Although one of his lesser known plays, Shakespeare's considerable abilities as a playwright are readily apparent in «Troilus and Cressida.» This historical, tragic 'problem play,' thought to be inspired by Chaucer, Homer, and some of Shakespeare's history-recording contemporaries, is initially a tale of a man and woman in love during the Trojan War. When Cressida is given to the Greeks in exchange for a prisoner of war, Troilus is determined to rescue her. When he does find her, however, Troilus believes Cressida has betrayed him. On a larger scale, this play also deals with the political battle being waged by Agamemnon of the Greeks against Priam of the Trojans. Much of the plot centers on war councils and battles in which Hector and Achilles play a part. Ultimately, Shakespeare's play is memorable for its love and betrayal, questioning of hierarchy and honor, morality in the face of reality, and cynical disillusionment.
The second play in Shakespeare's 'First Tetralogy,' this work continues the fictionalized account of King Henry VI's reign. It commences with the marriage of Henry VI with the French noblewoman Margaret of Anjou, whose influence in court is challenged by Duke Humphrey, the King's Protector. There is a large amount of aristocratic subversion in this play, in which the good Duke Humphrey is fatally ensnared. Richard, the Duke of York, emerges with a claim to the throne, which he uses to gain allies and organize a rebellion by Jack Cade. All of this contributes to the War of the Roses, which has already deeply factionalized the English nobility, and ultimately leads to the Battle of St. Albans. Full of characters who challenge basic concepts of conscience and the fragile relationship of law and fairness, «Henry VI, Part II» is a substantial Shakespearian work in the midst of an epic cycle of the Bard's plays.
One of the lesser known plays of the Greek tragedian Sophocles, «Electra» tells the tale of a young daughter's revenge for her father's death. Electra is one of the daughters of Agamemnon, the leader of the Greeks during the Trojan War. He was killed by his wife's lover, and Electra wishes to avenge Agamemnon with the help of her twin brother Orestes. When she receives word that he is dead, Electra laments and fears she will not be able to avenge her father. When the man delivering her brother's ashes arrives, however, secrets are uncovered and Agamemnon's killers feel the full weight of the grieving children's revenge.
Euripides (480 BC-406 BC) is revered as one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, along with Aeschylus and Sophocles, and produced the largest body of extant work by any ancient playwright. He is considered to be the most modern of the three, and his works laid the foundation for Western theatre. His writing sticks out from that of his contemporaries because of his colloquial vocabulary, meter and syntax, distinct from the grandiose language of his predecessors. In writing «Orestes» (408 b.c.e.), Euripides utilized the mythology of the Bronze Age to reflect upon the politics of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. The story takes places after Orestes has murdered his mother to avenge his father, Agamemnon, and follows him as he attempts to save his own life. The play explores themes of man's subordination to the gods and the conflict between natural law and man-made law.
Euripides turned to playwriting at a young age, achieving his first victory in the dramatic competitions of the Athenian City Dionysia in 441 b.c.e. He would be awarded this honor three more times in his life, and once more posthumously. His plays are often ironic, pessimistic, and display radical rejection of classical decorum and rules. Together with Aeschylus and Sophocles, Euripides would provide the canon of Greek tragedy and thereby lay the foundation of Western theatre. «The Phoenician Maidens» was written between 411 and 409 b.c.e., and is named for the play's Chorus, which is composed of Phoenician women who are accidentally trapped in Thebes by war. The play was very popular in the later Greek schools for its action and graphic descriptions. It tells the story of Polynices and Eteocles, the sons of Oedipus, and their fight for the crown of Thebes.
William Shakespeare's «Two Gentleman of Verona» is one of the playwright's classic romantic plays. It is the story of two gentlemen from Verona, Valentine and Proteus and their competition for the love of two different women, Julia and Silvia. «Two Gentleman of Verona» is a light-hearted drama with a happy ending.
"The Taming of the Shrew" is one Shakespeare's finest comedic efforts. It is the tale of Lucentio who is in love with Bianca, unfortunately Bianca already has two other suitors and her father will not let her marry until her older ill-tempered sister, Katherine, is married. The second problem is remedied when Petruchio comes to town in search of a wife. Only interested in her money, Petruchio marries Katherine and returns with her to his country house to «tame» her, a task that Petruchio is soon to discover is easier said than done.
"The Sonnets" of William Shakespeare are a collection of 154 loosely connected 14 line poems. Considered by many to be among some of the greatest love poetry ever written much debate surrounds the context of the poetry. It has been suggested that the work may be semi-autobiographical but no real evidence firmly supports this notion. Regardless of their context, «The Sonnets» can be appreciated individually or as a whole as examples of William Shakespeare's true literary genius.
During her career popular children's writer Edith Nesbit collaborated on over sixty books of fiction for children. In «The Children's Shakespeare» she turns her attention to a series of interpretations of William Shakespeare's works. These retellings of Shakespeare's plays are written in a way that can be easily understood by and entertaining to young readers. «Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare» includes retellings of the following plays: «Romeo and Juliet,» «The Tempest,» «A Midsummer Night's Dream,» «King Lear,» «Cymbeline,» «The Taming of the Shrew,» «Hamlet,» «Twelfth Night,» «As You Like It,» «Pericles,» «The Merchant of Venice,» and «The Winter's Tale.»
Greek playwright Aristophanes spins wonderful stories combining politics, satire, and classic Greek gods in this collection of «Lysistrata and Other Plays.» «Lysistrata» focuses on the women of Greece whose husbands leave for the Peloponnesian War. The women do not care about the war as much as they care about missing their husbands; Lysistrata also insists that men rarely listen to women's reasoning and exclude their opinions on matters of the state. In retaliation, the women of Greece organize a strike, refusing to give their husbands sex until both sides agree to cease fighting. What makes the play tongue-in-cheek is that the men become more upset with their wives than they do with their enemies of war. It was also notable due to its positive portrayal of a woman's rationality in a male-dominated society. Its comedic portrayal of the dumbfounded men has made it a favorite of theatre lovers for years. The other plays, «The Clouds» and «The Acharnians,» are both remembered for their absurd humor and their importance to the Greek theatre. Aristophanes' intelligence and wit is present in all of his works, and the plays contained in «Lysistrata and Other Plays» will captivate and entertain readers for many more years to come.