Intro to Shakespeare – 1

Commentaries on Shakespeare’s Plays

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William Shakespeare was born on or around April 23, 1564 into a prosperous home in Warwickshire’s Stratford-upon-Avon. He was the third child of multifaceted businessman and local politician John Shakespeare (1531-1601) and Mary Elizabeth Arden (1536-1608), the daughter of a gentleman farmer who whose Arden ancestors went back at least to the time of William the Conqueror. Aside from William, four siblings survived to adulthood, but only one, his sister Joan (d. 1646), outlived him, and in fact the descendants of Joan and her husband William Hart are the great poet’s closest living descendants since none of William and Anne Shakespeare’s grandkids had children. Three other siblings of William were his brothers Gilbert (d. 1612), Richard (d. 1613), and Edmund, who became an actor in London but died in 1607 at the age of 27).

William almost certainly attended King Edward IV Grammar School in his hometown from approximately 1571-78, where he studied copious amounts of Latin grammar and possibly a bit of Greek as well.[1] His tutors would have been the Catholics Simon Hunt, Thomas Jenkins, and John Cottam. The last-mentioned of these men had a brother named Thomas who was executed for his connection to the famous Catholic scholar Edmund Campion. There is some speculation that after his schoolboy days but before he went to London in the mid-to-later 1590s, Shakespeare was a tutor in a prominent Catholic household in Lancashire, but nothing along these lines is certain, and the period after grammar school and before he was well established in London as a playwright (1592) are sometimes referred to as the “lost years.” Where did Shakespeare get his earliest preparation for his brilliant career in London theater? As Stephen Greenblatt points out in his excellent biography on Shakespeare[2], young William would have been introduced in grammar school to a good deal of Latin literature, including comic plays by Terence and Plautus and the elegant poetry of Ovid and Vergil. From such material, an imaginative lad like him could have learned a great deal about effective storytelling.

We can probably add to school studies Shakespeare’s viewings of late-medieval mystery and miracle plays put on by traveling players, along with Catholic-tending folk rites. This sort of entertainment was going out of style under the continued pressure of the Reformation in England, but to some extent, at least, it still seems to have been around during Shakespeare’s boyhood. Greenblatt points out that in 1575, Queen Elizabeth made a “progress” through an area not far from young William’s home, so the boy could easily have caught glimpses of the dazzling spectacles provided by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester for the queen’s entertainment.[3] Proximity to John Shakespeare’s business interests as a glover, agricultural- and wool-trader, money-lender, government official, and so forth would have given William considerable knowledge of these professions, too. It would also, as Greenblatt points out, have introduced young William to the manners of the aristocratic class. Mark Twain would one day advise students everywhere, “Never let your schooling interfere with your education.” Will Shakespeare needed no prompting from a nineteenth-century American to avoid that mistake.

One thing we can’t source from any of these experiences is Shakespeare’s astonishing facility with language: this isn’t something one can just pick up along the way through education or even robust life experience. Biographer Peter Ackroyd and others have suggested that Shakespeare’s plays contain some of Warwickshire’s dialect, so perhaps we can add that to the mix of positive influences.[4] Still, to read or listen to the best of Shakespeare’s verse is to realize that we can’t reduce its author to a set of experiences and influences—we can’t dismiss the concept of genius out of hand.[5]

William married Anne Hathaway in 1582. Anne was several years older than her husband, which was rather unusual at the time. The couple had three children: Susanna (1583-1649) and in 1585 the twins Judith (d. 1662) and Hamnet (d. 1596). When William subsequently moved to London, Anne stayed in Stratford. We don’t know exactly how Shakespeare got his vital opportunity to travel from Stratford-upon-Avon to the great metropolis, but some biographers speculate that he may have become attached to one of the aristocrat-supported acting troupes that sometimes visited the area near where he lived.[6] In any case, Shakespeare must have been in London already by the late 1580s, and by 1592 (a tough year for the theater in London since the playhouses were shut down due to plague and other problems), he was becoming known as a promising playwright.

Being part of the theater scene in London must have been exciting for the young man—the first theater was built there in 1567 (the Red Lion in Whitechapel) and in 1576 (James Burbage’s London “Theatre”), and though there were predecessors to the stage such as the late medieval mystery cycles and morality plays like Everyman, the theater had an air of newness and played a significant part in the vibrant life of cosmopolitan London. Shakespeare attracted considerable notice from the outset. Even though he never attended either Oxford or Cambridge, he seems to have made some connections with the University Wits, brash young men such as Robert Greene, Thomas Nashe, Christopher Marlowe, John Lyly, Thomas Watson, George Peele, and Thomas Lodge. The dying Robert Greene refers to Shakespeare with considerable resentment in his September 20, 1592 posthumously printed essay “Groats-worth of Wit”: “there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you…..” [7] Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part 3 (c. 1591) contains language very similar to Greene’s “Tygers hart” passage, as the Duke of York reproaches his enemy Queen Margaret with the words “O tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide!” (Norton 243, 1.4.137),[8] so it seems certain that this caustic putdown was aimed directly at William. (As for at least some of his excellent poetry—the Sonnets, The Phoenix and the Turtle, Venus and Adonis, and The Rape of Lucrece—Shakespeare had patrons such as Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton to provide some Elizabethan aristocratic backing.)

For most of his career, Shakespeare was associated with the playing company known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which was later renamed the King’s Men when James I became monarch in 1603. Shakespeare seems to have chosen John Fletcher (1579-1625) to succeed him as the head of the King’s Men, and the two collaborated on three of Shakespeare’s late plays, namely Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost play Cardenio. Some other plays for which he seems to have had collaborators were Titus Andronicus (George Peele), Timon of Athens (Thomas Middleton), and Pericles, Prince of Tyre (George Wilkins). Collaboration of this sort was evidently common in the great age of Elizabethan-Jacobean drama—no doubt it was driven by the thriving market for new works to put before the public.

With or without other playwrights, Shakespeare produced an astonishing number of brilliant plays during his time as a dramatist, divided into comedies, tragedies, and histories. (The ones we call “romance” plays were not so called until the mid-Victorian Era.) He even acted in some of them, perhaps taking the role of Old Adam in As You Like It and the Ghost of Hamlet’s father in Hamlet. But his main players were the magnificent Richard Burbage for the tragic roles, and Will Kempe for comedy until 1599, after him coming the subtler Robert Armin. There were others as listed in the 1623 Folio. Well before his death in 1616 from an illness of some kind, Shakespeare had become a successful businessman (he owned part of the Globe Theatre that had been built in 1599 and the indoors Blackfriars Playhouse used from 1608 onward during the winter, which yielded considerable revenue), and had other financial interests back home in Stratford. There were some difficult times in Shakespeare’s life: his son Hamnet died in 1596 at the age of 11, and later, to this personal tragedy was added a moment of political peril when the Earl of Essex almost sucked the playwright into a 1599 rebellion by commissioning a performance of Richard II. The performance enraged Queen Elizabeth, who got Essex’s point that she, like the king in the play, was a bad ruler who deserved to be deposed. But Shakespeare had written the play around 1595-96, not for Essex’s doomed rebellion, so he wasn’t blamed. It could be dangerous to write and stage plays during his time. But all in all, Shakespeare’s was a remarkable and successful career.

It may seem odd to us that Shakespeare never published a collected edition of his plays during his lifetime. He may have agreed with Duke Theseus in 5.1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that with regard to plays, “The best in this kind are but shadows.” Perhaps, in his view, the thunderous applause of his fellow Londoners was fame enough. Or—and this seems doubtful—perhaps he meant to turn out a fair copy of his collected dramas someday, but his relatively swift-progressing final illness prevented that project. Who can say? In any case, memory of nearly all of Shakespeare’s dramas (aside from the lost Cardenio and possibly Love’s Labour’s Won) was kept alive by the publication of the First Folio in 1623. Although no original hand-written manuscripts now survive, the 1623 Folio collected edition preserved 18 of its 36 plays from oblivion since no popular quarto editions of them had yet been printed.[9]

In politics, Shakespeare seems to have been a royalist in so far as he was of any view (the relevant sovereigns are the Tudor Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558-1603) and the Stuart King James I (1603-25; James’s mother was Elizabeth’s rival Mary Queen of Scots), and somewhat conservative in the broad sense that his plays consistently respect the interests of the nobility, and not so much the commonfolk, at least when they are involved in disorders. The last years of his life were spent mainly in looking after his real estate holdings and other business interests in or near Stratford. It is logical to suppose that Shakespeare’s outlook stemmed from his bourgeois roots and lifestyle: he grew up in the Warwickshire countryside, and his father had some local influence and wealth when William was young. John Shakespeare was a local official and a glover, moneylender, and dealer in the illegal wool trade, though he seems to have fallen on hard times later on.

As already mentioned, William did quite well for himself as a businessman, what with his crowd-pleasing playwright and acting skills, wise decisions about theatrical matters at the Globe from 1599 and later at the more intimate Blackfriars, and possibly in other side ventures. People who have property and wealth tend to support stability in the social and political realms, and Shakespeare was almost certainly no different from most in that regard: a bourgeois gentleman is not likely to take the side of chaos-sowing rebels like Jack Cade or Wat Tyler over the Crown, or of house-torching plebeian Roman rioters over the interests of safety and security. One senses some humor concerning, but no genuine fondness for, mobs of any sort in Shakespeare’s plays. Stephen Greenblatt seems right to suggest in Will in the World that what Shakespeare likes about mobs of any composition was their dynamism, their energy—but not their ideas or intentions.

In religion Shakespeare may, as many biographers have suggested, have had Catholic leanings even though he conformed to the Anglican Church, which took its inception from Henry VIII’s inability to get the Pope to grant him a divorce from his first queen, Catherine of Aragon. For that reason, England joined the Protestant Reformation that Martin Luther had begun in October 1517. Still, it’s expecting a lot to suppose that everybody in the “reformed” countries would automatically go along with the program. Many English people tried to keep up the old faith, though they had to put a lid on their activities since Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth in particular didn’t want their subjects reverting to Catholic forms and allegiances. Shakespeare seems to have had a few “Papists” in his family—possibly including his father John—and he also seems to have had connections with powerful Catholics beyond his family. Ackroyd notes that quite a number of the Shakespeare family’s neighbors in Stratford were Catholic. At the very least, then, young William’s way of thinking about Catholics could not have been grounded in the sentiment, “I’ve never met one.”

In sum, Shakespeare seems to have been a culturally traditionalist, affable, entrepreneurial-minded Englishman, not some atheist radical like Christopher Marlowe or irascible ruffian like Robert Greene, even if he knew and consorted with such men. What does this biography mean for his art? It’s hard to say, really. If we were to let this “businessman burgher” image lead us to suppose that Shakespeare’s plays would offer stodgy characters and lackluster, preachy action, we would be hilariously wrong. When John Keats wrote admiringly in one of his letters of the “chameleon poet” endowed with “negative capability” (the ability to explore a personality or a situation without need for immediate certainty in the moral or factual sense), he must have been thinking of Shakespeare.[10] What besides “negative capability” and chameleonic tendencies would allow an artist so completely to enter into the mindset of a charming but thoroughly wicked character such as Richard III or Iago; or a flawed but noble one like the Roman general Coriolanus; or an all-purpose rogue and morality-play “Vice” like Jack Falstaff; or an intelligent, sensitive character like Macbeth whose ambition traps him in a downward spiral of preventive murder and psychological hardness? It would be challenging to generate so many wonderful characters if you were intent on propagating some rock-solid moral drawn from your politics or religion.[11] Shakespeare disappears with remarkable ease into his multifarious characters, so that he really is what Samuel Johnson and others have called him: “a poet of nature” (including human nature). It may seem grandiose to suggest that there has never been an artist quite like Shakespeare, but it’s also defensible.


The Tudor Era begins with Henry VII (1485-1509), victor in the Wars of the Roses over the last Yorkist King Richard III (1483-85). It continues through the reigns of Henry VIII (1509-47), Edward VI (1547-53), Mary (1553-58), and ends after Elizabeth I (1558-1603). The Stuart Era begins with the son of Mary Queen of Scots, James I (1603-25), continues with the reign of his ill-fated son Charles I (1625-49), and then after an interregnum period in which Cromwell and his Puritans ruled, it is restored in the person of Charles II (1660-85).[12]

A central period of English history with respect to Shakespeare and his dramas is the mid-fifteenth century through his own lifetime (1564-1616). Henry VII put an end to the Wars of the Roses, a period of dynastic strife between the descendants of Edward III (1327-77) stretching from 1455 to Henry’s ascension and even a few years after that, to 1487. In essence, the throne was tossed back and forth between the Houses of Lancaster and York, with the often incapacitated Lancastrian King Henry VI (son of Henry V, victor of Agincourt) ruling from 1422-61, and Yorkist Richard III getting rid of the heirs of his deceased brother and fellow Yorkist Edward IV (1461-83), who had defeated Henry VI, to rule in his own right for three fitful years (1483-85). Finally, Henry, Earl of Richmond, an exiled member of the Welsh Tudor clan, married Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York to unite the two great houses. This Henry VII, of course, is the grandfather of the mightiest of English rulers, Shakespeare’s own Queen Elizabeth I. So the recent political past had been one of strife and instability, with great nobles traversing England and at times treating the people with as little respect as foreign invaders might.

Elizabeth I’s reign, which covered Shakespeare’s lifetime until his 39th year, was a time of growth, promise, and international danger for England. Her father Henry VIII’s reign (1509-47), as mentioned above, swept Martin Luther’s bracing Protestant Reformation into England from the Continent, posing a severe challenge to the safety and consciences of many English citizens, and while at first Queen Elizabeth seemed content to require only outward conformity with the new Protestant dispensation, genuine threats from the Popes in Rome and from Catholic plotting led her into ever-more severe means of dealing with Catholic priests infiltrating England from Europe and with English “recusants” and other religious malcontents. The massive Spanish Armada sent by Philip II of Spain (Elizabeth’s half-brother!) was sent on a mission in 1588 to crush the English navy and then invade England itself. Thanks in part to a major storm, the Armada failed, but the menace was real, which meant persecution and forced secrecy for many of England’s still large number of dedicated Catholics.

This was a time of growing English nationalism, naval power, and exploration, with the Queen encouraging men such as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake to set sail for the new world. Royal power had been much centralized from the time of feudalism and the Court was a great factor in English life during Tudor and Stuart times, but Queen Elizabeth and her successor James I were by no means unencumbered absolutists, however fond the latter was of “the divine right of kings.” In particular, the growing commercial class in London began to feel its power as an important economic force in the life of the nation, and religious Puritans began to take issue with the authority of the Crown and the Church of England (or Anglican Church) that Henry VIII had turned into a nationalist instrument when Pope Paul III excommunicated him in 1534.

The struggle between Puritans and the State intensified in the reigns of the Stuart James I and then of his son Charles I, who was executed in 1649 during the course of a bloody Civil War won by Oliver Cromwell and his faction, who were determined to establish the Rule of the Saints on English soil. These theater-closing, pleasure-disdaining Puritans ruled for only a decade or so, with Charles II returning from the Continent to initiate the Stuart Restoration of 1660, but the monarchy has never been as powerful since the Puritans’ regicidal Interregnum. Shakespeare, of course, didn’t live to see the civil strife of the 1640s, though his sister Joan did, and so did his last direct descendant, granddaughter Lady Elizabeth Hall Barnard, who died childless in 1670, ten years after the Restoration.[13] On the whole, during the Tudor and Stuart periods, English sovereigns were acutely aware of how valuable the arts could be to them in their quest to shore up and augment their own power, and Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights certainly benefited from this awareness.


Let’s leave aside political and religious history and move on to consider briefly Shakespeare’s London. It was a thriving city of perhaps 200,000-250,000 people by his day (say 1600), and the whole of England had around four million inhabitants. The neoclassical critic Samuel Johnson later declared proudly that “He that is tired of London is tired of life,” but even before his time the City must have been an exciting place to live, if not a very safe one. Many of the protections modern people take for granted didn’t exist in Shakespeare’s time. Safe food and good sanitation? Forget it. Health care? Not available—aside from perhaps some herbal remedies and advice to “take the waters” or avoid strenuous exertion, physicians were about as likely to kill their patients as cure them. The germ theory of disease was unknown (it’s more or less a nineteenth-century development), and the average lifespan seems to have been around 35 years. If a person was very lucky and never contracted a serious illness or needed surgery, he or she might live to the biblical threescore and ten (70), but more likely the end would come much sooner. And there was still the Bubonic Plague to deal with in both London and the countryside—Daniel Defoe’s post-Restoration book Journal of the Plague Year (1722) conveys how horrifying and deadly a prospect that was. Material life for London’s working class of servants, apprentices, and artisans must have been rough, always a struggle. The City had its guildsmen and prosperous merchants, too, but all were subject to the difficulties of life in a noisy, dirty, dangerous environment.

One thing to draw from this characterization is that life in early modern London retained some of the uncertainties of medieval times, in particular a deep sense of the tenuousness of existence itself—people never knew when they or someone they loved would be carried off by the plague or some other sickness, or by an accident due to unsafe conditions. Death was an acknowledged, if feared, part of everyday life. That kind of awareness makes for a very different sensibility from ours because our culture tends to distance us from the presence and processes of death. At the same time, London offered a new sense of possibility and liveliness, a sense of the larger world “out there,” the one beyond Europe being explored by Raleigh and Drake and others. London was becoming to some degree cosmopolitan, a place that invited the world in rather than excluding it. In plays such as The Tempest, Shakespeare plays to this awareness of the greater world beyond England, no doubt much to his audiences’ delight.


The advent of the public theater in the 1570s-1580s certainly testifies to a thriving intellectual climate in London. The Victorian critic Matthew Arnold was surely right when he mentioned Elizabethan London in the same sentence as Classical Athens in this regard. In his 1866 treatise “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time,” Arnold wrote that Shakespeare didn’t need tremendous book-learning because a lot of his acumen came from living in a culture that was alive to all that life had to offer in the Early Modern Age. Shakespeare grew up in this heady atmosphere, and his audiences were receptive to the imaginative spectacles he staged for them. Some acting companies performed up to twelve plays a week, so they had to foster a community spirit among the actors, who didn’t get much rehearsal time for their performances. Many Londoners of all classes had at least some leisure time, and aside from their attendance at crude spectacles such as bear-baiting and public executions, they flocked in impressive numbers to the several theaters (the Rose, the Swan, and others before the Globe’s opening in 1599). It should be noted that the theaters were not located in areas within the city of London’s jurisdiction since the authorities frowned upon the seamy, morally suspect presence of the lower orders in and around the major playhouses.[14]

In Shakespeare’s Audience, Alfred Harbage suggests that on any given day, several thousand inhabitants probably paid their penny or more to attend an afternoon theater performance, and the demand only went away when the Bubonic Plague struck from time to time and closed the theaters down.[15] Harbage also deals carefully with the question of audience composition: the most extreme characterizations of the London playgoers, to be sure, are the product of Puritan loathing. Not all of Shakespeare’s groundlings[16] were prostitutes or pickpockets, though some of them were. The profession wasn’t considered solid in terms of class status, and women were not allowed to become actors because it was not deemed a respectable craft for them to practice. Still, respectable people, male and female, attended the London theatres, which were a meeting ground for citizens from various stations and walks of life. For that matter, Shakespeare’s players strutted their stuff at times even before the nobility and monarchs at court, so drama was an interest that cut across large sections of Elizabethan-Jacobean society. Theater was an impressive part of the life of a burgeoning Early-Modern nation, and it served all of the purposes that art can and does serve, from reinforcing social mores to questioning them sharply; from praising monarchs to reminding them that they were, after all, only mortal; from delightful escapism to stark, almost unbearable realism.

Copyright © 2023 Alfred J. Drake

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen, Walter Cohen, Suzanne Gossett, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Gordon McMullan, eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Set of Four + Digital Edition. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-26546-0.


[1] See a 1709 edition of Headmaster of St. Paul’s School William Lily’s popular Latin grammar textbook; the first edition was published in 1513.)

[2] Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Co., 2004. Ch. 1, “Primal Scenes,” 23-53.

[3] Greenblatt, Will in the World. Ch. 1, “Primal Scenes,” 42-53.

[4] Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare: the Biography. New York: Anchor Books, 2005. Ch. 8, 42-44. But as for the issue of Warwickshire dialect appearing in Shakespeare’s plays, this is a matter of contention. See, for example, this 2016 article by Ros Barber in The Conversation. It’s fair to point out that we have no reliable way to arrive at a precise sense of the dialect that prevailed in Shakespeare’s environs more than 400 years ago.

[5] A note on the “authorship controversy.” While it’s theoretically possible that the man William Shakespeare who grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon and lived from 1564 to 1616 did not write the works of Shakespeare, such claims seem to be consistently unconvincing. Shakespeare was well respected (if also resented by some) as a playwright—among his friends were learned fellow playwright Ben Jonson and other artistic notables, and to them we may add Queen Elizabeth I and King James I, for whom he staged fine productions at court: Elizabeth probably saw at least The Merry Wives of Windsor and Love’s Labour’s Lost, while James watched Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice, Othello, Henry V, and other plays. The oft-stated notion that Shakespeare couldn’t have written “Shakespeare” because he was a commoner seems fundamentally flawed. It makes more sense to suggest that an aristocrat would not have had the range of life experience to write as Shakespeare did—he wouldn’t have the varied experiences that an ordinary but strikingly observant citizen would have. In this view, William Shakespeare, a member of a tolerably prosperous but countryside-based family, was perfectly positioned to become “Shakespeare,” author of the remarkable and varied dramas we still appreciate today. Perhaps Shakespeare the man is subjected to so much suspicion because so many critics have turned “Shakespeare” into a god. When that happens, people look for the feet of clay that they think must uphold the golden image.

A recent author-question effort by the excellent book-trade historian Stuart Kells is Shakespeare’s Library: Unlocking the Greatest Mystery in Literature (Berkeley: Counterpoint, 2018), which, starting from what is conceived of as the major problem of Shakespeare’s missing library, re-envisions the playwright as essentially a specialist in “vitalising” other colleagues’ work, a kind of middleman in the “production line” of a complex Elizabethan-Jacobean publication process (see especially pp. 208-15). This is an interesting view, but one question to ask of it would be as follows: if, as Professor Kells suggests, Ben Jonson was the “master editor” of such a project as the First Folio of 1623 and thus (allegedly along with John Florio) put the final polish on Shakespeare’s presumably mediocre work, why did Jonson never produce plays in his own name that were as sparkling as much of what we encounter in Shakespeare’s Folio? Jonson was an excellent poet and playwright, but very few readers today would claim that his work equals that of Shakespeare. By what editorial magic do we get, say, the Folio version of Hamlet from the author of Sejanus? Another question to ask concerns the poetry that Shakespeare published before his death, in particular the Sonnets that went out in Quarto format in 1609. They are widely acknowledged to be brilliant, highly polished, perhaps even unparalleled in their kind. Surely, they are not the work of a mere journeyman who desperately needed an editor, so why shouldn’t the plays be equally fine?

[6] Greenblatt, ibid. Ch. 5, “Crossing the Bridge,” 162-63.

[7] Greene, Robert. “Groats-worth of Wit.” Renascence Editions. Accessed 1/31/2024.

[8] The edition used for Shakespeare quotations is Greenblatt, Stephen, et al., eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93862-3.

[9] Which plays stood to have been lost? The eighteen are as follows: All’s Well That Ends Well, Antony and Cleopatra, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VIII, Julius Caesar, King John, Macbeth, Measure for Measure, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Timon of Athens, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Winter’s Tale.

[10] Keats, John. “Letter to Richard Woodhouse, 27 Oct. 1818.” (Keats Letters Project) Accessed 1/30/2024.

[11] This is not meant to disparage didactic authors. John Milton is exemplary in this regard. No one would say that Milton lacked firm moral, “teacherly” intentions for his art, but he was quite able to create dynamic characters and page-turning narrative.

[12] The Hanoverian line begins with George I (1714-27). The name changed to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha when Edward VII (1901-10) reigned. He was the son of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and the German Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg Gotha. The name changed again in the wake of WWI when “Saxe-Coburg Gotha” came to sound too Germanic. This time, it changed to the elegantly titled “House of Windsor” with George V (1910-36). The most recent three sovereigns in this line are George VI (1936-52), Elizabeth II (1952-2022) and Charles III (2022-present).

[13] However, some descendants of Shakespeare’s sister Joan Hart are still around today.

[14] On the forced relocation of theaters to land beyond the city limits, see, for example The Old Globe Theater History

[15] Harbage, Alfred. Shakespeare’s Audience. Columbia UP, 1961.

[16] Groundlings, who paid only a penny for entry, had to stand during performances rather than enjoy them seated.