Baker & Taylor Combines historical research with a literary understanding of William Shakespeare to trace the influence of social and political factors on the writer's life and career
Blackwell North Amer In examining historical records, Kay has assembled a story of Shakespeare's life - one that shows a man driven to develop his business interests and to preserve his estates in Stratford-upon-Avon. He contends that there is little evidence that Shakespeare was writing with an eye on posterity. Rather, his writing was intimately bound up with his contemporary culture, and particularly with the new art form of the professional theater. Kay argues that in writing for the public stage Shakespeare chose a medium whose tendency to be social and collaborative was especially marked in the culture of early modern England, where the function, value, effects, and even the existence of drama were matters of intense concern. In various chapters Kay describes Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford, citing its history and the career of Shakespeare's father, his own marriage and appearances in the town records; the curriculum Shakespeare probably followed at the grammar school in Stratford and the evidence the plays provide of his reading throughout his life; English history from the accession of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of James I in 1625, depicting the culture and society of Shakespeare's England; London, the city where Shakespeare worked for some 20 years, and the evidence of his activities and residences there; the theatrical industry in which Shakespeare worked, considering the playhouses, acting companies, the playgoers, and changing attitudes to the drama; Elizabethan and Jacobean culture, with special reference to the place of drama; and the three major phases of Shakespeare's literary career. Kay's research and archival detective work provide a portrait of a man whose plays entertained both royalty and commoners with characters, plots, and subjects that both reflected and illuminated life as they experienced and understood it. Kay shows that Shakespeare's works were not created in a vacuum - he demonstrates that an appreciation of the extraordinary genius of Shakespeare can only be enriched and deepened by an awareness of his life and career in the context of his times.