Plays were often also read in the living room of the nobility, and not only recited. To print a play was very expensive, so most plays were only written by the authors, and sometimes actors or people that had watched performances copied them. These copies were not accurate because something could be added and something else could be lost, and they were printed in a quarter of the regular size of sheet in order to save money, for these reasons they were called bad quartos. After Shakespeare’s death, some of his friends published his best plays in the first folio, and they were grouped into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. So, they were not ordinate from a chronological point of view, for that we don’t know the real order in which Shakespeare wrote them. some critics to date Shakespeare’s plays used a method based on internal, external and stylistic references. In fact: if in a Shakespeare’s play there are references to an historical event, the play must have been written after this events, if in the works of other authors there are references to a Shakespeare’s play, this play must have been written before that that work was written, at last critics compare also Shakespeare’s plays from a stylistic point of view, and at the end they grouped plays into 5 period: apprenticeship, maturity, experiment, tragedy and last plays. Shakespeare had became already famous in his time, and not only in the modern time, but his plays are still famous because even if they appeal to the public of that period, they speak about topic that are still modern. He tried to look at vices and virtues of human being and made characters that are similar to the modern man. He used different sources for his plays: Holinshed’s Chronicles for the history plays, Plutarch’s Lives for the roman plays, and for the comedies the work of some Italian writers. He also dealt with different theme in order to appeal to all the different social classes that went to the theatre and wanted to be represented, in this way characters belong to all the social classes, from upper, in the case of tragedy, to lower. Shakespeare’s plays are divided into 5 acts and he used the blanche verse, an iambic pentameters without rime.
- Histories: deal with historical events, in particular with the English history, and characters are above all English kings.
- Tragedies: deal with serious events and have got a tragic ending.
In that period lots of plays were written but some of them were not original. In fact they were influenced from different sources, for example Doctor Faustus. Shakespeare’s characters are more elaborated from the psychological point of view.
Is the tragedy of the doubt; the character is the symbol of the doubts of the men in front of life and future, but there’s also the theme of madness. Hamlet is the prince of Denmark when his father died for natural reasons. But his father ghost appears to him and tells him that he was killed by his brother, Hamlet’s uncle, because he wants to marry Hamlet’s mother and become the new king. For Hamlet starts the doubt about what to do. He doesn’t know if is better to believe to the ghost, so revenge against his uncle, or not to believe to the ghost, so not to kill his uncle. So he decides to pretend to be mad in order to discover the truth, in fact everyone tells a mad his secrets because he’s convinced that no one would believe to a mad. On the contrary the other people, that are not mad, cannot know the real truth because with other people a person tries always to appear better than she really is and she never behaves how really she is. So at the end is the mad who knows the reality.
It deals with the theme of jealousy, in fact the main character kills his wife because he thinks that she was unfaithful to him.
It deals with the theme of political ambition. Macbeth is a man that has a lust of power that brings him to the ruins. Macbeth is considered the tragedy of a character. He’s pushed by his wife, who is even more ambitious than him, to kill the king, in order to have more power; but after this first murder he starts to repent. It’s impossible to say exactly when Shakespeare wrote this play, but maybe it’s written around 1606.