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.
The Tempest is often considered to be the last work that William Shakespeare wrote by himself, without collaboration. It is an enchanting play to read and watch, as Prospero wields his magic powers, aided by the fiery spirit Ariel, to right a wrong done to him by his own brother 12 years before. The play is also very funny, in a humor that still stands even with today’s students. The play covers important themes such as illusion vs. reality, revenge, discovery, and redemption.
Elements of Shakespeare Romances | Shakespeare's Tragicomedies
Shakespeare's Romances are characterized by: A conflict that gets resolved A central older male figure of noble descent A love interest Elements of the Supernatural Themes on a Grand Scale
Conflict Begins the Play / Resolved by the End
Central Older Male Figure of Nobility
Examples from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
On the way home from Alonso's daughter's wedding, a storm strikes their ship and shipwrecks Alonso, Ferdinand, Antonio, Gonzalo, Stephano, Trinculo, and Sebastian on an island. The men are split up, and Alonso thinks Ferdinand is dead.
Elements of the Supernatural
Prospero, Antonio, and Alonso. Prospero was the Duke of Milan before his brother Antonio (in a plot with Alonso, the King of Naples) usurped his throne and forced him to flee.
Themes on a Grander Scale
Miranda, Prospero's daughter, and Ferdinand run into each other on the island, and they instantly fall for one another. This is part of Prospero's plot to take back his rightful place as Duke of Milan.
Prospero has been studying sorcery for the 12 years he's been exiled. He causes the tempest to bring the boat with his brothers to the island. Ariel turns himself into a sea nymph and controls some of the men with music.
While Prospero regains his throne, the theme of the play looks at restoration and forgiveness on a grander scale. If Prospero can forgive his brother's treachery, surely it is possible for real people to do the same. In doing so, both peace and stability are rewards for forgiveness. Instead of pursuing pure revenge, Prospero curbs his bloodlust and still regains his power.