100 books like Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance

By Katharine Eisaman Maus,

Here are 100 books that Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance fans have personally recommended if you like Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Being Protestant in Reformation Britain

Harriet Lyon Author Of Memory and the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Early Modern England

From my list on the impact of the English Reformation.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a historian of early modern Britain, with particular interests in the cultural and religious history of the English Reformation, as well as in the fields of historical memory and time. I enjoy pursuing these subjects not only through research and reading, but also teaching. I am currently the J. H. Plumb College Lecturer in History at Christ’s College, University of Cambridge. 

Harriet's book list on the impact of the English Reformation

Harriet Lyon Why did Harriet love this book?

For all the books about the Protestant Reformation, very few stop to consider what it meant to be Protestant – how it felt, or what daily life was really like. Alec Ryrie tackles these questions both with empathy and analytical rigour, exploring the struggles and triumphs of individuals seeking to live godly lives against a background of ongoing religious change.

This book really foregrounds "ordinary" people and, in doing so, highlights the extraordinary quality of the everyday. It helped me to reach a better understanding of Protestantism as a dynamic and sometimes contradictory movement, and of its emotional resonance for those who embraced the reformed faith.

By Alec Ryrie,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Being Protestant in Reformation Britain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Reformation was about ideas and power, but it was also about real human lives. Alec Ryrie provides the first comprehensive account of what it actually meant to live a Protestant life in England and Scotland between 1530 and 1640, drawing on a rich mixture of contemporary devotional works, sermons, diaries, biographies, and autobiographies to uncover the lived experience of early modern Protestantism.

Beginning from the surprisingly urgent, multifaceted emotions of Protestantism, Ryrie explores practices of prayer, of family and public worship, and of reading and writing, tracking them through the life course from childhood through conversion and vocation to…


Book cover of The Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy: Robert Burton in Context

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From my list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Helen Hackett Why did Helen love this book?

Elizabethan ideas about the mind were based on the ancient medical theory of humours: fluids whose proportions in the body dictated character, and whose circulation and fluctuation triggered fleeting moods.

Shakespeare and his contemporaries were particularly obsessed with black bile, or melancholy, whose long list of symptoms included sadness, bad dreams, seeking darkness and solitude, and suicidal thoughts. It also enhanced intellectual and creative powers, so had a certain glamour.

Understanding melancholy is essential to understanding Hamlet and many other works from its period. Gowland traces the sources of Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy, a compendious work published shortly after Shakespeare’s death, and thereby illuminates sixteenth- and seventeenth-century understanding of what we would call psychology.

By Angus Gowland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Worlds of Renaissance Melancholy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Angus Gowland investigates the theory of melancholy and its many applications in the Renaissance by means of a wide-ranging contextual analysis of Robert Burton's encyclopaedic Anatomy of Melancholy (first published in 1621). Approaching the Anatomy as the culmination of early modern medical, philosophical and spiritual inquiry about melancholy, Gowland examines the ways in which Burton exploited the moral psychology central to the Renaissance understanding of the condition to construct a critical vision of his intellectual and political environment. In the first sustained analysis of the evolving relationship of the Anatomy (in the various versions issued between 1621 and 1651) to…


Book cover of Phantasmatic Shakespeare: Imagination in the Age of Early Modern Science

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From my list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Helen Hackett Why did Helen love this book?

A startling finding when I was researching Elizabethan ideas about the mind was how far their attitudes to the imagination differed from ours.

We see it as a creative force to be encouraged and liberated, but for them it was dangerous, deceptive, and unruly, leading towards sinfulness and madness. Roychoudhury explains how early scientific thinking was starting to unsettle this traditional view of the imagination as reprehensible, and traces the effects of this in works including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Sonnets, and Macbeth.

I would add that the new commercial playhouses for which Shakespeare wrote became experimental crucibles: these were spaces where the combined imaginations of playwright, actors, and audiences created virtual realities, unleashing an exhilarating and magical sense of the powers of imagination.

By Suparna Roychoudhury,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Phantasmatic Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Representations of the mind have a central place in Shakespeare's artistic imagination, as we see in Bottom struggling to articulate his dream, Macbeth reaching for a dagger that is not there, and Prospero humbling his enemies with spectacular illusions. Phantasmatic Shakespeare examines the intersection between early modern literature and early modern understandings of the mind's ability to perceive and imagine. Suparna Roychoudhury argues that Shakespeare's portrayal of the imagination participates in sixteenth-century psychological discourse and reflects also how fields of anatomy, medicine, mathematics, and natural history jolted and reshaped conceptions of mentality. Although the new sciences did not displace the…


Book cover of Shakespeare, Rhetoric and Cognition

Helen Hackett Author Of The Elizabethan Mind: Searching for the Self in an Age of Uncertainty

From my list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always loved all things Elizabethan, and I especially love spending time with books and manuscripts where voices from the period speak to us directly. Wanting to understand how Shakespeare and his contemporaries understood themselves led me to investigate their ideas about relations between mind and body, about emotions, about the imagination, and about the minds of women and those of other races. I’ve learned that the Elizabethans grappled with many conflicting ideas about the mind, from classical philosophies, medieval medicine, new theologies, and more – and that this intellectual turmoil was essential fuel for the extraordinary literary creativity of the period.

Helen's book list on how Shakespeare thought about the mind

Helen Hackett Why did Helen love this book?

Renaissance writers were trained in rhetoric: how to use language to work through a problem or convey a state of mind.

Today, theories of cognition explore how linguistic devices relate to processes in the brain; for example, metaphor replicates how the mind understands something by associating or comparing it with something else. Lyne’s radical innovation is to bring together these historical and contemporary frameworks for understanding thought and language.

He explores points of contact between Renaissance rhetorical theories and present-day cognitive theories, then applies his insights to analyse works by Shakespeare. This offers a wholly fresh approach to understanding how Shakespeare translates thoughts – his own and those of his characters – into words; and how those words in turn work on our minds as readers or listeners.

By Raphael Lyne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shakespeare, Rhetoric and Cognition as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Raphael Lyne addresses a crucial Shakespearean question: why do characters in the grip of emotional crises deliver such extraordinarily beautiful and ambitious speeches? How do they manage to be so inventive when they are perplexed? Their dense, complex, articulate speeches at intensely dramatic moments are often seen as psychological - they uncover and investigate inwardness, character and motivation - and as rhetorical - they involve heightened language, deploying recognisable techniques. Focusing on A Midsummer Night's Dream, Othello, Cymbeline and the Sonnets, Lyne explores both the psychological and rhetorical elements of Shakespeare's language. In the light of cognitive linguistics and cognitive…


Book cover of Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage: Mad World, Mad Kings

Carole Levin Author Of The Reign and Life of Queen Elizabeth I: Politics, Culture, and Society

From my list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare since I was a child and read a kid biography of the queen and saw a Shakespearean comedy. The two topics are completely intertwined—Elizabeth saw Shakespeare’s plays at court and the strong women in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the queen. Elizabeth and Shakespeare have been both my passion and my profession. I have loved teaching and writing about them. One of my favorite things to do is to go see Shakespeare plays and to see portraits of the queen at museums. This passion has so enriched my life. The queen and the playwright have been very good to me. 

Carole's book list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century

Carole Levin Why did Carole love this book?

Today concerns over madness and disability are very much with us, especially if they connect with issues of power and masculinity. This was also true in the age of Shakespeare. Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy’s collection of essays on the topic of mad kings on the Renaissance stage is very readable and interesting, and tie in with contemporary issues. The book is divided into three sections: distracted kingship, fractured masculinity, and performed madness. The plays under discussion include Shakespeare’s King Lear, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III, Henry VI, and All’s Well That Ends Well. Gutierrez-Dennehy brilliantly and explicitly brings the topics raised in the collection into the twenty-first century

By Christina Gutierrez-Dennehy (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kingship, Madness, and Masculinity on the Early Modern Stage as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book provides a fascinating study into the history of kingship, madness and masculinity that was acted out on the early modern stage. Providing students of early modern history, theatre and performance studies and disability studies with interesting case studies to inform their upper level seminars and research.

Throughout the volume the authors engage with the field of disability studies to show how disability and mental health were portrayed and what that tells us about the period and the people who lived in it. Showing students, a new dimension of early modern Europe.

The chapters uncover how, as the early…


Book cover of Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Author Of Elizabeth: England's Slandered Queen

From my list on biographies that tell the truth.

Why am I passionate about this?

Fake news is not new. Biographies, in particular, are fraught with fallacies and fake stories. When fake news slanders individuals, reputations are ruined and lives destroyed. That’s what happened to Elizabeth Wydeville, Queen Consort to Edward IV, and mother of the two princes who disappeared during Richard III’s reign. When I discovered the slander that destroyed Queen Elizabeth’s reputation, I began a 5-year research project to set the record straight. Some fallacies are deliberate, originating in envy or power putsches. Others derive from historical laziness or incompetence. What I learned from my research has determined my choices of biographies, stories that tell previously unrevealed truths about individuals.

Arlene's book list on biographies that tell the truth

Arlene Naylor Okerlund Why did Arlene love this book?

A literary biography, Will in the World connects the plots of Shakespeare’s plays and the sentiments of his poems to the writer’s life and career. No one living knows more about Shakespeare than Stephen Greenblatt. His research is solid and impressive. In this book, Greenblatt verges a bit into speculative possibilities. Where, exactly, was Shakespeare living—what was he doing?—during “The Lost Years”? Was the “Shakeshafte” mentioned in a Lancashire document our man, perhaps tutoring as a schoolmaster in a Catholic home? 

Greenblatt carefully points out that he is discussing possibilities, not certainties. But a possibility mentioned too many times by a scholar of Greenblatt’s authority often becomes accepted as fact. Yet, I appreciate this book because it provides a huge amount of information about Shakespeare’s milieu, and it forces readers to examine critically every claim. In our current milieu, we need exercises in critical thinking and analysis.

By Stephen Greenblatt,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Will in the World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A young man from a small provincial town moves to London in the late 1580s and, in a remarkably short time, becomes the greatest playwright not of his age alone but of all time. How is an achievement of this magnitude to be explained? Stephen Greenblatt brings us down to earth to see, hear, and feel how an acutely sensitive and talented boy, surrounded by the rich tapestry of Elizabethan life, could have become the world's greatest playwright.


Book cover of A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599

Larry Silver Author Of Europe Views the World, 1500-1700

From my list on values in European historical periods.

Why am I passionate about this?

A retired professor, an art historian who taught at Berkeley, Northwestern, and the University of Pennsylvania. Since my main interest is the emergence of Europe from the late Middle Ages and into the Early Modern period around 1500, I naturally gravitate to non-fiction books that engage with the shifting interests and values of that era, and my own books include similar efforts to discuss visual art in relation to religion, literature, politics, and wider contemporary cultural movements. Among my own books I would cite: Rubens, Velázquez, and the King of Spain (with Aneta Georgievska-Shine); Europe Views the World, 1500-1700; and the forthcoming Art and Dis-Illusion in the Long Sixteenth Century.

Larry's book list on values in European historical periods

Larry Silver Why did Larry love this book?

A brilliant combination of biography and history during the amazing moment of creation of some of the Bard’s greatest plays (Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and even Hamlet). These varied dramas played out against the sensitive moment in London of an aging, heirless Queen Elizabeth I after the Armada and Irish wars but also at the formation of the East India Company.  Shapiro’s (and Shakespeare’s) sequel, The Year of Lear. Shakespeare in 1606, deserves attention, as does the vivid historical fiction, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, told from the viewpoint of Stratford village and Bard’s family during the era of the lingering Black Death.

By James Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

What accounts for Shakespeare’s transformation from talented poet and playwright to one of the greatest writers who ever lived? In this gripping account, James Shapiro sets out to answer this question, "succeed[ing] where others have fallen short." (Boston Globe)

1599 was an epochal year for Shakespeare and England. During that year, Shakespeare wrote four of his most famous plays: Henry the Fifth, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and, most remarkably, Hamlet; Elizabethans sent off an army to crush an Irish rebellion, weathered an Armada threat from Spain, gambled on a fledgling East India Company, and waited to see who…


Book cover of Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays

David McInnis Author Of Shakespeare and Lost Plays

From my list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Shakespeare scholar with a particular interest in theatre history and the repertories of the London commercial playing companies of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. I’m particularly fascinated by the hundreds of plays written during this period that have not survived, whether as the result of fire, vandalism, censorship, or more mundane causes like a lack of interest in or opportunity for publication. The surviving plays from the period are the distinct minority; yet the plays lost to us were known to Shakespeare and his contemporaries, who often wrote in response to what else was being performed across London.

David's book list on to understand the history of Shakespeare's theatre

David McInnis Why did David love this book?

In the wake of Knutson’s work, a number of seminal studies of individual playing companies from Shakespeare’s London have appeared, but I particularly value Manley and MacLean’s for the prominence they give to the role of lost plays in the repertory of Lord Strange’s Men. This book normalised the understanding that if one is to study a companyits patron, its players, its performance venues (including touring), and its stylethen one cannot do so without attending to the plays once performed by the company but which have since been lost.

By Lawrence Manley, Sally-Beth MacLean,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lord Strange's Men and Their Plays as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For a brief period in the late Elizabethan Era an innovative company of players dominated the London stage. A fellowship of dedicated thespians, Lord Strange's Men established their reputation by concentrating on "modern matter" performed in a spectacular style, exploring new modes of impersonation, and deliberately courting controversy. Supported by their equally controversial patron, theater connoisseur and potential claimant to the English throne Ferdinando Stanley, the company included Edward Alleyn, considered the greatest actor of the age, as well as George Bryan, Thomas Pope, Augustine Phillips, William Kemp, and John Hemings, who later joined William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage in…


Book cover of Alone in Berlin

Patrick W. O'Bryon Author Of Corridor of Darkness

From my list on espionage and resistance in Hitler's Third Reich.

Why am I passionate about this?

While a graduate student and then an army interpreter in Germany, I listened to reminiscences from both Third Reich military veterans and former French resistance fighters. Their tales picked up where my father's stories of pre-war European life always ended, and my fascination with this history knew no bounds. On occasion I would conceal my American identity and mentally play the spy as I traversed Europe solo. A dozen years later upon the death of my father, I learned from my mother his great secret: he had concealed his wartime life as an American spy inside the Reich. His private journals telling of bravery and intrigue inspire each of my novels.

Patrick's book list on espionage and resistance in Hitler's Third Reich

Patrick W. O'Bryon Why did Patrick love this book?

Often overlooked by today's readers, this fine novel of 1940 Berlin by an author who never left Nazi Germany offers a realistic and touching portrayal of ordinary working citizens. A married couple whose life is upended by the loss of a soldier son encounters persistent Nazi propaganda discrediting their sacrifice. Inspired by actual historical figures, the protagonists courageously turn to modest acts of resistance, drawing the unrelenting focus of a Gestapo inspector determined to solve the case to further his career. Fallada's masterful storytelling and unforgettable characters will put you inside a righteous struggle to resist the oppressive state. This is a classic from an author who lived the place and time, and it shouldn't be missed

By Hans Fallada,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Alone in Berlin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A gripping portrait of life in wartime Berlin and a vividly theatrical study of how paranoia can warp a society gripped by the fear of the night-time knock on the door.

Based on true events, Hans Fallada's Alone In Berlin follows a quietly courageous couple, Otto and Anna Quangel who, in dealing with their own heartbreak, stand up to the brutal reality of the Nazi regime. With the smallest of acts, they defy Hitler's rule with extraordinary bravery, facing the gravest of consequences.

Translated and Adapted by Alistair Beaton (Feelgood, The Trial Of Tony Blair), this timely story of the…


Book cover of Shakespeare in a Divided America: What His Plays Tell Us about Our Past and Future

Carole Levin Author Of The Reign and Life of Queen Elizabeth I: Politics, Culture, and Society

From my list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated with Queen Elizabeth I and Shakespeare since I was a child and read a kid biography of the queen and saw a Shakespearean comedy. The two topics are completely intertwined—Elizabeth saw Shakespeare’s plays at court and the strong women in Shakespeare’s plays reflect the queen. Elizabeth and Shakespeare have been both my passion and my profession. I have loved teaching and writing about them. One of my favorite things to do is to go see Shakespeare plays and to see portraits of the queen at museums. This passion has so enriched my life. The queen and the playwright have been very good to me. 

Carole's book list on to enjoy Shakespeare in the twenty-first century

Carole Levin Why did Carole love this book?

This book was amazing in helping me think about Shakespeare and the history of divisions in our own history. Like all of James Shapiro’s work, Shakespeare in a Divided America is filled with fascinating information delivered in lively and engaging prose. This book provides a cultural and historical exploration of how readings and performances of Shakespeare’s plays in the past two centuries have exposed fault lines in our country’s political and social fabric. In the nineteenth century, the assassination of President Lincoln and the deadly Astor Place Riots; in the twentieth-century debates over free speech, gender, immigration, and race; and in our own time controversies over political division and Trump-era extremism: Shapiro shows how all of these have issues played out through the vehicle of Shakespeare’s plays, particularly Julius Caesar, Macbeth, and Othello

By James Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Shakespeare in a Divided America as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of the New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year * A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist * A New York Times Notable Book

A timely exploration of what Shakespeare's plays reveal about our divided land.

"In this sprightly and enthralling book . . . Shapiro amply demonstrates [that] for Americans the politics of Shakespeare are not confined to the public realm, but have enormous relevance in the sphere of private life." -The Guardian (London)

The plays of William Shakespeare are rare common ground in the United States. For well over two centuries, Americans of all stripes-presidents…


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