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I Period (1590 - 1596) It corresponds to Shakespeare’s apprenticeship and is characterized by historical commedies such as: Henry VI - Richard III - Comedy of Errors - The Taming of Shrew - The Two Gentlemen of Verona - Romeo and Juliet - A Midsummer Night's Dream.

II Period ( 1596 - 1600) It’s characterized by the chronicle plays such as: The Merchant of Venice ( dark comedy) - Henry lV - Much Ado About Nothing - Julius Caesar- As You Like It.

III Period (1600 - 1608) It’s characterized by his best tragedies and dark comedies such as: Hamlet - Othello - Macbeth - King Lear - Antony and Cleopatra.

IV Period (1608 - 1612) It’s characterized by tragicomedies and romances such as: The Winter’s Tale -The Tempest.


In the middle ages drama dealt with religious or highly moral subjects first in the Mystery Plays, than in Morality Plays. During the reign of Elizabeth I drama becames so popular in England that it was located not only in great houses or palaces but in specific spaces called theatres, which rose in great number from 1576 the first London theatre was in fact built in the same year and was called “The Theatre”. The Elizabethan Theatre was open to the sky, except for a little part of the galleries and the stage, called apron stage, that was projected out into the pit, were the common people stood. While the wealthy people was sitting in the roofed galleries. Behind the stage there was the tiring house, where actors changed their costumes and waited to enter the stage. In the back part of the stage there were two doors and a balcony over them. There was no scenery, no courtain and no artificial lighting. A trap door was used for spectacular apparitions of devils or other presences. Finally women weren’t allowed to play and they was substituted by young boys. In the nineteenth century the English theatre was suffering from a form of almost complete sterility, so from one sideShakespeare’s plays dominated the English stage and from the other English playwrighters was compelled to imitated the popular well made plays that came from France and whose writers were Sardou and Scribe. English playwrighters were also influenced by the Norvegian dramatist Ibsen and the Swedish Strindberg which combined realism of representation with very controversial subjects.


Hamlet can be dated back to the Historie Danicae written by Saxo Grammaticus in the early middle ages in northern Europe, to Istoires Tragiques written by Fancois de Belleforrest in 1576 and to Thomas Kyd, which had introduced some elements of the senecan tradition such as the ghost. The mainly THEMES of Hamlet are: life, death, melancony, doubt, honour, honorable actions and the love that is charity or brotherly love. Another important theme is the new vision of the truth, that for man is limited to the knowledge of his existence (existential truth). Hamlet is a man of THOUGHTS and not a man of action like a warrior or a conqueror. Besides he is a prince, he is noble also for his feelings. Hamlet has a PESSIMISTIC vision of the world because he is a man of thoughts so he has a larger, intensive and deeper view of the mankind and because for him we can’t know what is there after the death (an undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller returns).

PLOT: first act- Hamlet’s father, the king of Denmark, has been dead only two months ago, but the queen Gertrude has married her brother in low, Claudius. A ghost, that looks like the late king has appeared to the sentries at the castle of Elsinore. Hamlet and his friend Horatio, informed by sentries,meet the ghost, which tells Hamlet the cause of his death, and asks Hamlet to avenge him. Second act- Hamlet pretends to be mad to carry out his s more easily, but Polonius, the king’s counsellor, thinks Hamlet madness caused by his love for his daugter Ophelia. Hamlet arranges for a troupe of actors to perform The Murther of Gonzago, whose story is similar to that revealed by the ghost, but the king rushes away. Third act- During an argument with his mother, Hamlet kills Polonius, who was hiding behind the queen’s curtains, so the king decides to send Hamlet to England with two false friends to be killed. Fourth Act- The two false friends are killed in the place of Hamlet, but Ophelia goes mad and drows herself.

Fifth Act- The king plots a duel between Hamlet and Laertes but both them are wounded with the poisoned tip of their swords. Everybody dies but Hamlet before dying asks Horatio to tell the story.

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