Theatrical performance, suggest the contributors to this volume, can be an unpredictable, individual experience as well as a communal, institutional or cultural event. The essays collected here use the tools of theatre history in their investigation into the phenomenology of the performance experience, yet they are also careful to consider the social, ideological and institutional contingencies that determine the production and reception of the living spectacle. Thus contributors combine a formalist interest in the affective and aesthetic dimensions of language and spectacle with an investment in the material cultures that both produced and received Shakespeare's plays. Six of the chapters focus on early modern cultures of performance, looking specifically at such topics as the performance of rusticity; the culture of credit; contract and performance; the cultivation of Englishness; religious ritual; and mourning and memory. Building upon and interrelating with the preceding essays, the last three chapters deal with Shakespeare and performance culture in modernity. They focus on themes including literary and theatrical performance anxiety; cultural iconicity; and the performance of Shakespearean lateness. This collection strives to bring better understanding to Shakespeare's imaginative investment in the relationship between theatrical production and the emotional, intellectual and cultural effects of performance broadly defined in social terms.