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The world of Shakespeare is the most interesting literary world in English literature. After the Greek and Roman dramatists Shakespeare is the greatest playwright who created a world of imagination and insight that remains unique till today. 

There is endless discussion concerning the plays that are usually accepted as being Shakespeare. All the manuscripts of his plays have perished. Shakespeare himself printed none of the texts. His plays appeared singly in quarto during his lifetime and they were all unauthorized editions. In 1623 seven years after his death the first folio edition was printed. It contains 36 plays and these are now universally accepted as Shakespeare’s. In the folio edition, the plays are not arranged chronologically, nor are the dates of composition given. The dates of the Quarto’s are registered at Stationer’s Hall, but these are the dates of printing. To a discussion of Shakespearean drama, one of the fundamental tasks is the evidence about the dates of publication of his dramas and the evidence can be divided into three groups

1) Contemporary references 

2) Internal references 

3)The literary evidence 

In fact, the dates of Quarto’s were by far the most reliable evidence. If we examine his plays the construction of the plots, the style, we find that his sentences are full of closely packed ideas. There are changes of thought, but the style is rich in imagery. Most of his plays have prose in the middle. His great plays amply illustrate his literary genius. His plays like Love’s Labour’s Lost, Julius Caesar, The Winter’s Tale, A Mid Summer Night’s Dream are some of his early place. These plays are relatively ornamental. 

Classification of Shakespeare’s Plays:

Shakespeare’s plays are classified into different categories. These are the following: 

1. The Early Comedies : 

The early comedies of Shakespeare were immature plays. In these immature plays the plots are less original, the characters less finished, and the style lacks the power of the mature Shakespeare. They are full of wit and wordplay, usually put into the mouths of young gallants, but after the humour is puerile and the wit degenerates into mere verbal quibbling. Of this type are The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. 

2) The English Histories: 

These plays show a rapid maturing of Shakespeare's technique. He now begins to busy himself with developing characters, such as Richard II or Prince Hal. He shows clearly the importance attached in his day to the throne, and the contemporary desire for stable government, Figures like Falstaff illustrate their increasing depth of characterization, and the mingling of low life with Chronicle history is an important innovation. The plays in this group, to which belong Richard II , O’ Henry 1V, 2 Henry IV and Henry V, contain much more blank verse than those of the earlier group. 

3) The Mature Comedies: 

Here is the fine flower of Shakespeare’: comic genius. The comic spirit manifests itself at many levels—the sophisticated wit of Beatrice and Benedict or the clowning of Dogberry and Verges in Much Ado about Nothing; the jovial good humour of Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night; the lighter clowning of Lancelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice; the Urbane worldly-wise humour of ‘Touchstone in As You Like it. The plays are full of vitality, contain. many truly comic situations and reveal great warmth and humanity. In this group there is much prose. 

4) The Sombre Plays: 

In this group there are, All’s Well that Ends Well, Measure  for Measure and Troilus and Cressida. Though comedies in the sense that they end ‘happily’, their tone is sombre and tragic. They reflect a cynical, disillusioned attitude to life and a fondness for objectionable characters and situations. In them Shakespeare displays a savage desire to expose the falsity of romance and to show the sordid reality of life. 

5) The Great Tragedies: 

Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth and King Lear are the climax of Shakespeare’s art. In intensity of emotion, depth of psychological insight and power of style they stand supreme. 

6) The Roman Plays: 

These are based on North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives, and though written at wide intervals, are usually considered as a group. Julius Caesar, contemporary with the English histories, shows the same concern with political security, and in its depth of character study is approaching the great tragedies. Antony and Cleopatra and Coriolanus follow the great tragic period, and Antony and Cleopatra in soaring imagination and tragic power, is truly great, both of them show some relaxation of tragic intensity. 

7) The Last plays : 

A mellowed maturity is the chief feature of this group, which contains Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. The creative touch of the dramatist, making living men out of figment, is abundantly in view; the style is notable and serenely adequate; and with the ease of the master the author thoroughly subdues the metre to his will. No more fitting conclusion—rich, ample and graciously dignified—could be found to round off the work of our greatest literary genius than these plays of reconciliation and forgiveness.

In fact Shakespeare was a born genius and he is the world’s greatest immortal poet and dramatist. In spite of some difficulties drama reached its Climax in the hand of Shakespeare during the Elizabethan period. 


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