William Shakespeare and his contemporaries helped create not only a new kind of theatre but also a new form of language. In an age of religious and political warfare, they found expression for what it means to be human. Yet although Shakespeare"s life is well researched, the lives of his friends are less well known. This new book argues that far from being a lone genius, Shakespeare belonged to a talented and influential group of writers, poets and dramatists, including Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Donne and Sir Walter Ralegh. Illustrated throughout with portraits, engravings and printed documents, it demonstrates how Elizabethan society valued literary talent as well as how these writers saw themselves. But can we be sure that the images we see are who we think they are? Charles Nicholl delves deep into the archives of the National Portrait Gallery to investigate the portraits and lives of over twenty subjects, from playwrights to pamphleteers, as well as their patrons, actors and lovers. He describes what motivated these men and women to write, who paid them and who provided their inspiration. The result is an essential counterpart to the recently acclaimed biographies of Shakespeare, providing new perspectives on a sixteenth-century renaissance in English literature and a rich legacy to the English-speaking world.
Charles Nicholl is a regular contributor to radio, television and newspapers. Recent titles include a biography of Leonardo da Vinci and The Lodger; Shakespeare on Silver Street.