“I smell a man of middle-earth.”
Act 5, Scene 5.
Incidentally, did Tolkien take possession of this noun for his Middle-Earth stories…?
Merry Wives is the only full play of Shakespeare's to be located in the England he knew. And it takes rich delight in its social and geographical small-town provincial life setting. But Shakespeare was equally at home depicting kings and queens and the lives of their courtiers. In terms of the monarchy, I feel some of the issues haven't changed to this day.
It's been well documented in academic circles that there is a difference in tone and patriotic confidence between the plays written during the reign of Elizabeth I, before the accession of James I to the throne, and those written once he was King. Macbeth and King Lear tell dark tales that question the effectiveness of the monarchy and the nature of power.
If you're into Shakespeare, read on.
NB: Reading progress update: I've read 717 out of 2462 pages.