While much has been written on Shakespeare's debt to the classical tradition, less has been said about his roots in the popular culture of his own time. This is the first book to explore the full range of his debts to Elizabethan popular culture. Topics covered include the mystery plays, festive custom, clowns, romance and popular fiction, folklore and superstition, everyday sayings, and popular songs. These essays show how Shakespeare, throughout his dramatic work, used popular culture. A final chapter, which considers ballads with Shakespearean connections in the seventeenth century, shows how popular culture immediately after his time used Shakespeare.