What is striking is that his work, alert to every human fantasy and longing, is allergic to the absolutist strain so prevalent in his world, from the metaphysical to the mundane. His kings repeatedly discover the constraints within which they must function if they hope to survive. His generals draw lines on maps and issue peremptory commands, only to find that the reality on the ground defies their designs. So too his proud churchmen are mocked for pretensions, while religious visionaries, who claim to be in direct communication with the divine, are exposed as frauds.
Above all, perhaps, it is Shakespeare’s lovers who encounter again and again the boundaries that society or nature sets to the most exalted and seemingly unconfined passions.