A brilliant and provocative reinterpretation of Shakespeare's largely forgotten epic poems, and the political controversy they incited. As the year 1600 approached, unrest was stirring in post-Reformation England. The people pitted themselves against Queen Elizabeth, questioning the monarchy and exploring republicanism. Amidst this tension, William Shakespeare published a pair of epic poems dedicated to his patron, the Earl of Southampton, which would quickly become bestsellers: Venus of Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece one year later. Although wildly popular during Shakespeare's lifetime, both works are rarely studied today. To modern readers, the epics are meandering, dense, and seemingly uneventful. But in her engaging new book, leading Shakespearean scholar Clare Asquith reveals the provocative political message that would have been obvious and compelling to Shakespeare's contemporaneous readers: Just as Lucrece had been degraded, England had been violated by a turbulent and tyrannical monarchy. Henry VIII and his successors had stolen the property and possessions of the English people and their religious institutions--making away with 25,000 square miles of land and count price pieces of art, jewelry, books, and more. At the heart of this cultural upheaval, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece gave England's rest and disenfranchised populous exactly what it was looking for: an authoritative historical analysis that justified--and even urged--direct action against the Tudors. A fascinating narrative history rooted in original scholarship and groundbreaking interpretations, Shakespeare and the Resistance is the definitive account of Shakespeare's political poems and the dramatic reactions they incited.