The History Plays of Shakespeare Essay

1900 Words 8 Pages
The term History Play is commonly used to denote the plays (whether tragedies or comedies) in which the action and the major themes of the play are primarily political rather than individual or social. Though Shakespeare did not distinguish between the genres of his plays, when the collected works of Shakespeare was published by his own colleagues in the Chamberlain's- King's company as the First Folio in 1623, the plays, the editors divided them into Comedies, Histories and Tragedies. Though some historical plays show the characteristics of tragedy or comedy, they are different from the regular tragedies and comedies in that they deal only with political matters without straying into other social or metaphysical matters. Thus only …show more content…
He often distorted chronology and events were condensed. But all these changes were aimed at an effective presentation for the stage and for a sense of veracity. Instead of a mere reproduction of facts, Shakespeare aimed in his history plays to represent a realistic picture of the past.

The ten history plays of Shakespeare were divided into two groups of four plays each (the tetralogies) and two single plays unrelated to either group. The First History Cycle written in the early days of Shakespeare's career consists of the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III. The Second History Cycle consisted of Richard II, Henry IV-Part 1, Henry IV Part 2 and Henry VI and was written late in his career. The two unrelated plays were King John and Henry VIII. Shakespeare wrote the two four-play sequences dealing with the full story of the Wars of the Roses.

The minor tetralogy or the First History Cycle consisted of the three Henry VI plays and Richard III and dealt with the years between 1422 and 1485, from the death of Henry V to the deformed prince Richard III. The First History Cycle, written when Shakespeare was in his twenties lacked the dramatic structure of the Second History Cycle, therefore called the minor tetralogy. In the three Henry VI plays he never tried to unify…