Shakespeare Settings can be read as a narrative, but it is also a reference work that allows one to trace connections among persons and events surrounding William Shakespeare. It documents the friendship between two men of very different social classes. It traces the early association in Lancashire of Shakespeare with Edward Alleyn, who served as the manager of Ferdinando Strange's acting group before both men were in London. It inquires into the meaning of the purchase of the Blackfriars gatehouse and the relevance of the persons connected with the gatehouse.
By bringing together names related to Shakespeare and his family in important contexts in Lancashire and in the Catholic underground, connections and relationships can be seen that are not obvious from vast and disparate readings.
Nineteenth century scholars who painstakingly gleaned information, often from primary sources, provide fine details regarding Shakespeare and his family. These sources are often overlooked, as theoretical arguments wander far afield in a world of literary jargon that has little to do with the plays. The long quotations from these sources retain the flavor and detail that could be lost in summaries. The new focus on historicism is revealing the relevance of the older works in Shakespeare studies.
The biographical sketches included here are selective, based on:
1. Family relationship to Shakespeare
2. Connections to the Counter-Reformation underground
3. Lancashire and Cheshire ties with Shakespeare and the London theater
4. Actors Shakespeare could have known
This, then, is primarily a reference book with a goal to reveal William Shakespeare's ties with committed Catholics who were instrumental in the English Counter-Reformation.
Many of the sources used here are presented in more detail in Enos's The Shakespeare Encyclopedia: Stratford/London/Lancashire Links, http: //www.sunflower.com/ cenos/. The encyclopedia could be expanded indefinitely as others contribute findings, creating a detailed environmental context to further our understanding of Shakespeare, the man, more thoroughly and consequently read his plays and sonnets more knowledgeably.