The histories have traditionally been interpreted against a background of Tudor moral and political philosophy. They have been arranged in chronological order of the reigns of the kings, and by this plan the full significance of the relationship of the plays becomes apparent.
Although the precise date of many of Shakespeare's plays is in doubt, his dramatic career is generally divided into four periods. The period up to 1594 is Shakespeare's first period of writing called his apprenticeship. Between the ages of 26 and 30 he was learning his craft. He imitated Roman comedy and tragedy and followed the styles of the playwrights who came just before him. In the years from 1594 to 1600 Shakespeare had mastered his art because it is highlighted by 'Romeo and Juliet', 'The Merchant of Venice', and 'Henry IV'. Shakespeare's second period includes his most important plays concerned with English history and two of his major tragedies. In this period, his style and approach became highly individualized. The years from 1600 to 1608 is looked upon to be his third period. With 'Hamlet', written in about 1601, Shakespeare used this period, lasting about eight years, to probe the problem of evil in the world. At times he reached an almost desperate pessimism for even the comedies of this period are bitter. Finally the period after 1608, his fourth and last period, is the time when Shakespeare used a new form. It was the tragicomedy, or dramatic romance. In his hands the tragicomedy is calm, sober, and quietly lovely.
During the years 1590-1600 the English nation became intensely interested in its past. Playwrights catered to this patriotism by writing chronicles, or history plays, Sh...
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...aying the lives of kings and royalty in most human terms. He also begins the interweaving, in these histories of comedy and tragedy. This would become one of his stylistic signatures. Due to this talent one seeing a Shakespearean play got a does of culture, history, and grammar all in one sitting. Shakespeare knew his history well, but often he changed the simple facts to suit the medium of the play. He condensed time, combined battles, yet he also modified characters and actions. Falstaff was not a historical character and Hotspur was really much older than he is portrayed yet both present themselves in a realistic was in Henry IV. Characters like Richard III and Joan of Arc bear little resemblance to the figures in modern history books but Shakespeare knew what an audience wanted and they could relate to the familiar names given to characters in the plays.
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