HL - Shakespeare



1558 - 1603


1564 - 1616

James I

1603 - 1625

pol, econ, rel problems -> tensions + underline contradictions btw main ideals of the Ren: balance under Elizabeth seriously undermined=>disillusionment, questioning spirit-> mood of discontent

Elizabethan Poetry

In his early works, Shakespeare quite follows the contemporary trends but transcend the fashion to adapt it to his own end.
He uses THE SONNET but addresses his to a young man or a lady but express disillusioned passion.
Traditional comparisons and sophisticated images but not for the sake of decoration: old clichés serve his aim to express a profound moral vision, and universal truths about love, life, nature and the power of art to transcend time.
+2 long narrative poems: "Venus and Adonis" and "The Rape of Lucrerce" -> kind of classical stories beloved at the time

Venus and Adonis

1592 - 1593

long narrative poem

The Rape of Lucrece


long narrative poem

Elizabethan Comedies

1590s: farces ≠ romantic comedies -
mid 1590s: tends to fuse the 2 types -
late 1590s sunny comedies (><dark comedies under James I)

The Two Gentlemen of Verona


romantic comedy: focus on the character involved in a love intrigue.

The Taming of the Shrew


farce: emphasis on the comic situation

The Comedy of Errors


farce: empasis on the comic situation

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1595 - 1596

mix of farcical and romantic comedy: romantic lovers -> irrealities of romance rebuked by reason

Love's Labour's Lost


romantic comedy: PARODIES LYLY's affectation (manners, style, language)

The Merchant of Venice

1596 - 1597

neither sunny nor dark comedy: Shylock, the Jew, was a figure of fun and evil but tends to be viewed as tragic nowadays.

Antonio borrows money from Shylock to help Bassanio who wants to marry Portia -> Shylock agrees if Antonio give him a pound of flesh if he doesn't pay back in time.
Antonio's ships are wrecked, cannot pay the money -> court: Portia, dressed as a lawyer, tries to persuade Shylock to have mercy -> fails -> tells him he can have the flesh only if no blood -> success

The Merry Wives of Windsor


farce: emphasis on the comic situation

Much Ado about Nothing

1598 - 1599

SUNNY COMEDIES: love and laughter very well-balanced
most engaging characters = well-balanced young people (women) who can live easily on the world of reality as well as in fantasy an d who can see the funny side of their own romantic excesses

As You Like It



Twelfth Night


"the perfection of English comedy"
Duke Orsino thinks to be in love with Lady Olivia, but in fact, he's in love with love.
twin cause confusion with their disguises
2 knights provide amusement with foolish plans and drinking.
several songs

Elizabethan Tragedies

first wrote history plays, much in vogue and not difficult to construct
+ 4 more tragedies which are revenge tragedies : influence in the concept of the "fall of Princes", not due to fate but caused by the hero himself: explores relationship between character and destiny (modern idea: responsible for one's fate) ==> + influence of morality play: distinction good/evil + tragic hero = prototype of humanity

Richard III


tries to capture the harmonies and the eloquence of Marlowe

Titus Andronicus


early and violent tragedy of revenge: challenged Kyd's "Spanish Tragedy"

Richardd II


influence of Marlowe's blank verse

Henry IV


greater mastery: characters speak more naturally

Romeo and Juliet


Seneca: Romeo's desire for revenge; but horror of bloody murders not stressed => sense of pity in the death of the 2 lovers

plot based on a narrative poem by Arthur Brooke, itself based on an Italian tale by Bandello

lovers do not die in vain: their death brings about the reconciliation of the families -> peace in Verona

famous for beautiful poetry (prologue + some lover's speeches = sonnets) + dramatic excellence... yet fate is largely responsible for their death

Julius Caesar


Senecan characteristics: ghost + revenge

Henry V


brilliant display of national pride about Henry's victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415


1600 - 1601

action vs thought

Jacobean Comedies

Dark comedies, or problem plays: questioning spirit and social discontent felt in Shakespeare's grieve and angry satirical portrait of the new age. (follows the trend of the time)

Troilus and Cressida


analysis of the desintegraton of a heroic age

All's Well that Ends Well

1603 - 1604

idealizes the elderly characters//disappearing virtues of the Elizabethan age

Measure for Measure


indictment of city government and of the court

Jacobean Tragedies

the world is full of inscrutable forms of evil -> explores man's complex relationship with the forces of evil: desease threatening to poison the whole universe. ALWAYS: 1°a noble figure having to make a choice (moral conflict) involving the entire nation and which reveals a weakness in his nature -> falls 2° central action + portray of the whole world in which the hero moves. 3° different audiences/levels of intelligence (action/moral+psycho/poesy+symbolism) 4° non classical: mixes prose and verse, noble characters in comic plots, comic scenes (mixes tones and genres), no respect of the 3 unities => ROMANTIC



paradoxes of good and evil + irony that evi can be bred out of innocence.

Othello kills his wife Desdemona by fear that she might love someone else (Iago (REALIST) makes him believe so, but it's false) => for Iago, the success of their love is impossible because you need cunning to be successful. Othello = man of action, decides to act in a way that will preserve the integrity of his moral -> discovers the truth and kills himself


1605 - 1606

progress of evil within a human personality
2 good characters (Macbeth and Lady Macbeth): their finest quality (their love) becomes the means of their ruin under the influence of evil ambition.
wants to become king->lady conspires to eliminate the legitimate king of scotland-> neccessity to commit further crimes to keep the crown-> knows it's worthless
==> fight against the forces of good, eventually defeated

King Lear


study in selfishness and greed
Lear's weakness: openness to flattery. gives his kingdom to his evils daughters who flatter him and nothing to the one who says nothing in fear of belittling her feelings (loves him best).
Achieves self-knowledge through sufferingn at the cost of his reason: redeemed when loses his prode and learns to see through deceptive appearances.

archetypal images produce a large and cosmic view of man's fate + sharp insight into ordinary human psychology

Antony and Cleopatra


Roman play


1607 - 1608

Roman play

Last plays (or romances)

new attitude to life and art: deal with evil and innocence, guilt and atonement -> uncorrupted youth and innoncence undoing the evils of the past and starting life afresh + symbolic world (elem of mythology, folklore, magic) where innocence can triumph and gods enable evils to be undone (no direct analysis of the paradoxes of human nature, no psychologiczl realism => larger poetic symbolism that reveals the moral patterns and possibilities of human life)
UNDOING THE EVIL // RITUAL of redemption (regeneration)



The Tempest

1610 - 1611

magic island (sort of garden of Eden): Prospero (kind of god) controls everythig with supernatural powers. At the end, Miranda wants to go and test her vortue inthe great wicked world: necessary to go where human beings belong+there might be a form of glory there

play full of grave beauty + rich poetry, play of wish-fulfilment in whch virtue is uppermost and innocence can triumph.

After this play, decides to write no more (a speech in the play shows it)



A Winter's Tale