After earning his Ph.D. at Harvard in 1959, he joined the English department at the University of California, Berkeley, where he taught until health problems led him to an early retirement. He was a renowned teacher, committed to interdisciplinary study, and won the university's Distinguished Teaching Award. He was the author of two important books on Shakespeare, Shakespeare and the Problem of Meaning (1981) and Shakespeare and the Common Understanding (1967). He also edited several anthologies, including Drama of the English Renaissance (with Russell Fraser, 1976), Shakespeare's Contemporaries (with Max Bluestone, 1970), and Approaches to Shakespeare (1964).
In addition to his academic work, he played the viola in a string quartet, learned how to make wine and beer, taught himself to read ancient Greek, cooked his way through the cuisines of the world, and made an art form of complaining about one of his great passions, the San Francisco Opera. He was a lover of language, in Elizabethan literature and low puns and everywhere in between, but his greatest love was reserved for his family and friends.