareReadAlong crew, but he writes in such a seamless, blended way that's hard to isolate certain pull quotes without feeling like I'm giving only half of the picture. 3y
batsy @UwannaPublishme Thank you 🙂 3y
Graywacke @batsy Sometimes quotes don‘t work easily. You have a patient audience if you want to work out more explanation. 🙂 3y
merelybookish First of all, congrats on actually getting to the book. 😄 I thought it might land on the TBR pile! It sounds fascinating. TBH, I don't think I've ever known he wrote those 3 plays in one year. Also knowing the Fool, in particular, was written for a specific actor is intriguing since he is such an odd character. 🤔 Always interesting to see how culture shapes the writing of a text. I tend to be better at how culture shapes our reading of it. 3y
batsy @merelybookish The Fool & King in close interaction was in large part to exploit the great chemistry between his two best comic & tragic actors respectively, Robert Arnim & Richard Burbage. Another cool fact is that in the source King Leir, Cordelia speaks a lot & sounds, according to Shapiro, holier than thou. In Will's version, he opted to keep her silent (at the start) thus giving her role more gravity in a sense. Interesting, isn't it :) 3y
batsy @merelybookish *Robert Armin, sorry 3y
Centique Man, you read that so much faster than I did! I loved learning all about the gunpowder plot and the impact of James 1 on the theatre industry and so on... I could actually reread it and enjoy it just as much I think. 😍 3y
batsy @Centique I was in a monogamous relationship with this book for a week 😂 I know what you mean, I inhaled it; reads like a novel! I'm keen to read his earlier one, focusing on 1599 if I'm not wrong. 3y
Centique @batsy yes! I‘m looking forward to that one too 3y
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Finished Judith Hearne for #NYRBbookclub & loved it ❤️💔

Also squeezed in these two novellas, Summer Frost & The Last Conversation & enjoyed both. Though I preferred the latter; Tremblay is an interesting writer & I will have to read more of his work.


Will attempt to read Year of Lear 👑

Not sure what else I'll fit in this week but I hope to start on my fun month of Christmassy mysteries🎄💀


vivastory I really need to read the Tremblay, the Crouch was pretty bonkers 3y
Cathythoughts Havnt read any of these ... sound good though. Good luck with your reading week 👍🏻❤️ 3y
erzascarletbookgasm Hope you‘ll enjoy the tagged book. 3y
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batsy @vivastory It was! I liked that up until the end it could have played out any number of ways. The Tremblay was just suffused with that desolate dystopic feeling that I enjoy reading about 😅 3y
batsy @Cathythoughts Thank you! I hope you have a good reading week as well 📖 3y
batsy @erzascarletbookgasm Thanks, I hope so too 😁 3y
mabell Looking forward to hearing which Christmasy mysteries you read! 🎄 3y
batsy @mabell I couldn't get to this last year so I'm definitely going to this month 🙂 3y
Twainy I think that was my favorite of the 6 novellas, the way it was written & the ending! Tremblay seems to keep you guessing and spins an interesting story. A Head Full of Ghosts and The Cabin at the End of the World were more of the same. 3y
batsy @Twainy Oh, that's good to hear about his other books! I enjoyed his writing. These are the only two of the novellas I've read & I'm keen to read the rest. 3y
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Had this on my wishlist after reading King Lear & kept thinking about it every so often—i.e. should I just go ahead a buy a copy online—when I popped into my favourite remainders store & saw it at a discounted price today. A mini #celebration when you find the book you want 😁🎉 And who am I to argue with the Book Gods when they practically put a book in your hands 😂

#MOvember @Cinfhen

batsy #ShakespeareReadAlong @GingerAntics @Graywacke don't know if you guys have read it but it might be of interest :) 3y
JennyM 🤣 never argue with the book gods! 🤣 3y
CarolynM 🙌 Big win! 3y
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MaGoose Never argue with the book gods. 😉 3y
Cinfhen BEST FEELING 🙌🏻 3y
erzascarletbookgasm What a pleasant surprise find! 👏 3y
Theaelizabet I have this one, but have yet to read it. Looking forward to your thoughts! 3y
batsy @JennyM @MaGoose Never! 😁 3y
batsy @Theaelizabet I hope I get to it soon while Lear is still fresh in my mind! I dream about a book and wanting it and once I have it... 🙈 3y
Tamra Definitely don‘t provoke the gods! 😁 3y
Theaelizabet @batsy Same.☺️ 3y
Cathythoughts What a great surprise!! Now might be a good time to buy a lottery ( lotto ?? ) ticket ... your stars are aligning 👍🏻✨ 3y
Leftcoastzen That is the best !Love it when it happens! 3y
Graywacke @batsy huh, sounds fascinating...and I‘m headed to London next month. Maybe a good mental prep. ?? 3y
merelybookish Congrats! And I'm intrigued. If/when you read it, maybe share a bit for people like me who would never tackle such a book! But fun to learn how Lear fits his cultural moment! 3y
batsy @Tamra 😆 3y
batsy @Cathythoughts Hahaha! I do need an additional means of funding this book-buying habit 😆 3y
batsy @Graywacke Oooh, so exciting! Yes it would be great reading prep, I think 🙂 3y
batsy @merelybookish Thanks! And I will be happy to share stuff of interest as I go along... Hopefully when I get to it soon 🤞🏽😅 3y
GingerAntics I‘m going to have to check this out. I wonder if Lear was a comment on Elizabeth I not having any children at all. 3y
Billypar You picked a good one: I was just talking about it to someone else. Beyond all that you learn about Shakespeare at this point in his career, there's so much packed in about the politics and culture of England at this time. @merelybookish I don't read this kind of book often either, but I'm glad I checked it out! 3y
readordierachel Score! 🎉 3y
batsy @GingerAntics It'll be interesting to see if that comes up. 3y
batsy @Billypar I remember you saying good stuff about this! That's great to hear about all the info he packs in ... Deep historical context is what I lack for all of Shakespeare's plays 😆 3y
Centique @Billypar @batsy I loved this too! It took me a long time but it was so worth it to understand what the world was like when Shakespeare was writing. Now I need to read the 1599 one! 3y
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From the Book Sorting. We got a ton of history and NF in today, which I was apparently not in the mood for. Less to smuggle into the house, I guess, which is a good thing. I'm running out of space. 😄

Billypar I enjoyed Year of Lear very much. Since I read it, I've been craving more non-fiction that takes a cross-section of a particular year and place in terms of cultural, political, & historical events. 3y
Aimeesue @Billypar Oh, good! I went back and forth about bringing it home, as my Shakespeare shelf is about full, but I flipped through it and "Gunpowder Plot" jumped out at me, so I had to bring it home. I do like cross-section approach, too - that's why I really like the BBC's Upstart Crow series, ridiculous though it is - you see all the stuff that was going on around Shakespeare at the time he was writing. Good stuff. (edited) 3y
Centique @Billypar @Aimeesue I read and enjoyed this too. It took me a while to realise it was the same book because our version is called 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear. Took me a while to read but every chapter was packed full of insights and atmosphere. 😍 3y
Aimeesue @Centique I HATE when they charge the titles from county to country! I always think"Wow! There's one I haven't read!" only to be sorely disappointed when reality hits me. 3y
Centique @Aimeesue I agree! I‘ve bought the same book twice because of the title change before. 🙄 3y
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I really enjoyed being immersed in the year 1606 and hearing how the ascent of King James and current events like the Gunpowder Plot and the Plague influenced Shakespeare's plays that he wrote that year- King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. I admit that my attention started to wander in the last two chapters, but mostly this was a fascinating window into the social and political climate later in Shakespeare's career. Image from Google.

TobeyTheScavengerMonk This is on my audio TBR! 5y
Billypar @TobeyTheScavengerMonk I liked it- not only is Shakespeare just inherently interesting (at least to me), it was nice to have an entire book devoted to one year. You get a really complete sense of what was going on in Jacobean politics and culture, so it felt like being dropped in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1606, and taking a look around. 5y
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Been dipping in and out of this for months, then spent Boxing Day finishing it. I learnt so much about the Gunpowder Plot and King James‘ attempts to bring England and Scotland together and the plague and the theatre companies - and how all of that affected Shakespeare. You definitely need to love Shakespeare to stack this because it goes into the plays in detail. I loved it & want to read more about the 17th c but first my brain needs a rest!

merelybookish Cute new pic! ☺️ 5y
Centique @merelybookish thanks! The previous one was about 6 years old 😂 5y
rabbitprincess I have his 1599 book to read. This one looks great too! 5y
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#decdays #morethanyouknow

A christmassy Shakespeare for you courtesy of Google image search. 😂

I‘m on a history binge at the moment reading this and SPQR. I love reading authors who know #morethanyouknow I studied history in high school but not university. I‘m passionate about history again now! Especially realising how often history repeats and how recognisable human behaviours and politics from other eras remain.

ReadingEnvy I just read her (much shorter) book and it made me wish i knew more about her specialty. I may need to read SQPR. 5y
Cinfhen Awesome 👏🏻 👏🏻👏🏻👏🏻 5y
Centique @ReadingEnvy I‘m listening to it on Audible and the voice is beautifully British. I feel like I‘m in a university lecture (in the best way that is!) She comes at it thematically so far which makes it interesting. Just stacked the book you mentioned 😊👍 5y
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The book itself is interesting: a year in the life of Shakespeare and how current events may have been reflected in the three plays he wrote that year (King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra). I learned a lot about James I's desire to unite Scotland and England, of the gunpowder plot, and how plague impacted the theatre season.

However, the audiobook is rubbish. (See comments)

balletbookworm The reader's extremely neutral American accent just pulls you right out of a book that quotes extensively from Jacobean source material. Were they fresh out of voice actors with decent RP and/or regional English/Scottish accents? 6y
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My last #ArmchairAudie review book for the history/biography category. I'm actually very into this book that I didn't think I would like. When I finish though I'm going on a mindless fiction binge like you wouldn't believe.

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Park day with my girl

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Friday nights and new books

vivastory This sounds very intriguing. Stacked! 6y
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Some books on Shakespeare to get through.

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Needed something different. This is perfect. And, damn, the more things change . . .

SusanInTiburon .. plus c'est la même chose. So true! And I really enjoyed this book, too. 6y
Sydsavvy @SusanInTiburon exactement! 6y
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#TBRtemptation post!!! Any #Shakespeare fans among you today? Have I got a book that may very well knock your and my socks off! Looking through this book, I had the strong urge to max out my debit card, lol. One of my favorite time periods, one of my favorite literary idols, a fantastic literary masterpiece, and one of my favorite ways of approaching history, where it's all in the details. Does this strike anyone's fancy? 😎👍🏻

KVanRead That sounds awesome!! 6y
minkyb How do you find these goodies??? 6y
Faibka Oh my! Yes! Must have 😳💜 6y
See All 14 Comments
raelaschoenherr A production of King Lear is in my city next year! Looking forward to it. 6y
annahenke I've heard great things about this. BBC History Magazine did a fascinating interview with the author on their podcast. 6y
annahenke @raelaschoenherr Oh, I didn't know that. Exciting! 6y
Graciouswarriorprincess My boyfriend read this and it is on my TBR pile. 6y
andreadmw Sounds like a good one! 6y
Sydsavvy I've got to read this! 6y
LauraBeth How is your mom doing @MrBook ? 6y
MLRio Great book. If you haven't also read 1599 you really should. 6y
MrBook @KVanRead 😁👏🏻! @minkyb 😂 My well-honed book hunting skills 😉👍🏻! @Faibka 😁🙌🏻! @raelaschoenherr Ooh, niice 😊👍🏻!! @annahenke Oh wow, didn't know they had a podcast! Will be subscribing now 😎👌🏻! @Graciouswarriorprincess Your bf sounds like a swell guy 😉👍🏻! @andreadmw Indubitably 😁👍🏻! @Sydsavvy That's what I'm talking about 😆😁👏🏻👍🏻🙌🏻! @LauraBeth Aw, thank you for asking! She's doing much better 😁👍🏻!!! Still aches though. 6y
MrBook @SureAsMel Ooh, thank you for the rec!!! 6y
Graciouswarriorprincess @SureAsMel yes! We have that on our list too. @MrBook Yes, he is and a fellow librarian like me too! 6y
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Ten years of research! Reading this book feels a little like cheating... I'll add it to my winter reading list.

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Mmmm, I love a good map in a book.

charminggoats That IS a beautiful map 😍😍😍 7y
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