It is important to remember that the plays listed under the genre heading of ‘histories’ in the first Folio are just that: ‘plays’. To be sure, all their titles give the name of a monarch who had reigned in English history, and each play dramatizes the events of that reign, frequently ending with the monarch’s death. That is the case with The Life and Death of Richard the Third. Yet the play title printed in the first Folio is The Tragedy of King Richard the Third. So is the play a history or a tragedy? The conventions of comedies dictate an ending concluding with marriage: The Life of Henry the Fifth ends in marriage, so does that make it a comedy? Clearly not, for it is most famous for its portrayal of the battle of Agincourt. Similarly, no one thinks of Richard III as a tragedy, as it too is famous for ending with the battle of Bosworth.
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