Harold Bloom, one of the most celebrated Shakespeare scholars, thinks that the Bard of Avon invented the ‘modern man’. Shakespeare’s canvas was so wide that there was scarcely any kind of human being that does not appear in his plays. No character, not even the one that appears and disappears for a single scene, is a lifeless flat character in them. He has explored the human mind so thoroughly that the entire work of the writer is an extensive examination of diverse human emotions in their varied hues and tones. And we have internalized Shakespeare and his characters so much that all events of our lives are mirror images of Shakespearean lives.

      Shakespeare’s plays have been classified in many ways. The traditional classification falls into four categories: the comedies, the histories, the tragedies and the romances.

     Today, a comedy means an entertaining laugh-riot movie. However, the word ‘comedy’ had a very different meaning in the Elizabethan times. A comedy was a light-hearted, happy-ending play in which young men and women marry each other promising a successful life thereafter.

     A Comedy of Errors, Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labours Lost, The Tempest, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, Pericles, All’s Well that Ends Well, Measure for Measure, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are some of Shakespeare’s comedies.

     In Shakespeare’s tragedies, the heroes undergo certain difficult situations, all the while suffering from internal conflicts. They all have a ‘tragic flaw’ that ultimately leads them to their own destruction. Othello, who was intensely in love with his wife Desdemona, was jealous of her because of the lies told to him by his enemy lago. His jealousy led him to kill his dear wife and commit suicide. Titus Andronicus, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, Hamlet, Othello, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Timon of Athens are Shakespeare’s tragedies.

     There are ten history plays by Shakespeare. They are Henry VI, parts one, two and three, Richard III, Richard II, Henry IV, Parts one and two, Henry V, King John and Henry VIII. Shakespeare’s history plays centre around actual events and monarchs from Britain’s history. The Gain and loss of power and the divine rights of kings are the main themes of these plays.

    The fourth category is a recent addition. The romances were previously grouped with comedies. However, today, these plays are considered more mature plays of Shakespeare as he wrote them all after the success of his tragedies. They have characters of comedies and tragedies. He mixes them with mystical and fantastic elements in them. His romances are Pericles: Prince of Tyre, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. Some scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote more plays, while these plays are not part of the Shakespearean canon currently. They are called Shakespeare’s Apocrypha. The names of the 12 apocryphal plays of Shakespeare are Locrine, The London Prodigal, The Puritan, Thomas: Lord Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle, Arden of Feversham, A Yorkshire Tragedy, The Birth of Merlin, Edward III, Fair Em, Mucedorus and The Merry Devil of Edmonton.


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