We don't know much about the man whose name is perhaps the greatest in the history of literature; no other biography is so of "seems", "probably", "must have", but it is commonly agreed that his plays reveal the evolution in his thought and life experience.
He started in the tradition of the popular drama, which took into account the influence of Seneca and of the English medieval plays, and he gave it back to the world transfigured.
The first, from around the year 1590 to 1595, is the phase of his apprenticeship, when he needed to test his powers. He experimented in the chronicle play, dealing with English history, the farce and the comedy. This phase includes the delightful A Midsummer Night's Dream and the first mature tragedy Romeo and Juliet where love, death and fate intermingle against the background is Renaissance Italy.
The second phase , covering the years between1596 and the end of the century, is dominated by the chronicle play and the comedy. The chronicle plays written in this period show great mastery in character delineation and at the same time the scope widens to the investigation of the variegated world of commoners which formed the nation itself. The great comic character of Sir John Falstaff appears in the two parts of King Henry IV.
The best of the comedies were written in this period. Each of them is a new experiment, as if Shakespeare wanted to touch different traditions from the Roman comedy to the pastoral, from the court comedy to the farce. The pains and pleasures of love, disguise (which becomes a kind of mask), the fooling of humourless and egoistical people, the blending of dramatic and comic episodes, together with the extraordinary verbal beauty, give these plays a sure hold of the stage and render them unsurpassed.