It was inevitable that A.L. Rowse, one of England's most gifted literary ghts should have focused finally on Shakespeare after viewing the Elizabethan scene through other facets in The England of Elizabeth ('51), The Elizabethans and America ('59), and Sir Walter Ralegh ('62). But that he has approached his subject almost as an autobiographical study in his own- that is Shakespeare's -- words comes as a surprise. The extent of scholarship, the dedication to the writings, and the chness of the fabric against which the plays and other verse forms were placed -- all of this is evident in every page. But somehow the flow of thought- the warmth of portraiture, characteristic of Rowse's other books, is lacking here. In final analysis, the complete figure of Shakespeare and his times emerges, but it has demanded more of the reader- both in concentration and prior grounding- than Rowse's American audience will be competent to give. One could almost view this work in its full significance as a literary detective story, in which all the clues to character and fact are found in the lines of the plays, the Sonnets, the verse dramas. Some ill take issue with Rowse on conclusions that he has drawn-and stated as incontrovertible facts -- but his arguments are well buttressed, his convictions made ausible. This is probably his most important work in the long view. Its immediate market will be found primarily among students and it is an essential item for courses in Shakespeare.