William Shakespeare's Works/Overview

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This section deals with an overview of Shakespeare's plays.

He is usually said to have written 37 plays, though others have been convincingly attributed to him over the past few decades, each of these as a co-author with another writer. There is also at least one lost play, Cardenio.

These plays changed over time, as his writing skills developed, and as he came to understand the needs and desires of his audience. Appreciation of the play also depended on the ability of the actors at that time.

Shakespeare's plays are grouped in 4 periods. More specifically, the third period is full of tragedies such as Othello, Hamlet and King Lear. Shakespeare wrote in four different genres: comedy, tragedy, romance and historical.

Many of his plays are taken from other stories or plays. Although most of these sources are unknown, they must have been popular and very well-known in Elizabethian times. We can say, for instance, that Antony and Cleopatra came from Plutarch's account of Antony. Speculations on these have the potential to be very interesting and controversial.

When you go to see or read a Shakespeare play it is important to know all about the social, historical and dramatic context. It is also important to focus on the poetry of the play, as this is was the most important linguistic tool used by Shakespeare that was particularly effective in portraying deep emotion.

In Elizabethian times there was no scenery or costuming as such, and only a few theatres. These features have therefore been created and modified over the last 500 years, often contributing to vast differences between interpretations.