Shakesperience.com

The Complete Shakespeare Experience    

The Plays

A prolific playwright, William Shakespeare is thought to have written 37 plays1—17 comedies, 10 histories, and 10 tragedies. His plays, including the tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, and Macbeth, and the ethereal comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, are among the world’s most renowned theatrical works and have delighted audiences for more than 400 years.

While difficult to date with certainty, Richard III and Henry VI (parts I, II, and III) are thought to be Shakespeare’s earliest works, having been published in the early 1590s as the Bard was about 25-years-old. Historical dramas were much in favor at the time and Shakespeare’s histories were influenced by the Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland written by Raphael Holinshed and published in 1587. Corrupt, immoral, weak rulers and the consequences of such rule inspired the plot and the lead characters in Shakespeare’s early works, as did the works of other contemporary dramatists, such as Thomas Kyd and Christopher Marlowe.



























1 Many of the playwrights writing around Shakespeare’s time collaborated with others on their work. Though none are attributed to the 37 plays published here, two others, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Cardenio, seem to have substantial evidence indicating Shakespeare was a collaborator on them, while some show evidence of being rewritten and edited by others after their original composition.


histories

tragedies

comedies

Histories Histories Tragedies

Other works which may have been among Shakespeare’s earliest are Titus Andronicus, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Taming of the Shrew, and The Comedy of Errors. As Shakespeare’s career progresses, his work becomes more sophisticated as tightly woven plot lines and subplots play with and against each other and the comic scenes require split-second timing.


By the mid-1590s, Shakespeare adds the element of romance to his comedies, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing, Twelfth Night, and As You Like It. Further stretching his authorial skills by the end of the decade, Shakespeare writes Richard II in verse and then adds prose comedy to his historical dramas in Henry IV (parts I and II) and Henry V.


Fully matured as a playwright, Shakespeare is soon blending comedy and drama, prose and poetry, tragedy, love, and, death, as in Romeo and Juliet, and Julius Caesar. These were followed at the turn of the century by several more comedies, including Measure for Measure, Troilus and Cressida and All’s Well That End’s Well, as well as some of Shakespeare’s best known tragedies, including Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, and King Lear, where power and ambition do in those so desperate to control the world before them.

In the latter part of his career, Shakespeare produced The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, Cymbeline, Henry VIII, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

1 Many of the playwrights writing around Shakespeare’s time collaborated with others on their work. Though none are attributed to the 37 plays published here, two others, The Two Noble Kinsmen and Cardenio, seem to have substantial evidence indicating Shakespeare was a collaborator on them, while some show evidence of being rewritten and edited by others after their original composition.


Play Chronology


The data of composition and production of Shakespeare’s plays remains the subject of scholarly debate. Here is a chronology, such as it is, generally thought to be accurate:


Love’s Labour’s Lost                        

Henry VI, Part I                                  

Titus Andronicus                              

The Comedy of Errors                    

Henry VI, Part II                                

Henry VI, Part III                               

The Taming of the Shrew             

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Edward III                                            

Richard III                                            

King John                                             

Romeo and Juliet                             

A Midsummer Night’s Dream     

Richard II                                             

The Merchant of Venice               

Henry IV, Part I                                  

Henry IV, Part II                                

The Merry Wives of Windsor      

Much Ado About Nothing            

As You Like It                                     

Henry V                                                      

Julius Caesar                                     

Hamlet                                                

Twelfth Night                                    

Troilus and Cressida                       

All’s Well That Ends Well             

Measure for Measure                    

Othello                                                

King Lear                                             

Timon of Athens                              

Macbeth                                              

Antony and Cleopatra                   

Pericles, Prince of Tyre                 

Coriolanus                                          

Cymbeline                                          

The Winter’s Tale                            

The Tempest                                     

The Two Noble Kinsmen              

Henry VIII                                            

Cardenio (now lost)                        



1588-1597

                       1589-1592

                             1589-1592

               1589-1594

                           1590-1592

                          1590-1593

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 1590-1594

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            1596-1597

                           1596-1597

                          1597-1598

     1597-1601

           1598-1599

                                1598-1600

                                                         1599

                                    1599-1600

                                        1599-1601

                                  1600-1602

                     1601-1602

          1601-1605

                  1603-1605

                                           1603-1605

                                            1605-1606

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                  1606-1607

               1606-1608

                                                    1608

                                      1608-1610

                            1609-1611

                                              1611

             1612-1614

                                                    1613

                              1613



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