Inthe autumn of 1605, Shakespeare took an anonymous Elizabethan play,The Chronicle History of King Leir, and transformed it into his most searing tragedy,King Lear.
1606 proved to be an especially grim year for England, which witnessed the bloody aftermath of the Gunpowder Plot, divisions over the Union of England and Scotland, and an outbreak of plague. But it turned out to be an exceptional one for Shakespeare, unrivalled at identifying the fault-lines of his cultural moment, who before the year was out went on to complete two other great Jacobean tragedies that spoke directly to these fraught times:MacbethandAntony and Cleopatra.
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