Characters of Shakespeare's Plays

Characters of Shakespear's Plays is an 1817 book of criticism of Shakespeare's plays, written by early nineteenth century English essayist and literary critic William Hazlitt. Composed in reaction to the neoclassical approach to Shakespeare's plays typified by Samuel Johnson, it was among the first English-language studies of Shakespeare's plays to follow the manner of German critic August Wilhelm Schlegel, and, with the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, paved the way for the increased appreciation of Shakespeare's genius that was characteristic of later nineteenth-century criticism. It was also the first book to cover all of Shakespeare's plays, intended as a guide for the general reader.

Introduction

William Hazlitt (1778–1830) came of an Irish Protestant stock, and of a branch of it transplanted...

Preface

It is observed by Mr. Pope, that ‘If ever any author deserved the name of an original, it was Sha...

Cymbeline

Cymbeline is one of the most delightful of Shakespeare’s historical plays. It may be considered a...

Macbeth

The poet’s eye in a fine frenzy rollingDoth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;A...

Julius Casesar

Julius Caesar was one of three principal plays by different authors, pitched upon by the celebrat...

Othello

It has been said that tragedy purifies the affections by terror and pity. That is, it substitutes...

Timon of Athens

Timon of Athens always appeared to us to be written with as intense a feeling of his subject as a...

Coriolanus

Shakespeare has in this play shown himself well versed in history and state affairs. Coriolanus i...

Troilus and Cressida

This is one of the most loose and desultory of our author’s plays: it rambles on just as it happe...

Antony and Cleopatra

This is a very noble play. Though not in the first class of Shakespeare’s productions, it stands ...

Hamlet

This is that Hamlet the Dane, whom we read of in our youth, and whom we seem almost to remember i...

The Tempest

There can be little doubt that Shakespeare was the most universal genius that ever lived. ‘Either...

The Midsummer Night’s Dream

Bottom the Weaver is a character that has not had justice done him. He is the most romantic of me...

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is the only tragedy which Shakespeare has written entirely on a love-story. It i...

Lear

We wish that we could pass this play over, and say nothing about it. All that we can say must fal...

Richard II

Richard II is a play little known compared with Richard III, which last is a play that every unfl...

Henry IV: In Two Parts

If Shakespeare’s fondness for the ludicrous sometimes led to faults in his tragedies (which was n...

Henry V

Henry V is a very favourite monarch with the English nation, and he appears to have been also a f...

Henry VI: In Three Parts

During the time of the civil wars of York and Lancaster, England was a perfect bear-garden, and S...

Richard III

Richard III may be considered as properly a stageplay: it belongs to the theatre, rather than to ...

Henry VIII

This play contains little action or violence of passion, yet it has considerable interest of a mo...

King John

King John is the last of the historical plays we shall have to speak of; and we are not sorry tha...

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

This is justly considered as one of the most delightful of Shakespeare’s comedies. It is full of ...

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

This is little more than the first outlines of a comedy loosely sketched in. It is the story of a...

The Merchant of Venice

This is a play that in spite of the change of manners and of prejudices still holds undisputed po...

The Winter's Tale

We wonder that Mr. Pope should have entertained doubts of the genuineness of this play. He was, w...

All's Well That Ends Well

All’s Well that Ends Well is one of the most pleasing of our author’s comedies. The interest is, ...

Love's Labour's Lost

If we were to part with any of the author’s comedies, it should be this. Yet we should be loth to...

Much Ado About Nothing

This admirable comedy used to be frequently acted till of late years. Mr. Garrick’s Benedick was ...

As You Like It

Shakespeare has here converted the forest of Arden into another Arcadia, where they ‘fleet the ti...

The Taming of the Shrew

The Taming of the Shrew is almost the only one of Shakespeare’s comedies that has a regular plot,...

Measure for Measure

This is a play as full of genius as it is of wisdom. Yet there is an original sin in the nature o...

Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merry Wives of Windsor is no doubt a very amusing play, with a great deal of humour, characte...

The Comedy of Errors

This comedy is taken very much from the Menaechmi of Plautus, and is not an improvement on it. Sh...

Doubtful Plays of Shakespeare

We shall give for the satisfaction of the reader what the celebrated German critic, Schlegel, say...

Poems and Sonnets

Our idolatry of Shakespeare (not to say our admiration) ceases with his plays. In his other produ...

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