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< Back to question Which are best: Shakespeare's comedies, tragedies, or histories? Show more Show less

Shakespeare's plays are the most famous in the western canon, and are regularly performed both by theatre companies and amateurs. His plays are typically split into three genres: comedies, histories, and tragedies. For many modern audiences, the comedies are the most enduring and enjoyable, but tragedies are widely studied academically, and Hamlet, generally seen as Shakespeare's greatest work, is a tragedy. Histories, dealing often with the lives of kings, are less popular with the public but provide a hugely important historical and historiographical resource, and can often contain both tragic and comedic elements. So, which are the best?

The tragedies are the best Show more Show less

Shakespeare's tragedies use Aristotle's theory of tragedy, featuring a tragic hero with a fatal flaw which causes his downfall. They are enduringly popular, with 'Hamlet' and 'Romeo and Juliet' remaining famous worldwide.
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Hamlet, Shakespeare's greatest work, is a tragedy

Hamlet, written in 1599, is widely acknowledged as Shakespeare's masterpiece. It is a tragic play about the life of a young prince, but also contains comic elements and provides an excellent demonstration of Shakespeare's skill in character and dialogue.
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Context

Shakespearean canon: the 38 plays written by Shakespeare, considered to be his complete dramatic works

The Argument

Hamlet is the greatest Shakespearean tragedy because it shows the struggles of Danish royals with core elements like grief, betrayal, and family. Shakespeare brilliantly displays what it means to feel alienated and be in existential despair through Hamlet's character, a Danish prince. The soliloquy, "To be or not to be," is one of the greatest anthems that has been adapted and retold via various mediums. [1] Through the mastery of portraying human emotions, which are crucial in every person's life, Shakespeare combines art, poetry, drama, philosophy in Hamlet, marking it as one of the greatest tragedies. [2] Every year, Hamlet is performed in London and some of his plays have been adapted as retellings like the Lion King, Ophelia, and The Dead Fathers Club.

Counter arguments

Whether or not Hamlet is Shakespeare's best work is a subject for much debate: it's a matter of taste, and many people prefer other plays. The fact it's a tragedy doesn't necessarily mean tragedy is the best form for displaying Shakespeare's talents. His comedies are top-rated, and he makes use of unusual narrative devices in the histories. All the forms of his plays are significant in displaying his skills. Hamlet is also debated to be more of a revenge play than a tragedy because Prince Hamlet doesn't avenge his father's death but rather contemplates it beforehand. [3] So it cannot be categorized as one of the greatest tragedies.

Premises

1. Hamlet is the most popular play in the Shakespearean canon, and many actors find playing Hamlet an important moment for their career. 2. The versatile tragic form allows Shakespeare to display his full talent and meditate on important themes such as identity and family.

Rejecting the premises

1. There can be no definitive answer on what counts as Shakespeare's greatest work. 2. Just because Hamlet, a tragedy, is very popular, it doesn't mean that tragedy is immediately the best form for Shakespeare to display his literary skills.

References

  1. https://mashable.com/2016/04/23/this-be-madness-hamlet-winner/
  2. https://cather.unl.edu/writings/nonfiction/nf065
  3. https://www.ukessays.com/essays/english-literature/the-tragedy-and-revenge-of-hamlet-english-literature-essay.php

This page was last edited on Sunday, 27 Sep 2020 at 21:32 UTC

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