Many a bardophile will hope to find James Shapiro’s 1606: William Shakespeare and the Year of Lear [London: Faber & Faber, 2015] in their Christmas stocking. Not only is Shakespeare lauded as our greatest writer but many believe King Lear is his greatest play. Mine was a very early present and I have found it a fascinating study of the events in and around 1606 and how the Bard seems to have reacted to what were current events for him. Not least of these were the Gunpowder Plot and the efforts of the new king, James VI & I, to create the Union of his kingdoms.
It was also a time of plague deaths and the consequent closing and re-opening of theatres in London which sent the several companies of players out to tour the provinces. Also to die during the year were the convicted plotters who had tried to destroy almost the entire governing elite of the country with one massive bomb. Why does this, as does Shakespeare always, seem so contemporary.
If you find history, literature and life at all levels of society interesting then there are hours of information, education and entertainment in this book written by one of the best of our current Shakespeare scholars, James Shapiro; a worthy successor to his earlier prize-winning 1599.