Shakespeare in 1599 - Sidebar CleanupI should have removed this book from my sidebar long ago, as I actually read it very quickly - James Shapiro's A Year in the Life of Shakespeare - 1599.
And what a year! He moved his theatre to the south side of the Thames, he wrote (let me see if I can recall), Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet. Shapiro describes the texture of the world in which Shakespeare worked - his competition, labour problems (casting changes forced on him), as well as the political world outside the theatre, that informs these plays. This was the year that the Earl of Essex led the disastrous invasion of Ireland, and this informs much of the politics of the year, and they really are significant, as the outcome is yet another significant challenge to the throne.
I found this book, picked up in a whim at the airport, one of the most enjoyable and compelling reads of the year. It is about to disappear from the sidebar but I recommend you order it form the link in this post!