This is an historical study of the four Shakespearean late plays: "Pericles", "Cymbeline", "Winter's Tale" and "The Tempest". The introduction argues for a correct application of historicism in the fields of literary criticism. As a preliminary to discussion of the romances, it then considers the state of religion in England in the wake of the so-called "Elizabeth settlements"; the possibilities for religious expression in the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre, and - still with particular regard to religious topics - the relationship of the romances to their sources. The major chapters illustrate the play's relationships to, and discourses on Passion literature, Jesuit meditation, philosophical scepticism and magic. In each case the romances are seen to present a Roman Catholic, and thus counter-Reformationary position. The study concludes by comparing Shakespeare's presentation of the four principal topics in the romances with the less consistent treatment they receive in his earlier works.
Introduction: history and "context". Genre and Passion literature; ignatian meditation in Shakespeare's romances; scepticism and the politics of scepticism in Shakespeare's romances; the politics of magic.