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Discovering Shakespeare's World:

Introduction to Genres and Plays

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First Folio

formally titled "Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, Published According to the true Original Copies" is a collection of William Shakespeare's plays.It was compiled by his friends and fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell and published in 1623.

Shakespeare's Genres

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Tragedies

Comedies

Histories

Language: - puns, wordplay, and clever dialogue to create humor- playful tone

Definition: Comedies are light-hearted plays with a happy ending, often featuring mistaken identities, witty wordplay, misunderstandings and romantic entanglements.Characteristics:- humorous situations- happy endings

Comedies

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Definition: Histories are plays based on historical events or figures, often focusing on power struggles, political intrigue, and themes of kingship.Characteristics:Historical Figures: they contain some of Shakespeare's most powerful dramatic figures.Political Themes: leadership, loyalty, and the consequences of political ambition.Language: they often include formal, ceremonial language used by kings, nobles, and political figures, reflecting the regal and authoritative nature of the characters.Rhetorical Devices: parallelism, antithesis, and metaphor are used to convey the grandeur and significance of historical events.

Histories

Language:- Elevated Language.- Soliloquies and Monologues

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Definition: Tragedies are serious plays that end in the downfall or death of the protagonist, often due to a fatal flaw or external circumstances.Characteristics:Fatal Flaws: Tragic heroes possess a fatal flaw, such as ambition or jealousy, which leads to their downfall.High Stakes: Tragedies deal with profound themes like fate, morality, and the human condition.

Tragedies

Shakespeare's comedies are much more than just comical and entertaining.He explored the related and often contrasting themes of love and friendship in a series of refined love comedies. They even show Shakespeare's familiarity with the habits and speech of nobles as well as with those of servants, artisants, peasants and the middle class, giving us a vivid picture of Elizabethan society in all its classes (ex. The Two Gentlemen of Verona)The commedies written at the turn of the century took on a deeper and sometimes darker tone.The characters are more complex and the love conventions are exploited to explore the psychology of love, including its disappointments (ex. The Merchant of Venice, Twelfth Night, As You Like It).

Later still his comedies are plays balanced between comedy and tragedy; only their happy endings technically make them comedies and for this reason they are often referred to as dark comedies (ex. All's Well That Ends Well)Shakespeare's final comic phase is characterised by the 'romantic' comedies which show us a Shakespeare finally reconciled to human nature (ex. The Tempest, The Winter's Tale).

What is it so important?

The First Folio is the first authoritative collection of Shakespeare's plays, containing 36 of his works, including many that had not been previously published. It is considered one of the most important books in the English language and has had a profound impact on the preservation and dissemination of Shakespeare's works.

The plays are given not in chronological order - we don't know precisely when every play was written / performed - but according to GENRE:

  • COMEDIES
  • HISTORIES
  • TRAGEDIES

  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Macbeth
  • Hamlet
  • King Lear
  • Othello
  • Julius Caesar

Aristotle's theatrical unities ( time, space and action) mostly disregarded by ShakespeareRevenge tragedyComplex characters facing extremely difficult choicesMain characters often occupy high positions in societyThey all end with the restoration of order but not a happy endingPsychological insight

Ten history plays. Eight of them tell an unbroken story of the English monarchy (Richard II, Henry IV (1&2,) Henry V, Henry VI (1&2&3), Richard III).Sources: hisrorians Edward Halle and Raphael Holinshed.Providential reading of history.Power game that can be easily adapted to different periods and countries (recently: many TV series and films).Historical events not too far away in time.