What special circumstances produced the works of Shakespeare? In what surroundings did he write, and how might they have influenced him? What was the character of the times in which he lived? Frank Kermode explains how the history and culture of the Elizabethan era are the backdrop to William Shakespeare and his plays. The circumstances of each play's composition are described, and set within a masterful portrait of Shakespeare's England -its early capitalism, its court, its bursting population, and its epidemics, as well as its arts -including, of course, its theatre.