A complete guide to every Shakespeare tragedy
Born in 1564, William Shakespeare is still considered to be one of the greatest writers the world has ever seen. A master of the English language with a creative, inquisitive mind, we take a look at the most-known tragedies written by the Bard, leaving you to vote for your favourite! Whether it’s a tale often performed in the West End such as Romeo and Juliet or King Lear, read all about Shakespeare tragedies and Shakespeare comedies.
Every William Shakespeare tragedy
Macbeth: Supposedly the unluckiest word to mention in the theatre, Macbeth returns from fighting in Scotland victorious, yet disturbed by a prophecy uttered by three witches. Changing his outlook on life and seeing the ghosts of his former peers, will Macbeth be able to keep it together?
Troilus and Cressida: Believed to have been written in 1602, Troilus and Cressida follows the titled pair as they attempt to follow through with their promise they will be true to another. As the Trojan war continues, will the pair be able to stay by each other’s side?
Coriolanus: Set in ancient Rome and written by Shakespeare in the early 1600s, Caius Martius Coriolanus shows strength on the battlefield, but finds it tough to be a leader. Struggling to get himself together, Coriolanus has to decide where his allegiances lie. Will he support everyone, or just the wealthiest in society?
Titus Andronicus: Having lost 21 sons in battle, Titus finds himself at the start of a series of bloody events, where rape, cannibalism and mutation is the order of the day. Hailed as Shakespeare’s goriest play, the text is believed to have been written towards the end of the 15th century.
Romeo and Juliet: Written in 1597, this is a love story that turns tragic, as Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are barred from staying together due to feuding families. As they attempt to rekindle their families together, their relationship takes a fateful turn.
Timon of Athens: With money, friends as well as being influential, Timon of Athens seems to have everything a person needs. But, as she begins to lose her possessions, the play explores what Timon actually has and what she wants.
Julius Caesar: When Julius Caesar returns from war, the political situation around him seems to spiral to dizzying heights. Will Caesar be able to maintain his all-conquering appearance, or does power come at a great price?
Hamlet: As a young man tries to work out who to trust and who to believe in an ever-changing society, will Hamlet be able to keep it together in a journey of madness, murder and love. The play is said to have been performed as early as 1602, with an entry made in the Stationers’ Register of ‘A book called the Revenge of Hamlet prince of Denmark as it was lately acted by the Lord Chamberlain his Servants’.
King Lear: Dividing his kingdom amongst his children, King Lear has to decide what to share, and who will receive certain parts of the kingdom. In a story of riches to rags, he soon realises the consequences of his previous decisions, with his previous kingdoms trapping him of all he owns. Ian McKellen last played King Lear at the Duke of York’s Theatre in 2018.
Othello: Said to have been written in 1604, this Shakespeare tragedy follows Othello the Moor. Employed by the Venetian state, his secret marriage to a senior’s daughter cause outrage, with loyalties and the course of love left in the hands of officials above him.
Antony and Cleopatra: Mark Antony has reached dizzying heights of power in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Abandoning his kingdom for Cleopatra, will Antony serve his mistress or his empire in this Shakespeare tragedy? Antony and Cleopatra was last performed at the National Theatre in 2018.
Cymbeline: A rarely performed Shakespearean text, the play begins with Queen Cymbeline on the British throne. But when her heir marries her childhood sweetheart, who does Cymbeline trust? As the queen attempts to reunite with the pair, will relationships be reconciled or will pride remain too high?