Why did Shakespeare write drama? Did he have specific reasons for his choice of this art form? Did he have clearly defined aesthetic aims in what he wanted drama to do - and why? Pauline Kiernan opens up a new area of debate for Shakespearean criticism in showing that a radical, complex defence of drama which challenged the Renaissance orthodox view of poetry, history and art can be traced in ShakespeareOs plays and poems. This study examines different stages in the canon to show that far from being restricted by the OlimitationsO of drama, Shakespeare consciously exploits its capacity to accommodate temporality and change, and its reliance on the physical presence of the actor. This lively, readable book offers an original and scholarly insight into what Shakespeare wanted his drama to do and why.