Almost finished reading James Shapiro’s 1599, A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare and enjoying lots about it, particularly the context of Elizabethan London that Shapiro builds up and the many influences there were for Shakespeare there too.

It’s good to be reminded again, in some of these dramatic reconstructions, that these plays and poems didn’t always exist, that a man was writing them, between investing in the theatre, doing a bit of acting and keeping in contact with a wife back in Stratford. In between eking out a living Shakespeare wrote. Quite well too! And Shapiro does a good job of constructing that man in a particular place with a particular set of influences, as well as giving us a critical analysis of some key plays such as As You Like It.

I was talking to my students the other day about my imaginary dinner party where I invited six people from history for conversation over lamb shanks and a good bottle of red. Who would you invite, from all history? Most of my invitees would be writers. And Shakespeare would be head of the table.


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