The History plays established Shakespeare's reputation as an enormously popular and dramatic storyteller, demonstrating his skill in drawing such astonishing characters as Richard III and Sir John Falstaff. Featuring detailed analyses of extracts, John Blades guides the student through four of Shakespeare's most compelling Histories. Part I of this stimulating study: * provides clear and engaging close readings of passages from Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, and Richard III * examines major themes, characters, language and Shakespeare's dramatic techniques * offers suggestions for further work and summarizes the methods of analysis. Part II supplies essential background material, including: * a detailed survey of Shakespeare's literary and historical contexts * samples of criticism from leading scholars. With a helpful Glossary and Further Reading section, this lucid study is ideal for anyone who wishes to appreciate and explore the remarkable writing of Shakespeare's History plays for themselves.