Henry V ,

A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

James Shapiro, Author . HarperCollins $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-008873-6

The year 1599 was crucial in the Bard's artistic evolution as well as in the historical upheavals he lived through. That year's output—Henry V , Julius Caesar , As You Like It and (debatably) Hamlet —not only spans a shift in artistic direction and theatrical taste, but also echoes the intrigues of Queen Elizabeth's court and the downfall of her favorite, the Earl of Essex. Like other Shakespeare biographers, Columbia professor Shapiro notes the importance of mundane events in Shakespeare's art, starting here with the construction of the Globe Theatre and the departure of Will Kemp, the company's popular comic actor. Having a stable venue and repertory gave Shakespeare the space to write and experiment during the turmoil created by Essex's unsuccessful military ventures in Ireland, a threatened invasion by a second Spanish Armada and, finally, Essex's disastrous return to court. Shapiro is in a minority in arguing for Shakespeare initially composing Hamlet at the same time Essex was plotting a coup; there's little textual or documentary evidence for that dating. Still, Shapiro's shrewd discussion of what is arguably Shakespeare's greatest play, particularly its multiple versions, rounds out this accessible yet erudite work. 8 pages of color illus., 22 b&w illus. not seen by PW. Agent, Anne Edelstein. (Oct. 18)

Reviewed on: 07/18/2005
Release date: 10/01/2005
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Compact Disc - 978-0-06-082317-7
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