The play, one of Shakespeare's last, was based on the events of June, 1609. Sir George Somers, an Admiral, and Sir Thomas Gates, governor of Virginia, were on a ship that was part of a fleet sailing from Plymouth to Virginia, in order to aid the colony set up there. A storm set up there separated the ship from the rest of the fleet. As word of the Admiral's and Governor's deaths was sent to England, they were able to survive on an island. They eventually got to Jamestown by building pinnaces. The play was written, in part, for political reasons. The colonists in Virginia were becoming unmanageable and irritating. So, The Tempest was written partly as a political experiment.
The Merry Wives of Windsor
In this play, Falstaff attempts to seduce two housewives of Windsor. He is mortified when they trick him into foolish blunders. Supposedly written at the request of Queen Elizabeth, this play is loved by audiences who see Falstaff's embarrassment and good humor. This is the only one of Shakespeares comedies based in his home country, England. It may have been written in retribution to Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, who had derided Shakespeare as a young poet.Alls Well That Ends Well
This Shakespeare play is actually based on a plot William Paynter translated from foreign storytellers that appeared in his collection of such stories called Pallace of Pleasure. Gerda heroically attempts to bring her recalcitrant husband back to her.As You Like It
This play is about three brothers. Orlando, one of the brothers, has a daughter who will marry his enemy. The plot is taken from Thomas Lodges novel, Euphues Golden Lagacie.The Comedy of Errors
This plays origin stems from the ideas of two plays by Plautus: Amphitruo and Menaechmi. Adriana thinks her husband is unfaithful, then learns that he is not and they live happily ever after.Loves Labours Lost
This play has many rhyming lines, which were said to be a mark of immaturity, so it is generally regarded as one of Shakespeares first plays. The plot centers around a debate represented by the phrase, "Love or Learning." Some of Shakespeares contemporaries were, at the time of this writing, struggling with this and similar questions.Measure for Measure
This play leaves the spectator not knowing which of the characters to sympathize with. It may have been written during what is termed as Shakespeares "tragic period." The plot is taken from a collection of stories written by Cinthio and a play by George Whetstone entitled Promos and Cassandra. The idea is of a heroine who ransoms her brother or husband by a promise of marriage, only to find that she has been double-crossed.
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is based on Sir Giovanni of Florences Il Percone. This play contains a very unusual plot, but is nonetheless one of Shakespeares best-known plays.A Midsummer Nights Dream
See other page for info on this play.
Much Ado About Nothing
As the title suggests, this play centers around much ado about fictitious circumstances. Hero and Don Pedro are to marry, but Don Pedro's friend makes up lies about Hero's faithfulness to her lover. The wedding is called off and Hero nearly dies, but in the end, the lovers are brought together.
The Taming of the Shrew
Petruchio tries to win Katherine's affection. This proves to be a difficult task because Katherine is very strong headed. At the same time, Katherine's father had told her beautiful sister that she herself may not marry until Katherine does.
This is a reworking of The Two Gentlemen of Verona (see below)
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
This play has a complex plot full of pretenses and disguises. It centers around the lovers Protecis and Julia.
A Winter's Tale
This play contains a romance between Perdita, princess of Sicila, and Florizel, prince of Bohemia. It is based on Robert Greene's Pandosto, The Triumph of Time.
Although it is the first among the histories, this play's exact date is unknown. Historians generally place the histories in the order of the king's reigns, so the order Shakespeare actually wrote them in is unknown. The scene is set in England and France. Conflicts between King John, the church, and his nephew Arthur create the drama of the play, while including much historical accuracy.
This is the first of four plays which form a tetralogy. The tetrology continues with the first two parts of Henry IV and finishes with Henry V. Henry Bolingbroke is exiled by King Richard II and steals his land in order to pay for the war. Later, Henry causes Richard II's murder. This play is acclaimed for it's brilliant monologues.
Henry IV, Parts One and Two
This play was written in the years of 1597 and 1598. It is divided into two parts but is still basically one story. The characters of Prince Hal and his companion Sir John are the main characters in these plays, which chronicle the life and death oh King Henry IV.
The full title of this play is The Life of King Henry V. Henry V shows the English victory at Agincourt over the French. King Henry is a well developed character who is a good king, a sensitive friend, and a witty charmer.
Henry VI, Parts One, Two, and Three
Although these three plays are "parts," of one, they are really separate stories, common only in the characters such as Richard, Margaret, and Henry. Part one shows Talbot versus Joan of Arc. Part two tells the story of the murder of Gloucester plus the story of the Yorkist army. Part three is mainly many battles and intrigues.
Richard III is one of the most popular plays of the history genre that Shakespeare has written. The villainous Richard murders his way to the crown, creating an interesting premise to captivate audiences.
The first part of this play shows the fall of Henry's queen, Katherine, and the rise of Cardinal Henry. The second part is about the quarrel between Gardiner and Crammer; this part shows Henry to be wise and good, which is mostly idealized.
In the opinion of many, this play is the most profound of all of Shakespeare's plays. King Lear learns through his madness and pain what love really is, but dies because he didn't learn soon enough.
This play tells the story of a primitive, childlike man, who after his life of intrigue, adventure, and love finds himself in a very civilized Italian lifestyle. When he discovers that his love has been unfaithful, his is compelled to hate the one he loves most.
Romeo and Juliet
Perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare's plays, Romeo and Juliet tells the story of two lovers who were so emotionally entrapped in their own love that they didn't think of the outcome. When events transpired against them, it lead to their tragic deaths by their own hands, finally bringing two feuding families together.
Macbeth is about a villain/hero. At first he seems to feel very guilty, but eventually loses all moral standards for himself. His wife, who convinced him to kill the king, kills herself out of guilt.
This was the last of William Shakespeare's tragic plays, written in 1608. Caius Maroius Coriolanus is displayed as an aggressive, tactless, and anti-social man. He is very unsympathetic, hateful, and very open about how he feels toward others. He is, on the other hand, admired for his strength and openness, but his former qualities make it impossible to love him.
Andronicus was adventurous, intelligent, elegant, and attractive, but had no moral sense at all. He didn't care what he did to others and we see this when he embarrasses his family with his love affairs. He wants to become emperor so badly that he kills to get there, but he was only the emperor for a very short time. Because of the violence he used to gain power, he angered many and was overthrown and killed.
Antony and Cleopatra
Cleopatra was the mistress and wife of Mark Antony. they had three children together. Cleopatra's hold over Antony was great, and this lead him to do things which angered the Roman Empire. Although they had a passionate affair, a wild marriage, and an awesome love for each other, they were not happy, and this led to each committing suicide.
When Hamlet's father is killed, his ghost returns to his son to tell him he was murdered by Hamlet's uncle and mother. Hamlet is charged with revenge. He has a play set up which reenacts the circumstances of his father's death in order to catch the two.
Classified as a tragedy, this play still has happier aspects. Although both the Queen and her son die before the play ends, other characters still end up happy. The King, for example, finds his sons and daughter, and so does not out grief in his wife and son, who killed herself and the child.
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
This was not included in the first edition of Shakespeare's plays, and when it was printed, it was in a group with plays which are not written by him. However, the plays merits shed little doubt that Shakespeare did, in fact, contribute a lot to it, although it is likely that the authorship was divided. The first two acts seem very poor, but by the third we see Shakespeare's voice and it seems he wrote much of it until the end.
This play tells the story of a conspiracy to kill the Caesar. One on the conspirators, Brutus, is also Caesar's friend, inspiring the famous line, 'Et tu, Brute?' After the death, Antony incites a mob, which in turn kills the conspirators.
Shakespeare wrote 154 sonnets around the 1590s, and they were first published in 1609. The sonnets of William Shakespeare, now often called Shakespearean sonnets, differ from the Italian sonnet only in the rhyme scheme. Shakespearean sonnets, also called English or Elizabethan sonnets, have the rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg and are written in iambic pentameter. The poems are written with three quatrains (four lines) for the introduction and a short two line couplet conclusion. Many of Shakespeare's sonnets center around the themes of time, death, love, and friendship. Note the rhyme scheme in the below example, written by Shakespeare.
Lascivious grace, in whom all ill will shows,
Shakespeare's other poetry includes Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, A Lover's Complaint, The Passionate Pilgrim, and The Phoenix and the Turtle.