In A Lover's Complaint, Shakespeare offers his most concentrated fiction about the relation between poetry and theater. 1 Among Shakespeare's poems—and even among his plays—his third and last narrative poem is valuable for its lucid narration of a story directly about the cultural function and social interchange between 'deep-brained sonnets' (209) and 'tragic shows' (308). Since recent scholarship concludes that Shakespeare composed this poem in the first decade of the seventeenth century, it joins its companion piece in the famed 1609 quarto, the Sonnets, in calling into question the dominant models regarding the presence of the poems within a predominantly theatrical career. 2 By recalling what recent editors of Shakespeare's poems emphasize, that Shakespeare was working on A Lover's Complaint at the time that he was composing such 'mature' plays as Hamlet, Measure for Measure, All's Well, and Cymbeline—that indeed he was redeploying the very discourse from the plays—we might come to find his fiction about the professional relation between poetry and theater late in his career of considerable value. 3