Everything You Know About the Snowing
A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare : 1599
by James Shapiro
I totally don't have time to write about this book, but it was really great. Essentially, Shapiro argues that 1599 was the absolute high point of Shakespeare's career, and a watershed moment for literature in general.

He argues that a whole series of events conspired in this: Shakespeare was the first playwright in Elizabethan England to also own a share in a company, and this gave him unusual amounts of freedom. By 1599 he was also quite wealthy, and was able to take some time off (presumably) and write Hamlet. At the same time, however, the Boy's Theatres in the city were providing real competition, and the Globe had just moved to its new location, so it was necessary to stand out from the crowd and be a little different. Then, too, Shakespeare had just read Montaigne's essays (the first of their kind) and had decided to try to incorporate that style of self-reflection and introspection into his drama.

Shapiro argues that, for these reasons and others, Shakespeare made a deliberate choice to being writing plays that were unlike normal Eliabethan drama at the time. Shapiro claims that he warned his audience to expect something new, and then wrote Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet, three plays that stretched and transformed theatre.

Fuck, Shakespeare's awesome.
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