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Shakespeare's Plays

Canonical works

The plays and their categories

Shakespeare's plays first appeared in print as a series of folios and quartos, and scholars, actors and directors continue to study and perform them extensively. They form an established part of the Western canon of literature.

The plays are traditionally divided into tragedies, comedies and histories, following the logic of the original publications; however, modern criticism has labelled some of them "problem plays" as they elude easy categorization, or perhaps purposefully break generic conventions. In addition, Shakespeare's later comedies are commonly known as "romances".

The following list gives the plays in the order and categorization of the 1623 First Folio (the first collected edition of the plays). A single asterisk indicates a play commonly classified as a 'romance' today; two asterisks indicates those generally accepted as 'problem plays' - though other comedies still occasion critical dispute. 

  • Comedies
    • The Tempest *
    • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
    • The Merry Wives of Windsor
    • Measure for Measure **
    • The Comedy of Errors
    • Much Ado About Nothing
    • Love's Labour's Lost
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream
    • The Merchant of Venice **
    • As You Like It
    • Taming of the Shrew
    • All's Well That Ends Well
    • Twelfth Night or What You Will
    • The Winter's Tale *
    • Pericles, Prince of Tyre * (not included in the First Folio)
    • The Two Noble Kinsmen * (not included in the First Folio)
  • Histories
    • King John
    • Richard II
    • Henry IV, part 1
    • Henry IV, part 2
    • Henry V
    • Henry VI, part 1
    • Henry VI, part 2
    • Henry VI, part 3
    • Richard III
    • Henry VIII
  • Tragedies
    • Troilus and Cressida **
    • Coriolanus
    • Titus Andronicus
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Timon of Athens
    • Julius Caesar
    • Macbeth
    • Hamlet
    • King Lear
    • Othello
    • Antony and Cleopatra
    • Cymbeline * (normally classed as a comedy today)


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