The Shape of Time: Form and Value in the Shakespearean History Play


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

In spite of the anomalous presence of Cymbeline among the tragedies in the First Folio, there is little doubt that John Heminges and Henry Condell conceived of comedy and tragedy in ways very similar to the majority of their contemporaries. Individual differences among these plays are subordinated to a commonplace generic sense of comedy's movement from confusion to happiness and of tragedy's from prosperity to disaster. The third of the Folio's classifications, however, poses more vexing problems. For the two editors of the volume the ten plays called "histories" are seemingly linked by their common origin in English (rather than legendary or classical) history, but this principle of arrangement does not reveal a sense of genre comparable to that which informs the grouping of the two other dramatic modes.

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