Shakespeare's Literary Work

Shakespeare's literary work may be divided into several periods. The plays are dated according to the theatrical season in which they were first staged. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays, and they fall into 4 periods:
The 1st period (the period of apprenticeship) includes the plays that were written under the influence of the University Wits:
1590-91 Henry VI, part II
Henry VI, part III
1591-92 Henry VI, part I
1592-93 Richard III
The Comedy of Errors
1593-94 Titus Andronicus
The Taming of the Shrew

During the 2nd period Shakespeare mainly wrote histories (historical plays, chronicles) and comedies:
1594-95 The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Love's Labour Lost
Romeo and Juliet
1595-96 Richard II
A Midsummer Night's Dream
1596-97 King John
The Merchant of Venice
1597-98 Henry IV, part I
Henry IV, part II
1598-99 Much Ado About Nothing
Henry V
1599-1600 Julius Caesar
As You Like It
Twelfth Night
The 3rd period is marked by Shakespeare's great tragedies that were the peak of his achievement and made him truly immortal:
1600-01 Hamlet
The Merry Wives of Windsor
1601-02 Troilus and Cressida
1603-04 All's Well That Ends Well
1604-05 Measure for Measure
King Lear
1606-07 Antony and Cleopatra
1607-08 Corioianus
Timon of Athens

The 4th period of Shakespeare's creative activity is mainly constituted by the romantic dramas - plays written around a dramatic conflict, but the tension in them is not so great as in the tragedies, all of them have happy endings:
1608-09 Pericles
1609-10 Cymbeline
1610-11 The Winter's Tale
1611-12 The Tempest
1612-13 Henry VIII

Shakespeare's comedies
The comedies by Shakespeare did not establish a lasting literary tradition in the theatre, as did those of Ben Jonson or Moliere, in which the authors portrayed the everyday life of their time, and the characters were exaggerated almost into satirical grotesque. Shakespeare's comedies are based on different principles: the scene is usually in some imaginary country, but in this fairy-tale setting we find characters that are true to life, and they are depicted with deep insight into human psychology for which Shakespeare is distinguished. In each comedy there is the main plot and one or more subplots. The comic characters always have the English flavour, even if the scene is laid in some distant or imaginary place. All these plays are written in easy-flowing verse and light prose; the texts are full of jokes and puns. The comedies tell of love and harmony, at first distributed, finally restored.
Shakespeare's histories
The histories, or historical plays, or chronicles, are more closely related to Shakespeare's tragedies than to comedies. They can be regarded as a profound and detailed treatise upon the nature of monarchy. Shakespeare shows all types of autocratic rulers in them.
Shakespeare's tragedies
Shakespeare brought something new to the genre of tragedy: the hero of any of his tragedies perishes by reason of some trait of character that makes him either prefer some positive ideal to life, or make him betray an ideal and meet his doom. All the tragic characters of Shakespeare are shown in their development: a hero at the end of the tragedy is not the man in the beginning. The development of the character is explained by social factors that form their psychology and influence their lives. In some of the tragedies Shakespeare treats important ethical problems.
Shakespeare's sonnets
Shakespeare's sonnets can not be considered absolutely autobiographical, we can see variations on themes traditional in renaissance poetry in them; but they occupy a unique place in Shakespearean heritage, because they are his only lyrical pieces, the only things he has written about himself.
In many of his views Shakespeare was far ahead of his time. He could not give concrete answers to the problems he put forth, but he was a truly great inquirer, and his penetration into life gives us an opportunity to try and answer his questions better than he could have done it himself.

No comments: