Shakespearean comedy

Shakespearean comedy

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In the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

, the plays
Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

 of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

, and tragedies
Shakespearean tragedy
Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608...

.

"Comedy
Comedy
Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

", in its Elizabethan usage, had a very different meaning from modern comedy. A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare's other plays. Patterns in the comedies include movement to a "green world", both internal and external conflicts, and a tension between Apollonian and Dionysian
Apollonian and Dionysian
The Apollonian and Dionysian is a philosophical and literary concept, or dichotomy, based on certain features of ancient Greek mythology. Several Western philosophical and literary figures have invoked this dichotomy in critical and creative works....

 values. Shakespearean comedies tend to also include:
  • A greater emphasis on situations than characters (this numbs the audience's connection to the characters, so that when characters experience misfortune, the audience still finds it laughable)
  • A struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty, often presented by elders
  • Separation and re-unification
  • Deception among characters (especially mistaken identity)
  • A clever servant
  • Tension between characters, often within a family
  • Multiple, intertwining plots
  • Use of all styles of comedy (slapstick, puns, dry humour, earthy humour, witty banter, practical jokes)
  • Pastoral element (courtly people living an idealized, rural life), originally an element of Pastoral Romance, exploited by Shakespeare for his comic plots and often parodied therein for humorous effects
  • Happy Ending, though this is a given, since by definition, anything without a happy ending can't be a comedy


Several of Shakespeare's comedies, such as Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

and All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well
All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

,
have an unusual tone with a difficult mix of humour and tragedy which has led them to be classified as problem plays. It is not clear whether the uneven nature of these dramas is due to an imperfect understanding of Elizabethan humour and society, a fault on Shakespeare's part, or a deliberate attempt by him to blend styles and subvert the audience's expectations. By the end of Shakespeare's life, he had written seventeen comedies.

List of comedies by William Shakespeare


The plays are here according to the order in which they are given in the First Folio
First Folio
Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies. is the 1623 published collection of William Shakespeare's plays. Modern scholars commonly refer to it as the First Folio....

 of 1623. Plays marked with an asterisk
Asterisk
An asterisk is a typographical symbol or glyph. It is so called because it resembles a conventional image of a star. Computer scientists and mathematicians often pronounce it as star...

 (*) are now commonly referred to as the 'romances
Shakespeare's late romances
The late romances, often simply called the romances, are a grouping of what many scholars believe to be William Shakespeare's later plays, including Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter's Tale; and The Tempest. The Two Noble Kinsmen is sometimes included in this grouping...

'. Plays marked with two asterisks (**) are sometimes referred to as the 'problem plays'.
  • The Tempest
    The Tempest
    The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11, and thought by many critics to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote alone. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place,...

    *
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1590 or 1591. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more...

  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor
    The Merry Wives of Windsor is a comedy by William Shakespeare, first published in 1602, though believed to have been written prior to 1597. It features the fat knight Sir John Falstaff, and is Shakespeare's only play to deal exclusively with contemporary Elizabethan era English middle class life...

  • Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure
    Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...

    **
  • The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors
    The Comedy of Errors is one of William Shakespeare's earliest plays. It is his shortest and one of his most farcical comedies, with a major part of the humour coming from slapstick and mistaken identity, in addition to puns and word play. The Comedy of Errors is one of only two of Shakespeare's...

  • Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing
    Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero....

  • Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost
    Love's Labour's Lost is one of William Shakespeare's early comedies, believed to have been written in the mid-1590s, and first published in 1598.-Title:...

  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream
    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play that was written by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1590 and 1596. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta...

  • The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice
    The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

    **
  • As You Like It
    As You Like It
    As You Like It is a pastoral comedy by William Shakespeare believed to have been written in 1599 or early 1600 and first published in the folio of 1623. The play's first performance is uncertain, though a performance at Wilton House in 1603 has been suggested as a possibility...

  • The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew
    The Taming of the Shrew is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1591.The play begins with a framing device, often referred to as the Induction, in which a mischievous nobleman tricks a drunken tinker named Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself...

  • All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well
    All's Well That Ends Well is a play by William Shakespeare. It is believed to have been written between 1604 and 1605, and was originally published in the First Folio in 1623....

    **
  • Twelfth Night
  • The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale
    The Winter's Tale is a play by William Shakespeare, originally published in the First Folio of 1623. Although it was grouped among the comedies, some modern editors have relabelled the play as one of Shakespeare's late romances. Some critics, among them W. W...

    *
  • Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre
    Pericles, Prince of Tyre is a Jacobean play written at least in part by William Shakespeare and included in modern editions of his collected works despite questions over its authorship, as it was not included in the First Folio...

    * (not included in the First Folio)
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen
    The Two Noble Kinsmen
    The Two Noble Kinsmen is a Jacobean tragicomedy, first published in 1634 and attributed to John Fletcher and William Shakespeare. Its plot derives from "The Knight's Tale" in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales....

    * (not included in the First Folio)