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Shakespeare's Plays

Summaries of William Shakespeare's plays.

Shakespeare's plays portray recognisable people in situations that we can all relate to - including love, marriage, death, mourning, guilt, the need to make difficult choices, separation, reunion and reconciliation. They do so with great humanity, tolerance, and wisdom. They help us to understand what it is to be human, and to cope with the problems of being so.  

Click on a play to read a full synopsis.

Because Shakespeare's plays are written to be acted, they are constantly fresh and can be adapted to the place and time they are performed. Their language is wonderfully expressive and powerful, and although it may sometimes seem hard to understand in reading, actors can bring it to vivid life for us. The plays provide actors with some of the most challenging and rewarding roles ever written. They are both entertaining and moving. 

In the first Folio of 1623, the earliest edition of Shakespeare's collected plays, they are divided into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Over time, these have been further divided into Romances which include The TempestThe Winter's TaleCymbeline, and Pericles. The term ‘Problem Plays’ has been used to include plays as apparently diverse as Measure for MeasureHamletAll's Well that Ends Well  and Troilus and Cressida

In his history plays, Shakespeare sometimes had the same character appear over and over. For example, the character 'Bardolph' appears in the the most plays of any characters, including Henry IV Part 1Henry IV Part 2Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

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