Tragedies

From Hamlet’s melancholy to Juliet’s eloquence; and from Lear’s madness to Othello’s misunderstanding, discover the richness of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

What the Romans did for Shakespeare: Rome and Roman values in Shakespeare's plays

What the Romans did for Shakespeare: Rome and Roman values in Shakespeare's plays

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson discusses the influence of classical civilisation and literature on Shakespeare, and the playwright's critique of Roman values in Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus and Julius Caesar.

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An introduction to Coriolanus

An introduction to Coriolanus

Article by:
Michael Dobson

Michael Dobson describes the political context in which Shakespeare wrote Coriolanus, and how the play has resonated with later generations of playwrights, directors and actors.

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Hamlet: the play within the play

Hamlet: the play within the play

Article by:
Gillian Woods

From The Murder of Gonzago to Hamlet's pretence of madness, Hamlet is a work obsessed with acting and deception. Gillian Woods explores how the play unsettles distinctions between performance and reality and how it thus exposes the mechanisms of theatre.

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Hamlet and revenge

Hamlet and revenge

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

Hamlet shows Shakespeare intent on sabotaging the conventions of revenge tragedy. Kiernan Ryan explains why.

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Hamlet: looking backwards

Hamlet: looking backwards

Article by:
Emma Smith

Emma Smith reads Hamlet as a play obsessed with retrospection, repetition and the theatre of the past.

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Ophelia, gender and madness

Ophelia, gender and madness

Article by:
Elaine Showalter

The character of Ophelia has fascinated directors, actresses, writers and painters since she first appeared on stage. Here Elaine Showalter discusses Ophelia's madness as a particularly female malady, showing how from Shakespeare's day to our own Ophelia has been used both to reflect and to challenge evolving ideas about female psychology and sexuality.

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Rhetoric, power and persuasion in Julius Caesar

Rhetoric, power and persuasion in Julius Caesar

Article by:
Kim Ballard

Rhetoric was a much-valued skill in Renaissance England, as it was in ancient Rome. Kim Ballard discusses the connections between rhetoric and power in Julius Caesar, one of Shakespeare's Roman plays.

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Republicanism and assassination in Julius Caesar

Republicanism and assassination in Julius Caesar

Article by:
Malcolm Hebron

Malcolm Hebron situates Julius Caesar in the context of Shakespeare's life and times, examining the contemporary political relevance of the play's themes of Republicanism and assassination. He explores the play's use of rhetoric and theatricality, and assesses its reception over the past 400 years.

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King Lear: madness, the fool and poor Tom

King Lear: madness, the Fool and Poor Tom

Article by:
Gillian Woods

Gillian Woods considers how the Fool and Poor Tom, two characters in King Lear who stand outside the social order, enhance the play's investigation of madness, civilisation and humanity.

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Sovereignty and subversion in King Lear

Sovereignty and subversion in King Lear

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

Professor Kiernan Ryan argues that the subversive spirit of King Lear remains as powerful as ever, four centuries after it was first performed.

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Witches in Macbeth

Witches in Macbeth

Article by:
Diane Purkiss

Diane Purkiss discusses Renaissance beliefs about witches and shows how, in Macbeth, Shakespeare blurs the line between the witches and Lady Macbeth.

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Royal Shakespeare: a playwright and his king

Royal Shakespeare: a playwright and his king

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Shortly after James I took the throne, he announced that he would be the new sponsor of Shakespeare's theatre company, which renamed itself the King's Men. Andrew Dickson explains how the royal sponsorship affected the company, and the ways in which the playwright's later works engage with his transition from an Elizabethan to a Jacobean subject.

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Conjuring darkness in Macbeth

Conjuring darkness in Macbeth

Article by:
John Mullan

Much of Macbeth is set at night, yet its first performances took place in the open air, during daylight hours. John Mullan explores how Shakespeare uses speech and action to conjure the play's sense of growing darkness.

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Manhood and the ‘milk of human kindness’ in Macbeth

Manhood and the ‘milk of human kindness’ in Macbeth

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

The tragedy of Macbeth revolves around the question of what it means to be a man, argues Kiernan Ryan.

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‘Unsex Me Here’: Lady Macbeth’s ‘Hell Broth’

‘Unsex Me Here’: Lady Macbeth’s ‘Hell Broth’

Article by:
Sandra M. Gilbert

Sandra M. Gilbert considers how Lady Macbeth in her murderous ambition goes beyond prescribed gender roles, but in doing so only succeeds in monstering herself and becoming a parody of womanhood, until madness again confines her to feminine helplessness.

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Macbeth and Shakespeare’s linguistic innovation

Macbeth and Shakespeare’s linguistic innovation

Article by:
David Crystal

In Macbeth, Shakespeare coins an extraordinary number of words and phrases, including 'assassination', 'unsex' and 'stealthy'. David Crystal shows how these linguistic innovations help express the action and atmosphere of the play and the troubled psychology of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

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Racism, misogyny and ‘motiveless malignity’ in Othello

Racism, misogyny and ‘motiveless malignity’ in Othello

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

The causes of the tragedy of Othello are more complex and disturbing than they might at first appear, Kiernan Ryan contends.

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Strangers in the city: the cosmopolitan nature of 16th-century Venice

Strangers in the city: the cosmopolitan nature of 16th-century Venice

Article by:
Farah Karim-Cooper

Othello shows us the cosmopolitan nature of renaissance Venice, as Dr Farah Karim-Cooper reveals.

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Critical approaches to Othello

Critical approaches to Othello

Article by:
Virginia Mason Vaughan

There have been numerous interpretations of Othello over the last 400 years. Virginia Mason Vaughan discusses four recent critical approaches: feminist, new historicist, marxist and post-colonial.

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Othello: the role that entices and enrages actors of all skin colours

Othello: the role that entices and enrages actors of all skin colours

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Andrew Dickson explores how different actors have struggled with the character of Othello and the play's depiction of race.

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Misunderstanding in Othello

Misunderstanding in Othello

Article by:
Michael Donkor

Othello is a tragedy that proceeds from misunderstandings and miscommunication. Many of these errors are bound up with Iago's deception, but Michael Donkor looks at other, additional causes in the play.

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Playing Othello

Playing Othello

Article by:
Hugh Quarshie

Hugh Quarshie describes his reservations about Othello, and how he used these to shape the production in which he played the title role.

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‘New mutiny’: the violence of Romeo and Juliet

The violence of Romeo and Juliet

Article by:
Andrew Dickson

Romeo and Juliet is not only a love story. Andrew Dickson describes how the play reflects the violence and chaos of Shakespearean London - and how, more recently, directors have used it to explore conflicts of their own time.

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Juliet's eloquence

Juliet's eloquence

Article by:
Penny Gay

Over the course of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet goes from being a sheltered child to a young woman passionately in love. Penny Gay considers how this transformation, and its tragic consequences, are accompanied by Juliet's development as a poet.

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Witchcraft, magic and religion

Article by:
Liza Picard

Liza Picard takes a look at witchcraft, magic and religion in Elizabethan England.

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Daughters in Shakespeare: dreams, duty and defiance

Daughters in Shakespeare: dreams, duty and defiance

Article by:
Kim Ballard

A number of Shakespeare's plays show daughters negotiating the demands of their fathers, often trying to reconcile duty with a desire for independence. Kim Ballard considers five of Shakespeare's most memorable literary daughters: Juliet, Desdemona, Portia, Katherina and Cordelia.

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An introduction to Shakespearean Tragedy

An introduction to Shakespearean Tragedy

Article by:
Kiernan Ryan

Despite their dazzling diversity, the tragedies of Shakespeare gain their enduring power from a shared dramatic vision, argues Kiernan Ryan.

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On rewriting Roro and Juju

On rewriting Roro and Juju

Article by:
Inua Ellams

Inua Ellams describes his personal journey to discover the power of Shakespeare through film, translation and writing. He recounts his first, off-putting encounters with the plays at school as a young Nigerian in London, the inspirational experience of seeing Baz Lurhmann’s 'Romeo + Juliet', and his own rewriting of 'Romeo and Juliet' and 'The Tempest'.

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The three witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth.

Witchcraft in Shakespeare's England

Article by:
Carole Levin

Did Shakespeare’s contemporaries believe in witches? Carole Levin looks at witchcraft trials in the 16th century and considers their relation to the ‘weird sisters’ of Macbeth.

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Further themes

Comedies

From cross dressing in Twelfth Night to magical storms in The Tempest; from deception in Much Ado to doubling in Midsummer Night’s Dream, discover the beauty and complexity of Shakespeare’s comedies.

Tragedies

From Hamlet’s melancholy to Juliet’s eloquence; and from Lear’s madness to Othello’s misunderstanding, discover the richness of Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Histories

From the staging of disability to the influence of Machiavelli, explore Shakespeare’s history plays.

Shakespeare’s life and world

From the open air Globe to the candlelit Blackfriars; from countryside to city; and from noblemen to strangers, discover the world that shaped Shakespeare’s work and that influenced his legacy.

Gender, sexuality, courtship and marriage

From courtship rituals to cross-dressing, examine the ways in which Shakespeare explored identity and gender roles

Ethnicity and identity

From Othello and Shylock to depictions of the ‘New World’ and anti-immigration riots, explore Shakespeare’s fascination with ethnic identity

Power and politics

A murdered king, a homeless ruler, an exiled Duke with magical powers: discover Shakespeare’s fascination with power and powerlessness

Global Shakespeare

Discover how Shakespeare’s work was influenced by other cultures, and how it’s been interpreted in nations across the world for 400 years.

Interpretations of ‘Madness’

From Lear’s breakdown to Ophelia’s malady, examine the ways in which Shakespeare depicts ideas of ‘madness’

Deception, drama and misunderstanding

Investigate the ways in which Shakespeare explores miscommunication, dishonesty, trickery and the nature of theatre

Language, word play and text

Prose and verse, word play, neologisms and rhetoric: discover Shakespeare’s innovative and experimental use of language.

Magic, illusion and the supernatural

Mischievous fairies, monstrous apparitions and scheming witches: examine the ways in which Shakespeare played with the magical and supernatural

View our Shakespeare-inspired range

Shakespeare in Ten Acts

Shakespeare in Ten Acts (paperback)

Ten leading experts take a fresh look at Shakespeare

£15

Shakespeare Desk

Shakespeare Desk Diary 2017

Pictures and quotations to celebrate the life and works of 'the bard'

£6.50

Shakespeare Star Wars

William Shakespeare's Star Wars

George Lucas's Star Wars retold in the style of the immortal Bard of Avon

£11.99