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Synopsis

In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on the lives of English kings. Therefore they can be more accurately called the "English history plays," a less common designation. Macbeth, which is based on a Scottish king, was classed as a tragedy, not a history, as were the plays that depict older historical figures such as Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra and the legendary King Lear. These latter plays, however, are often included in modern studies of Shakespeare's treatment of history. The source for most of the English history plays, as well as for Macbeth and King Lear, is the well known Raphael Holinshed's Chronicle of English history.

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