A lot of people think of William Shakespeare as godly or of his work as timeless, but James Shapiro shows that he was very human and his work was very contemporary to the world he was living in.
In 1599, Shakespeare was 35 and writing his best work–Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and Hamlet. The Globe Theatre also went up that year, which he invested in. His plays were already well-known and soon became part of the theater’s brand. Shakespeare lived out of town from his wife and kids (one of whom died that year) and, when he visited them once in 1599, he probably didn’t get any writing done, which explains why he was living alone. But, otherwise, he was just doing his thing–acting, reading, writing.
In the middle of all this, a book of his unfinished poetry was published under the title The Passionate Pilgrim. These were pieces he only shared with close friends, which meant someone in his circle sold them to a publisher who now owned the rights. That proves his popularity, but the whole incident was also probably embarrassing and enraging. So Shakespeare took the high road–he revised and republished the poems and wrote about the drama that revolves around exposing bad poetry in his plays.