In this superb book, Ross (World Leaders, not reviewed) not only makes Macbeth live -- he also makes the drama behind the play come alive as well. Aided by Karpinski and Ambrus's old master-style illustrations and kinetic sketches, Ross presents Shakespearean London, the Globe theater, and the royal palace at Hampton Court. He describes in surprising detail, though never tediously, the situation of the King's Men actors. Not only did they perform daily from a large repertoire of plays, they also had to handle drunken hecklers from the audience and were constantly in fear that the torches lighting the stage would ignite the wooden theater. (The Globe did eventually burn down in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII.) Ross also explains how Shakespeare conceived of and wrote Macbeth. The bard picked a Scottish theme to please the recently crowned James I, who was also King of Scotland; he combined two histories to create a moving tragedy, while at the same time clearing any of James's ancestors of wrongdoing; and he made the play short, because James had a limited attention span. Shakespeare continued to write Macbeth throughout rehearsals, and he gave each actor only his own part so that rival companies would not be able to get a complete copy of the play and steal it. The play was, of course, a huge success. A terrific job of making the vitality of Shakespeare accessible.