Measure for Measure: Shakespeare's first play upon being (unexpectedly) released from The Tower. From wiki: believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. Originally published in the First Folio of 1623, where it was listed as a comedy, the play's first recorded performance occurred in 1604. The play's main themes include justice, "mortality and mercy in Vienna," and the dichotomy between corruption and purity: "some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." Mercy and virtue predominate, since the play does not end tragically.
Chronology of Plays
First, the tetralogy of his family (Henry VI and Richard III).
Then, the seven comedies. – the Italinate comedies – seven plays in the four years after 1593 – all except two categorized as “comedies” – set in places he had visited in Italy.
- Titus Andronicus
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- The Comedy of Errors
- The Taming of the Shrew
- Romeo and Juliet
- Love’s Labour’s Lost – set in France
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream – set in Greece
During this period –
Just before the Falstaff plays –
- plays more profound
- created his most popular character, Falstaff
- his most patriotic play, Henry VI
Richard II (~ 1595) has always been linked with the rise of the Essex circle (Essex rebellion – 1601)
- King Richard II
- King John
1 Henry IV – first play featuring Falstaff. Arguably S’s most satisfyingly single play.
TMWOW – lots to say about it (p. 117 – 118).
Then – the two final plays of this period – 2 Henry IV and Henry V – considered two of his best-known plays.
Falstaff banished from plays, when Shakespeare banished from England -- sent to France as England's ambassador.In France: alone, frustrated, angry bored;
- As You Like It
- Twelfth Night
- Much Ado About Nothing – probably written earlier
A gap of about a year between Twelfth Night – just before the Tower – and Hamlet – in the Tower – needed a year to regain balance.Post-Tower plays:
Many of the sonnets written while in The Tower.
- Troilus and Cressida
- All’s Well That Ends Wells
- Possibly also in the Tower, Othello (the 2nd of his 4 great tragedies).
1609 - 1615: toward closure:Measure for Measure, was the first (see above). A very dark comedy; the first of the so-called "problem plays."Increasingly needed money:
1604 – 1608: three of his greatest tragedies – Macbeth, King Lear, and Anthony and Cleopatra and three other tragedies: Timon of Athens, Coriolanus, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
- Winter's Tale
- The Tempest: his last substantial play