Shakespeare's Friends
by Kate Emery Pogue
January 2006, 208pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-98956-9
$44, £33, 38€, A60
eBook Available: 978-0-313-06551-4
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Sheds new light on the Bard’s life through an examination of the wide variety of friends he cultivated throughout his life.

Taking seriously the commonplace that a man is known by the company he keeps—and particularly by the company he keeps over his lifetime—one can learn more about just about anyone by learning more about his friends. By applying this notion to Shakespeare, this book offers insight into the life of the most famous playwright in history, and one of the most elusive figures in literature. The book consists of sketches of Shakespeare’s contact and relationships with the people known to have been close friends or acquaintances, revealing aspects of the poet’s life by emphasizing ways in which his life was intertwined with theirs. Though it is difficult to get to know this most famous of playwrights, through this work readers can gain insight into aspects of his life and personality that may otherwise have been hidden.

Shakespeare, more than any other writer in the western world, based much of his work on the consequences of friendship. Given the value placed on friends in his writing, many readers have wondered about the role friendship played in his own life. This work gives readers the chance to learn more about Shakespeare’s friends, who they were and what they can tell us about Shakespeare and his times. For instance, Richard Field was a boyhood friend with whom Shakespeare went to school in Stratford. Field became a well-known London printer. The details of Field’s life illuminate both the details of Shakespeare’s boyhood education and the poet’s relationship with the printing, publishing, and book-selling world in London. Francis Collins, a lawyer who represented Shakespeare in a number of legal dealings, drafted both versions of Shakespeare’s will. This life-long friend was one of the last men eve to see Shakespeare pick up a pen to write. Through these vivid and animated sketches, readers will come to know about Shakespeare’s life and times.

While the book has a lively, accessible narrative tone within chapters, its organization and features make it highly useful to the school library market as well as the academic world. It contains cross references, a detailed Table of Contents and a highly organized structure with uniformity across sections and chapters. The writing is accessible and could be easily used by upper-level high school students looking to augment school assignments.


"Well written and entertaining, Pogue's handbook to Shakespeare's friends draws from, and is informed by, some of the best 20th-century biographical studies, e.g., work by E. K. Chambers, Samuel Schoenbaum, Ian Wilson, and Edgar Fripp. Though it is not meant as cutting-edge scholarship, it is a unique and useful discussion of Shakespeare's documented friendships. Pogue takes the sound approach of dividing the bard's friends into three categories: from Stratford, from London, and from work. The book can be read as a continuous narrative, with a brief account of Shakespeare's life serving to introduce the whole work, or dipped into for information about particular people. One of the rewards of this friendship-by-friendship organization is that it puts well-known facts and individuals into fresh perspectives. Four appendixes, one of which gathers all that Shakespeare's contemporaries wrote of him, further the value of this fine handbook. Recommended. All readers; all levels."—Choice, September 1, 2006

"In this handy volume, Pogue has compiled brief biographies of about 50 of Shakespeare's friends and acquaintances. Introductory material provides perspective and indicates Shakespeare's relationship with each of the people profiled. The text is enriched with appendixes providing examples of friendship in Shakespeare's plays, contemporary comments about Shakespeare, a list of important Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists and actors, and the roles Shakespeare's friends may have played. While similar biographic information can be found in works such as the Oxford Dictionary of Shakespeare or the Oxford Companion to Shakespeare, none of the standard works provides as convenient an access to information about the lives of so many of Shakespeare's friends. Pogue has diligently collected what little is known about a variety of people, from childhood friends (such as Richard Quiney) to collaborators (such as Thomas Dekker) and even the wives of Shakespeare's friends. Recommended for all public and academic libraries."—Library Journal, April 15, 2006

"[T]his is an ideal introduction to Shakespeare's most likely fellows..."—British Shakespeare Association Newsletter, October 1, 2006

"Pogue has assembled information from scattered sources into a reference that readers can use to find out what sort of company Shakespeare kept, or to research particular people with reference to their connection with him. She discusses them individually in sections on Stratford, London, work, collaborators, shareholders and housekeepers, and wives."—Reference & Research Book News, May 1, 2006

"During a long experience of acting Shakespeare--well over 50 productions, from Hamlet in high school in 1950 to Henry IV at Lincoln Center in 2004--with some of the greatest stars and best directors in the theater, my aim has always been to make the audience feel as I do, that the playwright is easily accessible to modern audiences. That he is, in fact, an easily made friend. This delightful and fascinating book accomplishes that noble aim most beautifully."—Richard Easton, Tony-award winning actor, New York, London, San Diego

"Kate Pogue's literary detective work adds a vital dimension to our frail knowledge of Shakespeare's life. The book allows us into his time and gives us insights which place him in the context of the vital world of his colleagues and friends."—Dr. Sidney Berger, Producing Director, Houston Shakespeare Festival, Director, School of Theatre, University of Houston

"Who would have thought there was anything new to know about Shakespeare? Well, there is! Who were his friends? It makes a big difference to know."—Zoe Caldwell, Actress, Director, author of I Will Be Cleopatra: An Actress's Journey

"Kate Pogue's provocative investigation into the lives of the real characters in Shakespeare's world offers us richly drawn portraits and anecdotes that illuminate the man behind the plays. Through this book we can imagine a link between his writing and the people who surrounded his life. Shakespeare's Friends is a wonderful addition to any Shakespeare library."—Penny Metropulos, Stage Director, Associate Artistic Director, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

"Shakespeare's Friends is a unique, lively and appealing approach to Shakespeare's life and times. Shakespeare enthusiasts surely will find it useful and entertaining."—Herman Gollob, author, Me and Shakespeare

"Kate Pogue's new book, Shakespeare's Friends, provides a welcome respite from the swirl of cynicism, sentimentality, myth, and legend surrounding Shakespeare's private life. Pogue is judicious, restrained, and scholarly. True believers and anti-Stratfordians alike will find this an informative and jolly good read."—Dr. Paul Rathburn, University of Notre Dame, Founding Artistic Producer, Summer Shakespeare at Notre Dame
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