This study explores Shakespeare's representation of various kinds of physical and intellectual work in plays ranging from
King Lear through
Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, and
Timon of Athens to the four late romances
King Henry VIII, and
The Two Noble Kinsmen. Of special interest is the analysis of Shakespeare's portrayal of birth labor, especially with regard to artistic creation and playwriting in particular. The conflict of idleness versus arduous work becomes progressively more prominent in Shakespeare's Jacobean plays. Reformation Protestantism, the court of King James, and early modern English working conditions provide contexts for appreciating the contemporary importance of this conflict.