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Shakespeare’s Plays

Before the publication of the First Folio in 1623, twenty-two of the thirty-eight plays in Shakespeare’s canon had appeared in quarto format. All but Othello (1622) and The Two Noble Kinsmen (1634), were published prior to the date of Shakespeare’s retirement from the theatre in about 1611. It is unlikely that Shakespeare was involved directly with the printing of any of his plays, although it should be noted that two of his poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece were almost certainly printed under his direct supervision. Here you will find the complete text of Shakespeare’s plays, based primarily on the First Folio, and a variety of helpful resources, including extensive explanatory notes, character analysis, source information, and articles and book excerpts on a wide range of topics unique to each drama. Don´t you remember where are one Shakespeare´s character? Find it here: List of all Shakespeare´s Characters.

Tragedies

The story of Mark Antony, Roman military leader and triumvir, who is madly in love with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.

The last of Shakespeare’s great political tragedies, chronicling the life of the mighty warrior Caius Marcius Coriolanus.

Since its first recorded production, Hamlet has engrossed playgoers, thrilled readers, and challenged actors more so than any other play in the Western canon. No other single work of fiction has produced more commonly used expressions.

Although there were earlier Elizabethan plays on the subject of Julius Caesar and his turbulent rule, Shakespeare’s penetrating study of political life in ancient Rome is the only version to recount the demise of Brutus and the other conspirators.

The story of King Lear, an aging monarch who decides to divide his kingdom amongst his three daughters, according to which one recites the best declaration of love.

Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most stimulating and popular dramas. Renaissance records of Shakespeare’s plays in performance are scarce, but a detailed account of an original production of Macbeth has survived, thanks to Dr. Simon Forman.

Othello, a valiant Moorish general in the service of Venice, falls prey to the devious schemes of his false friend, Iago.

Celebrated for the radiance of its lyric poetry, Romeo and Juliet was tremendously popular from its first performance. The sweet whispers shared by young Tudor lovers throughout the realm were often referred to as “naught but pure Romeo and Juliet.”

Written late in Shakespeare’s career, Timon of Athens is often criticized as an underdeveloped tragedy. Read the play and see if you agree.

A sordid tale of revenge and political turmoil, overflowing with bloodshed and unthinkable brutality.

Histories

One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, featuring the opportunistic miscreant, Sir John Falstaff.

This is the third play in the second tetralogy of history plays – the others being Richard IIHenry IV, Part 1, and Henry V.

Henry V is the last in the second tetralogy sequence. King Henry is considered Shakespeare’s ideal monarch.

The first in Shakespeare’s trilogy about the War of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York.

Part two of Shakespeare’s chronicle play, first performed between 1589-92.

Part three begins in medias res, with the duke of Suffolk dead and the duke of York being named Henry VI’s heir.

Many believe Henry VIII to be Shakespeare’s last play, but others firmly believe that the Bard had little, if anything, to do with its creation.

In the shadow of Shakespeare’s second tetralogy of history plays lies the neglected masterpiece, King John. Although seldom read or performed today, King John was once one of Shakespeare’s most popular histories, praised for its poetic brilliance.

More so than Shakespeare’s earlier history plays, Richard II is notable for its well-rounded characters.

The devious machinations of the deformed villain, Richard, duke of Gloucester, made this play an Elizabethan favorite.

Comedies

Modern scholars contend that this is a ‘problem’ play, due primarily to the character Helena and her ambiguous nature. Is she a virtuous lady or a crafty temptress?

As You Like It is considered by many to be one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies, and the heroine, Rosalind, is praised as one of his most inspiring characters.

This is Shakespeare’s shortest play, which he based on Menaechmi by Plautus.

This play, modeled after Boccaccio’s Decameron, is often classified as a romance. It features the beautiful Imogen, considered by many to be Shakespeare’s most admirable female character.

Love’s Labours Lost fell out of favor for many years, criticized by scholars as muddled and confusing. But the play is making a comeback, and Kenneth Branagh’s version has helped it along.

Considered a “dark” comedy, Measure for Measure was inspired by Cinthio’s Epitia and Whetstone’s Promos and Cassandra.

The Merry Wives is unique amongst Shakespeare’s plays because it is set in Shakespeare’s England. It features the Bard’s beloved character, Falstaff.

The character of Shylock has raised a debate over whether the play should be condemned as anti-Semitic, and this controversy has overshadowed many other aspects of the play.

A magical exploration of the mysteries of love, and one of Shakespeare’s best-known comedies.

The story of two very different sets of lovers, Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero. The witty banter between Beatrice and Benedick is the highlight of the play.

Although the first half of the play is considered inadequate, Pericles is ripe with imagery and symbolism.

The Taming of the Shrew revolves around the troubled relationship between Katharina and her suitor, Petruchio, who is determined to mold Katharina into a suitable wife.

Hailed as a stunning climax to the career of England’s favorite dramatist, The Tempest is a play praising the glories of reconciliation and forgiveness. Some believe that Prospero’s final speeches signify Shakespeare’s personal adieu from the stage.

Troilus and Cressida is difficult to categorize because it lacks elements vital to both comedies and tragedies. But, for now, it is classified as a comedy.

Shakespeare loved to use the device of mistaken identity, and nowhere does he use this convention more skillfully than in Twelfth Night.

The tale of two friends who travel to Milan and learn about the chaotic world of courting.

The Winter’s Tale is considered a romantic comedy, but tragic elements are interwoven throughout the play. First produced at the Globe around 1610, it is one of Shakespeare’s final plays.

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