by Isaac Asimov
Volume I, at 670 pages, deals with the Greek, Roman, and Italian plays. In the book, Asimov explains practically all of the historical, mythological and scientific references in Shakespeare's oeuvre, including two long poems. In addition, Asimov makes some interesting scholarly inferences, such as suggesting that in "Troilus And Cressida," Cressida's depiction as a worthless woman has basis in the actions of Elizabeth I at the time, when Shakespeare's patron Essex had fallen out of her favor; or claiming that in "Romeo And Juliet," the text indicates strongly that the feud was not as important to either side as Juliet made it out to be, and that only her youthful love of furtive romance made things more complicated than they should have been. This book is incredibly informative and well-written.