Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, James Shapiro studied at Columbia University and the University of Chicago. He is currently Larry Miller Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has taught since 1985.
He the author of Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson, Shakespeare (1991); Shakespeare and the Jews (1996); Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the World’s Most Famous Passion Play (2000); 1599: A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare (2005), which was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize for the best non-fiction book published in Britain; Contested Will (2010), which was awarded the Theater Library Association's George Freedley Memorial Award; and has edited an anthology on Shakespeare in America for the Library of America (2014). His 3-hour documentary on late Shakespeare--"The King and the Playwright"--aired on BBC4 in 2012 and his "The Mysterious Mr. Webster" on BBC2 in 2014. His most recent book, "The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606" (2015), was awarded the Sheridan Morley Prize for Theatre Biography.
His essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the London Review of Books, the TLS, the Los Angeles Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Sunday Times, The Irish Times, The New Statesman, and the Financial Times. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Guggenheim Foundation, and The New York Public Library Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers.
He serves on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library as well as the Board of Directors of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He is currently the Shakespeare Scholar in Residence at the Public Theater in New York City. He is also a Vice President of the Authors Guild.
In 2011 James Shapiro was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.