‘Comedy’, ‘history’ and ‘tragedy’ are useful terms. They enable the simple generalisation that Shakespeare began mostly with comedy and history, came later to tragedy and returned to comedy. But for those studying Shakespeare’s 39 surviving plays at closer range, three categories are not enough. Polonius over classifies, but classification has its uses. The present book has already found it helpful to mention Senecan tragedy, revenge tragedy, the tragedy of blood, romance comedy and love comedy. Chronology offers further groupings: the later comedies are often called the ‘late romances’, a term preferable to the ‘last plays’, since although they were Shakespeare’s last single-handed pieces, he collaborated on three further plays. During the nineteenth century a rough order of composition of Shakespeare’s plays became clear enough for its stages to be made out.
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- Taken to Extremes
Prof. Michael Alexander
- Macmillan Education UK
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