The temptation for someone reviewing a readable and revelatory work like The Year of Lear is to babble on about the amazing secrets its author has uncovered. . . . [The book] is irresistible—a banquet of wisdom.”
– Jane Smiley, The New York Times Book Review
“Truly magnificent. . . . A work of genius.”
– Paul Muldoon, TLS Books of the Year
“A meticulous narrative of a momentous year in the life of the playwright and a masterpiece of intelligent literary criticism.”
– Colm Tóibín, Observer Books of the Year
“James Shapiro [is] the liveliest and most accessible of Bardologists. . . . The book is crammed with stimulating research that again and again produces startling connections. . . . It is to be hoped that Mr. Shapiro might be persuaded to write a book for every year of Shakespeare's life: Then we might finally find ourselves face to face with the Sphinx of English literature.”
– Simon Callow, The Wall Street Journal
"In The Year of Lear, Shapiro takes a closer look at the political and social turmoil that contributed to the creation of three supreme masterpieces. . . . Exciting and sometimes revelatory."
– Michael Dirda, The Washington Post
“Illuminating. . . . Shapiro captures a Shakespeare moved by – and moving – history.”
– The New Yorker
“Shapiro has a marvelous ability to use his formidable scholarship, not to pluck out the heart of Shakespeare’s mysteries, but to put the beating heart of the contemporary back into them. His great gift is to make the plays seem at once more comprehensible and more staggering.”
– Fintan O'Toole, The New York Review of Books
"Shapiro's investigation of Shakespeare's professional fortunes is as fascinating as his scrutiny of the plays. . . . [His book] draws on a mountain of reading, yet is persistently original. It takes us onto the streets of Shakespeare's London, and it reminds us of the brutal culture from which his plays sprang."
– John Carey, The Sunday Times (UK)
“No one writes about Shakespeare as Jim Shapiro does; it's so immediate and alive. . . . His passion for Shakespeare, his excitement and pure joy infect everyone he comes in contact with and absolutely come through in each of his books.”
– F. Murray Abraham
"James Shapiro’s insightful new book, The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606, performs a kind of archaeological excavation of the three plays Shakespeare wrote in this year – King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra – to reveal the rich matrix of factors that molded their themes and language."
– Nick Romeo, The Christian Science Monitor
"Like other Shapiro works, [The Year of Lear] is a brilliant, acessible fusion of meticulously researched historical narrative and keen-eyed literary criticism."
– Celia Wren, Commonweal
“While many contemporary literary scholars are devoted to deconstructing literature, and many more to only the narrowest lines of inquiry, Shapiro has the knack of piecing together those few scraps and fragments into a coherent — and persuasive — narrative of a writer at work at a specific place and time. . . . A remarkable, completely fresh look at how literature, and history, come to be.”
– David Walton, Dallas Morning News
"Probing and original. . . . Shapiro shows how [Shakespeare] was not only for all time, but also very much of his age."
– Sameer Rahim, Prospect (UK)
"Shakespearean scholar Shapiro links the tumultuous events of 1605 and 1606 to three of the Bard's greatest works. . . . Shapiro's discoveries of long-lost sources and missed connections make this a fascinating tale. His well-written, scholarly exploration will stand as an influential work that is a joy to read.”
– Kirkus Reviews (starred review)