This comprehensive survey and guide to Shakespeare's entire work is an essential first book for all readers of Shakespeare. It provides illuminating background for the `interested reader' as well as for those beginning on `Shakespeare studies'. The field of books on the playwright is vast and can be bewildering. Where can the reader begin? This guide: * outlines the life and work of the playwright and poet: what constitutes the works, when and how they were written; their division into different kinds of plays - comedies, history plays, and tragedies. * discusses verse techniques, censorship, `problem plays', controversies about authorship and the canon * summarises key critical ideas, and gives guidance on further reading concerning the 38 plays, 154 sonnets and the two narrative poems. * offers a brief assessment of the impact of the works on our culture. * covers outstanding current controversies. This Essential Companion gives forthright advice on numerous aspects of Shakespeare's works. Professor Watts is a lucid and witty commentator, whose style is direct and straightforward. All technical terms are explained as they arise. This book carefully outlines Shakespeare's output and controversies concerning his works, from the problem of authorship to how to master blank verse. Professor Watts indicates how to cope with the diversity of texts. Shakespeare's greatness, his oddities, his puzzles and his contemporaneity are treated lucidly and incisively.