Tuesday, 22 July 2014

1599 [james shapiro]

Shapiro's text achieves several objectives.

It reveals how the writer's work was shaped by his interaction with society. Thereby revealing a figure fully engaged with the complications, complicities and dangers of his age. A political figure, with a small p. It sets out to demystify the reputation of the writer as a romantic, mysterious figure and to a certain extent succeeds. At the very least it  contextualises him.

It also offers a telling vision of Elizabethan society. Just as in today's Britain, it shows a political body which had few qualms in manipulating its people with scare stories. Apocalypse was always around the corner. The intrigues of power like something out of House of Cards. With Shakespeare participating in the debate through his plays. 

This book, which is not a biography, rather a portrait of an era seen through the lens of four of the writer's plays, is already considered a classic and with good reason. The writer, according to Shapiro's vision, becomes a weather vane or tuning fork, plugged in to the nuances of his society's agenda, an agenda which will always possess its metaphysical or spiritual values, alongside base ambition and earthly glory. 

One finishes the book longing for him to write the sequel, and the sequel that comes after that, and those that would follow. 1066 and all that. 

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