Top positive review
A mixture of history, literary criticism and biography
on 18 September 2017
I am not an English specialist nor an historian but I do have a working knowledge of Shakespeare's major plays and Tudor England and I feel that you need this to appreciate this book properly. I wish that I had known all the plays which he describes here in more detail as I would have got more out of the book but my acquaintance with "Hamlet" and even more sketchily with "Julius Caesar" were sufficient.
The author is trying to give a feel for one year through the history of the time and then looking at the plays to see how the events and politics of the time are reflected in the content. The year he has chosen is 1599 which was the year of the Earl of Essex's rebellion against Queen Elizabeth and a time when power and succession were much in the forefront of the minds of political thinkers. Shakespeare himself was part of the building of the Globe Theatre and obviously working hard, wanting his plays to be acceptable and popular. The author combines history, biography and literary criticism to give us a textured view of this year and what it meant to the people at the time and to Shakespeare himself.
I found the book hard going at first because it dumped a lot of information but I persevered and became engrossed in the story. I feel that I was left with a better understanding of the times and especially the plays and how they linked together. This is obviously a well researched book but the author has a clear narrative and understanding of what he wants to say and uses evidence appropriately.
An intelligent and unusual book.