This edition of the play offers in its introduction and commentary an extensive discussion of the materials that informed Shakespeare’s compositional choices, both those conventional sources and other contexts, from cuckold jokes to conduct books, which inform the ideas and identities of this play. Particular attention is devoted to Renaissance understandings of gender identity and social rank, as well as to the social valences of Shakespeare’s stylistic choices. Among the elements of structure and style discussed are the two concurrent plots, the recurrence of verbal handshakes, and the use of music. A treatment of staging possibilities offers illustrations drawn from the earliest and recent theatrical practices, and a critical history examines the fate of the play in the changing trends of academic scholarship.
A casting chart and a list of abbreviations and references are includes as appendices.