100 books like The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays

By Margaret Cavendish, Anne Shaver (editor),

Here are 100 books that The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays fans have personally recommended if you like The Convent of Pleasure and Other Plays. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

I was immediately excited to read this book, which is the best biographical study of Mary Wroth, author of the Love’s Victory.

It informed my work on editing the play by giving a meticulously-researched insight into Wroth’s life as an aristocratic woman: her struggles in love (with her first cousin William Herbert), and her determination to write. Importantly, it corrected earlier assumptions about Wroth’s relationship with her husband Robert Wroth.

It has been thought that she was satirizing him in the foolish character of Rustic in her play, but Hannay’s book taught me to identify him with the sympathetic character of the Forester.

It also clarified Wroth’s relationships with her family and the politics of the royal court in which they were involved.

By Margaret P. Hannay,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mary Sidney, Lady Wroth as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Despite her fascinating life and her importance as a writer, until now Lady Mary Wroth has never been the subject of a full-length biography. Margaret Hannay's reliance on primary sources results in some corrections, as well as additions, to our knowledge of Wroth's life, including Hannay's discovery of the career of her son William, the marriages of her daughter Katherine, her grandchildren, her last years, the date of her death, and the subsequent history of her manuscripts. This biography situates Lady Mary Wroth in her family and court context, emphasizing the growth of the writer's mind in the sections on…


Book cover of Renaissance Drama by Women: Texts and Documents

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

This book gives an excellent introduction to women’s involvement in theatre in the age of Shakespeare by making 6 of their texts easily available for the first time.

It publishes Queen Elizabeth I’s translation of a section by Seneca; The Tragedy of Antony (1595), a translation of a French play about Antony and Cleopatra by Mary Sidney Herbert, (aunt to Lady Mary Wroth).

It also publishes three original plays by women: Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam (1613), The Concealed Fancies (1645), by the sisters Elizabeth Brackley and Jane Cavendish, and a valuable edition of Love’s Victory (but in a short section on p. 122 misprints the order of pages in the manuscript).

Cupid’s Banishment (1619) by Robert White is an entertainment, written to be performed by schoolgirls

By S.P. Cerasano (editor), Marion Wynne-Davies (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Renaissance Drama by Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Renaissance Drama By Women is a unique volume of plays and documents. For the first time, it demonstrates the wide range of theatrical activity in which women were involved during the Renaissance period. It includes full-length plays, a translated fragment by Queen Elizabeth I, a masque, and a substantial number of historical documents. With full and up-to-date accompanying critical material, this collection of texts is an exciting and invaluable resource for use in both the classroom and research.
Special features introduced by the editors include:
* introductory material to each play
* modernized spellings
* extensive notes and annotations
*…


Book cover of Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

This very handy anthology includes the only modern edition of The Tragedie of Iphigenia (1557-9), by Jane Lumley, the first person to translate Euripides into English and the first English woman to write a full-length play.

It is a surprisingly modern-sounding script, featuring a father sacrificing his daughter, not unlike Stannis Barathean in Game of Thrones, and I loved producing and taking part in a production in 2013-14. Also included are Antonius translated by Mary [Sidney Herbert], Countess of Pembroke, and Elizabeth Cary’s The Tragedy of Mariam.

Unlike the anthology above, this edition publishes the plays in their original old spelling so you can get a feel of Renaissance English. Diane Purkiss offers a concise introduction and notes at the back of the book.

By Diane Purkiss (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume contains unmodernized versions of plays by each of the three leading Renaissance women dramatists: Elizabeth Cary's "The Tragedie of Mariam" (1613), the story of the plight of a woman married against her will to an unbending tyrant; June Lumley's version of Euripides' "Iphigenia" (1550), the earliest surviving translation of a Greek tragedy; and Mary Sidney's "Antonie" (1590), a blank verse translation of a French Senecan play. Intended for private production, all three were able to address contentious political issues - the nature of the good ruler, resistance to unjust authority - which were seldom permitted on the public…


Book cover of Imperfect Alchemist

Alison Findlay Author Of Love's Victory: By Lady Mary Wroth

From my list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day.

Why am I passionate about this?

Most people have not heard of a female playwright before Aphra Behn so I’ve been passionate about restoring the work of Shakespeare’s ‘sisters’, or female contemporaries, to the stage and to public awareness. Early play scripts by women are often dismissed as ‘closet drama’: unperformed, not written for performance, and unperformable. To challenge such assumptions, I staged productions of female-authored plays, most recently Wroth’s Love’s Victory. A good deal of writing about women’s drama now exists, including my book Playing Spaces. I have made this selection to encourage you to discover the plays for yourselves. I hope you enjoy reading, and perhaps watching or acting, them.

Alison's book list on women playwrights in Shakespeare’s day

Alison Findlay Why did Alison love this book?

I found this historical novel about the life of Mary Sidney Hebert, the Countess of Pembroke really enjoyable because it offers me the fantasy of filling in the gaps in the historical record about one of the early women writers.

I find it impressive because it draws on years of research on Mary Sidney Herbert by the author who is a renowned literary critic. Miller tells Mary Sidney Herbert’s story ingeniously by paralleling it with the life of a fictional character, Rose, who serves as her waiting woman.

Although I know the historical facts, the twists and turns in the narrative successfully cast new light on how I read Mary Sidney Herbert’s poetry and her play Antonius, though, for me, the co-authorship that the novel imagines remains entirely fictional.

By Naomi Miller,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A remarkable life lost to history is brought into sharp focus

England, 1575. Young Mary Sidney is bearing a devastating loss while her father plans her alliance to Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke. But Mary is determined to make her mark on the world as a writer and scientist.

As Mary Sidney Herbert steps into her new life with the earl at his home, Wilton House, an unusual friendship is forged between her and servant Rose Commin, a country girl with a surprising artistic gift, that will change their lives for ever.

Defying the conventions of their time, mistress and…


Book cover of William Shakespeare: The Complete Works

Sylvia Vetta Author Of Sculpting the Elephant

From my list on mixed relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

I married Indian born Atam Vetta when mixed relationships were rare and viewed with hostility not just in the UK. In 1966, they were illegal in South Africa and in most Southern States of the USA (until Loving v Virginia). In India they are not illegal but many upper-caste Indians do not approve of marriage outside of caste. In the UK attitudes have revolutionised. Mixed relationships are no longer rare and it is predicted that by 2075 the majority of the population will be of mixed ancestry. There are mixed relationships in all three of my novels. My aim was to explore what we have in common whilst being honest about the challenges. The ultimate prize is an enhanced understanding and the creativity that comes with crossing cultures.

Sylvia's book list on mixed relationships

Sylvia Vetta Why did Sylvia love this book?

Shakespeare’s tragedies resonate in most cultures because they address the human condition. That is why Romeo and Juliet have spawned West Side Story, many films, and Russian ballets. I personally organised the Joe and Zara workshop with a mixed group of teenagers working on a modern take on the story. The young people in this ten-minute video from the workshop are impressive. 

Othello too is tragic. Othello describes how Desdemona would come again ‘greedy –to hear tales of adventure sorrow and suffering. ‘She loved me for the dangers I had passed and I loved her that she did pity them.’ I relate to that.

By William Shakespeare,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The second Oxford edition of Shakespeare's Complete Works reconsiders every detail of their text and presentation in the light of modern scholarship. The nature and authority of the early documents are re-examined, and the canon and chronological order of composition freshly established. Spelling and punctuation are modernized, and there is a brief introduction to each work, as well as an illuminating and informative General Introduction. Included here for the first
time is the play The Reign of King Edward the Third as well as the full text of Sir Thomas More. This new edition also features an essay on Shakespeare's…


Book cover of This Is Shakespeare

Tom Fletcher Author Of Ten Survival Skills for a World in Flux

From my list on navigating an unstable world.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a recovering ambassador, now running an Oxford college. After almost 25 years in diplomacy, including working in no 10 for three prime ministers, I realised that education is upstream diplomacy. If we are to find a way through the challenges ahead – from climate change to pandemics and economic crisis to artificial intelligence – we must act, urgently, to upgrade why, what, and how we learn. I set out to ask hundreds of the most inspirational people on the planet what they wished they had known, and what they would share with the next generation if this was their last day. 

Tom's book list on navigating an unstable world

Tom Fletcher Why did Tom love this book?

A book of immense humanity and authenticity, which reminds us of how the great themes of great literature and art can offer solace and guidance in moments of fragility. By helping us go back to Shakespeare with less insecurity or baggage, the book opens up new perspectives on how others have grappled with these questions about how to be human. And it reminds us that we are allowed to question, challenge, and have fun.

By Emma Smith,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked This Is Shakespeare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A THE TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2019

'The best introduction to the plays I've read, perhaps the best book on Shakespeare, full stop' Alex Preston, Observer

'It makes you impatient to see or re-read the plays at once' Hilary Mantel

A genius and prophet whose timeless works encapsulate the human condition like no others. A writer who surpassed his contemporaries in vision, originality and literary mastery. Who wrote like an angel, putting it all so much better than anyone else.
Is this Shakespeare? Well, sort of.

But it doesn't really tell us the whole truth. So much of what…


Book cover of The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606

Susan Doran Author Of From Tudor to Stuart: The Regime Change from Elizabeth I to James I

From my list on the reigns of James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a Professor of early-modern British History at the University of Oxford and a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, who was a specialist in the Tudor period, especially the life and reign of Elizabeth I. However, while doing research over the past six years, I became excited by the politics, religion, and culture of the Jacobean period. James I’s reign had been a topic I taught in a week to undergraduates, but I realised that I didn’t do justice to this rich and important period. Not only is it fascinating in its own right, but James’s reign had a huge impact on a long stretch of British and world history.

Susan's book list on the reigns of James VI of Scotland and I of England

Susan Doran Why did Susan love this book?

I love this book because it combines history and literature, doing justice to both. By setting Lear and Macbeth in their cultural and political contexts, Professor Shapiro has given me new insights into both plays. Before seeing them again, I’ll go back to this book.

Shapiro is a model for me of an academic historian who successfully addresses a wider audience by avoiding academic jargon, explaining the unfamiliar, and telling a good story. He wears his great scholarship lightly, but he has done a huge amount of research and has a mastery of his subject.

By James Shapiro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Preeminent Shakespeare scholar James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America, shows how the tumultuous events in 1606 influenced three of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies written that year—King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra. “The Year of Lear is irresistible—a banquet of wisdom” (The New York Times Book Review).

In the years leading up to 1606, Shakespeare’s great productivity had ebbed. But that year, at age forty-two, he found his footing again, finishing a play he had begun the previous autumn—King Lear—then writing two other great tragedies, Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.

It was a memorable year in England as…


Book cover of Digital Humanities and the Lost Drama of Early Modern England: Ten Case Studies

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?

Not all archival work entails Indian Jones-style quests for hidden treasures; Steggle’s book—written at a crucial point when digital databases such as Early English Books Online and Google Books were accessible but rarely utilised to their maximum capabilities—proved how much crucial knowledge is hiding in plain sight. Steggle used a variety of search strategies to solve cruxes and mysteries that have plagued theatre historians for centuries, recovering the subject matter of lost plays that scholars routinely ignored on account of their opaque titles and scant evidence.

By Matthew Steggle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Digital Humanities and the Lost Drama of Early Modern England as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book establishes new information about the likely content of ten lost plays from the period 1580-1642. These plays' authors include Nashe, Heywood, and Dekker; and the plays themselves connect in direct ways to some of the most canonical dramas of English literature, including Hamlet, King Lear, The Changeling, and The Duchess of Malfi. The lost plays in question are: Terminus & Non Terminus (1586-8); Richard the Confessor (1593); Cutlack (1594); Bellendon (1594); Truth's Supplication to Candlelight (1600); Albere Galles (1602); Henry the Una (c. 1619); The Angel King (1624); The Duchess of Fernandina (c. 1630-42); and The Cardinal's Conspiracy…


Book cover of Man and Superman

Armin Shimerman Author Of Imbalance of Power

From my list on Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a classically trained Shakespearian actor who has spent a lifetime researching Tudor and Stuart times, imbibing their language, customs, and idiosyncrasies. As an actor, I'm trained to get inside my characters' heads and dedicate myself to their intentions. Also, as an actor, I've come to relish language and recognize what makes a good phrase, paragraph, and/or book. I not only perform the Bard, but I've also taught his rhetorical stylings to countless people. I love language and admire writers who use it elegantly. They say, "Write what you know." I know Shakespeare and the Elizabethan era inside and out. One's life can be changed by a book; the ones I've recommended have changed mine.

Armin's book list on Shakespeare and the Elizabethan period

Armin Shimerman Why did Armin love this book?

Shaw believed he was a better writer than Shakespeare, and I think he may be right in this play. His wit and language combine to inform and entertain. Cleverness and iconoclasm abound. You can't help but revel in Shaw's pin-pricking of cherished beliefs. In response, we are forced to reevaluate customs and standards. If you want intellectual fun, this play is for you.

By George Bernard Shaw, Dan Laurence (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shaw began writing MAN AND SUPERMAN in 1901 and determined to write a play that would encapsulate the new century's intellectual inheritance. Shaw drew not only on Byron's verse satire, but also on Shakespeare, the Victorian comedy fashionable in his early life, and from authors from Conan Doyle to Kipling. In this powerful drama of ideas, Shaw explores the role of the artist, the function of women in society, and his theory of Creative Evolution.
As Stanley Weintraub says in his new introduction, this is "the first great twentieth-century English play" and remains a classic expose of the eternal struggle…


Book cover of Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance

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 brilliantly researched and argued book that transformed the intellectual landscape.

In the 1980s and 1990s many writers on Shakespeare and his contemporaries asserted that when reading their works we had to put aside modern concepts of selfhood as anachronistic. To some extent they were right: Elizabethan and Jacobean ideas about the self were different from ours; but that doesn’t mean they didn’t exist.

Maus shows that Elizabethan and Jacobean authors were obsessed with what they called ‘the inward self’ or ‘the inner man’, and that their drama was shaped by this preoccupation with disparities between a performed public self and a concealed inner self. There’s also a fascinating chapter, wittily called "A Womb of his Own", on how male writers appropriated childbirth metaphors to represent their intellectual creativity.

By Katharine Eisaman Maus,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Inwardness and Theater in the English Renaissance as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text explores the preoccupation of many Renaissance writers' with the inwardness and invisibility of truth. The perceived discrepancy between a person's outward appearance and inward disposition, it argues, influenced the ways in which English Renaissance dramatists and poets conceived the theatre, imagined dramatic characters and reflected upon their own creativity. Reading works by Kyd, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson and Milton in conjuction with sectarian polemics, gynaecological treatises and accounts of criminal prosecutions, the author delineates unexplored connections among religious, legal, sexual and theatrical ideas of inward truth. She reveals what was at stake ethically, politically, epistemologically and theologically when a…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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