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What makes Shakespeare's late plays so special? Through detailed analyses of key passages, Kate Aughterson shows how these plays portray a world of political intrigue, familial chaos and crisis, which teeters continually into tragedy: a world we can recognise today. Part I of this engaging study: * provides stimulating close readings of extracts from The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline and Pericles * examines major topics such as openings, endings, familial roles, stage properties, spectacle and song * offers suggestions for further work and summarizes the methods of analysis. Part II supplies essential background material, including: * detailed accounts of Shakespeare's literary and historical contexts * samples from important critical works and performances. With a helpful Further Reading section, this illuminating volume is ideal for anyone who wishes to appreciate and explore Shakespeare's late plays for themselves.