Now available in an affordable paperback edition, this groundbreaking work reveals for the first time exactly how Shakespeare was influenced by contemporary strands in political thought that were critical of the English crown and constitution. Shakespeare has often been seen as a conservative political thinker characterised by an over-riding fear of the 'mob'. Hadfield argues instead that Shakespeare's writing emerged out of an intellectual milieu fascinated by republican ideas. From the 1590s onwards, he explored republican themes in his poetry and plays: political assassination, elected government, alternative constitutions, and, perhaps most importantly of all, the problem of power without responsibility. Beginning with Shakespeare's apocalyptic representation of civil war in the Henry VI plays, Hadfield provides a series of powerful new readings of Shakespeare and his time. For anyone interested in Shakespeare and Renaissance culture, this book is required reading.