Although there is much debate and discussion about the works of William Shakespeare, with the accepted scholarly consensus changing regularly, it is generally a given that Shakespeare's plays can be split into three genres; 'Comedies', 'Histories' and 'Tragedies'. Due to this debate, the categorization of each play may differ depending on the source, however The Royal Shakespeare Company and Open Source Shakespeare both consider there to be 14 Comedies, twelve Tragedies, and eleven Histories, written by the Bard between 1589 and 1613.
Although Comedy is the genre with the most titles, these works tend to be the shortest, and are usually tales of love and have a happy ending. Shakespeare's Histories tell the stories of past rulers (mostly English Kings) who must deal with power struggles and the issue of divine right. It is Shakespeare's Tragedies that are the longest, most complex and well-known of his works. These stories deal with flawed characters who must overcome obstacles and challenges, both internal and external, with the main characters generally dying by the play's end.
Additional plays and genres
Along with these three main genres, scholars often use other sub-categories to analyze Shakespeare's plays, such as 'Problem Plays', 'Romances' and 'Tragicomedies'. In addition to the 37 plays included in this graph, The Two Noble Kinsmen is slowly becoming more accepted in the Shakespeare canon, and is generally regarded as a Comedy (or 'Romantic Tragicomedy'). There are also the 'Apocrypha Plays', which are twelve plays that are sometimes attributed to Shakespeare, (although there is no authentic proof of his authorship) and as many as 35 'Lost Plays'. This means that, along with the 154 sonnets, 36 poems, and the 37 or 38 plays that we know of, there are as many as 85 plays in total that were written or partly written by William Shakespeare.
Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre*
*Comedies - All's Well That Ends Well, As You Like It, The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour's Lost, Measure for Measure, The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado about Nothing, The Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Winter's Tale (sometimes also; The Two Noble Kinsmen)
Histories - Henry IV: Part I, Henry IV: Part II, Henry V, Henry VI: Part I, Henry VI: Part II, Henry VI: Part III, Henry VIII, King John, Pericles, Richard II, Richard III
Tragedies - Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Macbeth, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Timon of Athens, Titus Andronicus, Troilus and Cressida
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Open Source Shakespeare. (October 17, 2019). Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre* [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved December 10, 2023, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/
Open Source Shakespeare. "Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre*." Chart. October 17, 2019. Statista. Accessed December 10, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/
Open Source Shakespeare. (2019). Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre*. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: December 10, 2023. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/
Open Source Shakespeare. "Number of William Shakespeare Plays in Each Genre*." Statista, Statista Inc., 17 Oct 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/
Open Source Shakespeare, Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre* Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/ (last visited December 10, 2023)
Number of William Shakespeare plays in each genre* [Graph], Open Source Shakespeare, October 17, 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1060751/shakespeare-plays-by-genre/