How did plague turn Shakespeare from a jobbing hack into a courtly poet? How did Bottom's dream rewrite the Bible? How did Shakespeare's plays lead to the deaths of an earl and a king? And why was he the one dramatist of his generation never to be imprisoned?Weaving a dazzling tapestry of Elizabethan beliefs and obsessions, private passions and political intrigues, Soul of the Age leads us on an exhilarating tour of the extraordinary, colourful and often violent world that shaped and informed Shakespeare's thinking. Written by one of the world's leading experts, it combines almost everything there is to know about the man and his work in one sensational narrative, and brings us closer than ever to understanding what being Shakespeare was actually like.