Harper Perennial, 2005
In this book Shapiro proposes to show us that while Shakespeare’s plays have endured for centuries, Shakespeare was addressing issues which would have been as present in the Victorian mind as terrorism and
Shapiro structures the book around the four seasons, winter, spring, summer, and autumn, tying each play to the season in which it was written or first performed. This puts Henry the Fifth in the Winter, during which Shakespeare had a conflict with the other, perhaps more prominent Will, in the Chamberlain’s Men, Will Kemp, the troupe’s clown. Before this point it had been the practice for the clown to perform a jig or two at the end of the play. These jigs were often bawdy and Will Kemp is reputed to be one of the past masters of the jig, but more importantly the jig gave the clown the last word rather than the playwright, something which, I imagine, stuck in more than one writer’s craw. In the larger world the English were facing a crisis in
These are just a couple of the examples, as poorly related as they may be by yours truly, which Shapiro uses to show the reader how topical Shakespeare’s work was for the audiences of his day. If you have any interest in Shakespeare then this is a book you should definitely find time to read.