Instead, Wood takes us on an exhilarating journey through Elizabethan and Jacobean England, building a picture of his subject through painstaking reference to the climate of the age: a police state in which Shakespeare's family was devastated by the persecution of Catholics. Social, familial and political influences are all unravelled and pieced together, counterpointed with scenes from the plays--RSC actors conveniently to hand--and the life and times of the travelling actor and playwright are evoked in front of our eyes, becoming tangible and relevant.
Wood gives us the chance to consider the plays in context, products of a great mind living in interesting times, rather than in academic isolation. It's a compelling tale, full of bloody danger, sex, celebrity and social history, and densely packed with layers of detail. Wood's great gift is to tell it in such an accessible way and without the sense of superiority that some of his peers bring to popular history. --Piers Ford