Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies, Histories, Comedies, and Romances

By Victor L. Cahn | Go to book overview

THE SECOND TETRALOGY

In this series of plays Shakespeare reaches his apogee in the historical drama form. They are superior to his earlier efforts primarily for two reasons. The language is richer and more unified, progress that results from the second and more important cause: the subtlety and complexity of many of the characters. Here they are more than just political schemers or irresolute victims. Their moments of triumph and defeat intermingle, and what we may judge to be their personal strengths and weaknesses overlap. In sum, these characters are more fully developed and more human than the comparatively one-dimensional figures of the first tetralogy.

The issues of the plays, however, are familiar, because here is the story that precedes that of Henry VI and Richard II. Once again we are concerned with the responsibilities of kingship and the destruction wrought when a king is overthrown. But since the characters are more compelling, we are more involved in the resolution of the crises. In addition, Shakespeare offers a gallery of nonroyals who provide brilliant counterpoint to the intense political struggle. Thus this tetralogy offers a greater sense of society as a whole than does the first.

These works are polished, the products of a mature dramatist in command of his skills. And even though Shakespeare is again encapsulating years into weeks, even though he is creating enormous pageantry that tests the limits of any stage, the playwright's mastery is such that we never feel that he is out of control. He offers brilliant comedy, great battlefield action, sharply drawn political intrigue, and human conflict that approaches the realm of the tragic. These works are superbly crafted. From structure to character to language to theme they represent the myriad aspects of Shakespeare the dramatist.

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Shakespeare the Playwright: A Companion to the Complete Tragedies, Histories, Comedies, and Romances
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • The Tragedies 1
  • Titus Andronicus 5
  • Romeo and Juliet 23
  • Julius Caesar 47
  • Hamlet 69
  • Othello 105
  • King Lear 137
  • Macbeth 179
  • Antony and Cleopatra 209
  • Coriolanus 241
  • Timon of Athens 267
  • The Histories 283
  • The First Tetralogy 287
  • King John 381
  • The Second Tetralogy 399
  • The Comedies 525
  • The Comedy of Errors 529
  • The Taming of the Shrew 541
  • Two - Gentlemen of Verona 555
  • Love''s Labor''s Lost 569
  • A Midsummer Night''s Dream 583
  • The Merchant of Venice 599
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor 619
  • Much Ado about Nothing 629
  • As You like It 647
  • Twelfth Night, or What You Will 665
  • Troilus and Cressida 683
  • All''s Well That Ends Well 703
  • Measure for Measure 721
  • The Romances 743
  • Pericles 745
  • Cymbeline 757
  • The Winter''s Tale 779
  • The Tempest 803
  • Appendix 1 - The Two Noble Kinsmen 823
  • Suggestions for Further Reading 826
  • Appendix 2 - The Royal Figures from the History Tetralogies 827
  • Select Bibliography 831
  • Character Index 833
  • Index 847
  • About the Author *
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