In 1600, after a decade spent establishing himself as the most popular and successful playwright of his generation, Shakespeare found himself having to compete with new and younger writers. At the same time he had to face the challenge of new theatres designed for a better class of audience, which looked as though they might cream off some of his most valued customers. Difficult as it may be to believe that Shakespeare faced such commercial and artistic pressures, common sense and hard historical fact tell us that he did not work in isolation from the theatrical world in which he was so spectacular a success. In Shakespeare and the Rival Playwrights David Farley-Hills gives an interpretation of seven of Shakespeare's plays from 1600 to 1606 in the light of pressures exerted by his major stage rivals. He argues that Shakespeare responded to the problem with a double strategy: attempting to compete with the new fashions of the covered theatres with plays such as Troilus and Cressida, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure ; and rivalling the work of the other open theatres with the tragedies Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear .
By discussing Shakespeare's plays in the context of the work of his peers, Farley-Hills breaks new ground in Shakespeare scholarship, and sheds new light on the abrupt changes from one play to the next that characterize his late output.