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Given their canonical status, it is sometimes easy to forget that Shakespeare's plays do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, as Wells (Shakespeare studies, emeritus, Univ. of Birmingham), general editor of the Penguin and Oxford editions of Shakespeare, points out, Shakespeare was a busy professional, an actor and manager as well as playwright. As a result, his plays reflect a complex series of collaborations. He wrote certain characters with the abilities of specific actors in mind. Some of his plays reflect the influence of early mentors such as Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd. Other plays borrow from or respond to contemporaries like Dekker and Jonson, and yet others represent explicit collaborations, as with Fletcher, or shape future developments, as with John Webster. Wells provides an engrossing and highly readable popular introduction to these influences. Highly recommended to general readers.