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Shakespeare had extraordinary intelligence, unheard-of powers of observation and interpretation, a soaring imagination, a way with words that defies description, and a defining interest in the theater. He brought kings, queens, heroes, and peasantry to the stage so they could be seen in a more realistic fashion. Even so, in modern times, assistance is often needed to interpret Shakespeare’s work.

In A Leg Up on the Canon, author Jim McGahern provides an extensive biography of Shakespeare and offers an introductory guide to his histories, comedies, tragedies, romances, and poems. McGahern presents summaries of the texts, explanations of difficult passages, extensive historical context, and glossaries of terms no longer in use. In each volume, he outlines the plot of plays in that category and then delivers a one-act play with inclusive commentary. McGahern includes pertinent remarks and important speeches and soliloquies interlaced with brief explanations and descriptions of the actions on stage as well as plot developments.

A Leg Up on the Canon, a four-volume series, provides insights into the word music of the talented man from Stratford.

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