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William Shakespeare Plays

Comedies, Tragedies, & Histories

By Rebecca Ray

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What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet


With these words, Juliet suggests the name of a thing does not matter, only what that thing is. She did have a motive for thinking this, of course, as it was Romeo’s family name, Montague, that posed such a barrier to their love.

No matter what they were named, William Shakespeare’s plays would still be great works of art, so it may not matter what we call them. Generally though, Shakespeare wrote three types of plays: Tragedy, Comedy, and History. These names help us understand the archetypes of a play and better analyze its events. After all, The Comedy of Romeo and Juliet would be a very different play from The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps it would be a farce about two star-crossed lovers, doomed to suffer humorous mistakes of identity and bumbling servants. It wouldn’t be the story of woe we are all so familiar with.

Shakespearean Play Genres
Create your own at Storyboard That • Serious Themes and Motifs • Death is Important • Contains a (Tragic) Hero with a Fatal Flaw; often a Nobleman • Comedic Language • Plot Twists • Mistaken Identity • Wedding(s) or Reunion(s) • Love Obstacles • Propaganda for Shakespearean Current Events • Real Figure from England's History • Embellishment of Plot and Characters Tragedies (10 Written) Comedies (18 Written) Histories (10 Written) Elements of Tragedies Elements of Comedies Elements of Histories

Example

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Shakespeare Tragedies

Romeo and Juliet Tragic Hero
Create your own at Storyboard That HAMARTIA HUBRIS PERIPETEIA ANAGNORISIS NEMESIS CATHARSIS Romeo's flaw is his impulsive nature. He quickly falls in love and gets in fights. In his pride, Romeo forces Friar Lawrence to marry him and Juliet. Romeo kills Tybalt, and is banished from Verona. Romeo learns of Juliet's death. The false poison that causes Juliet to appear dead, and the real poison that Romeo drinks to kill himself The fighting ends with the lovers' deaths, but it could all have been avoided if the friar's letter was delivered. Romeo, I just heard that Juliet of Verona is dead! I can't live without her I will take this poison to be with my love!