Saturday, June 04, 2005

1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare

Review of a new book which tells the story of the year that Hamlet may have been written: "But is this self-revising Shakespeare compatible with (author) Shapiro's claims for the pivotal importance of 1599? Even if Shakespeare began Hamlet in that year, he didn't finish - and probably had not even begun - revising it until 1600 or even 1601. When Shapiro claims that the play's famous soliloquies are "not even hinted at in Shakespeare's sources", he is momentarily forgetting that the most important source for Shakespeare's Hamlet was another popular play on the same subject, written in 1589 or earlier, probably by a different playwright. That play might have contained a Hamlet even more soliloquy-prone than Shakespeare's. "We just don't know," as Shapiro is fond of saying about Shakespeare's love life."