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Among the best loved works performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company are the tragedies, such as Hamlet, Macbeth, King Lear, Othello and Romeo and Juliet.

Hamlet tells the story of a Danish Prince who is visited by his recently deceased father’s ghost who tells him that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle. He orders Hamlet to avenge his death by murdering the newly coronated King. Hamlet struggles to do this and procrastinates, which leads to bloodshed and collateral all round.

Macbeth also deals with the supernatural by having the presence of witches. Similarly to Hamlet they give the protagonist a call to action at the very beginning of the play, which also pushes him towards murder. They prophecy that Macbeth will become the future king of Scotland, shortly before Duncan, the current king, comes to visit. He and his wife plot to murder him. They do, but the guilt and the need to cover their tracks drags them further and further into bloodshed.

King Lear tells the story of an elderly monarch who wishes to pass on his kingdom to his three daughters. When he asks them all to tell him how much they love him, two oblige but the third, Cordelia, declines. Lear furiously divides his kingdom between his two eldest daughters before banishing Cordelia. But when Lear’s newly empowered daughters Goneril and Regan begin to treat him as a nuisance, his mistakes begin to show.

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We are not officially affiliated with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). The Royal Shakespeare Company, based in Stratford-upon-Avon, adapts and performs plays by the Bard. In their many years they have put on all of the complete works.

Shakespeare’s complete works can very roughly be sorted into three categories: comedy, history and tragedy. However, the aptness of each of these labels is hotly contested. Plays such as The Merchant of Venice, The Winter’s Tale and Measure for Measure are often considered “problem plays”. This is because their moods and themes are so conflicting they fit neither comic nor tragic templates.

The Merchant of Venice does not see any of its characters die by the end nor is there the collateral damage of Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth and Othello, however the central figure of Shylock can be seen as tragic.

The Jewish moneylender is a victim of intense anti-Semitic persecution and ultimately loses his money and family. However, the end of the play is depicted as a joyous union of couples – modern audiences in particular struggle to reconcile these two endings.

Measure for Measure similarly ends with a number of couplings. It is outwardly a happy ending but this comes at the cost of a substantial amount of deception, hypocrisy and coercion. For many audience goers, this is what makes them such exciting plays: that they are so ambiguous and inconclusive, and the director and actors can interpret them as they wish.

The RSC regularly tours their plays around the country.

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