Recently, I have gone onto the Internet type places, and this was there:
I can tell you the exact plays that a majority of these people have seen. They are Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Hamlet, and Macbeth. Why would I say this? These are all part of the curriculum in most schools. Also, these are all tragedies. The definition of a tragedy is that the hero of the play suffers a great fall. This is normally from pride. Yes, this also means that a majority of people die in the play. Shakespeare has a lot of other plays that end in death. In the histories, Richard II and Richard III both end with death of the main character. King Lear ends with the death of the king’s youngest daughter. The very definition of the main character has a fall. I can see why people would really see why Shakespeare seems depressing. There are bad ends to relationships. This point should have also been discussed in the English classes. It more likely than not involves a death or a murder or a combination of the both. This post is mainly going to talk about the tragicomedy style which Shakespeare is also known for. These are plays that are heavy in many places yet are light in the end.
Now for less tragic endings, let’s look at another history. This one is Henry V. It is also a rallying point for Britain. This play is about the invasion of France during the reign of King Henry V. There is the death of Falstaff at the beginning of the play is overshadowed by the main fools talking. Still, comedy is reigning even with the death of the king’s friend (See Henry IV). There are the people who tell Henry V that the plan may be impossible. Yet, this leads to the second famous speech in all of Shakespeare (“To Be or Not To Be” being the first). The play ends with a majority of the French dead. But, the French do not even count, since they are the great evil with the British. So, there is not that bad of a loss in their deaths. Also, the guy gets the girl, a French princess. He blunders speaking French to he initially. There are two possible reasons: he cannot speak French or is pretending to make himself more sympathetic. There is also the scene in which there is a man who is forced to eat a leek. In looking at the comedies, a couple of the plots which would have been tragic. I just want to remind everyone reading that a comedy ends with a wedding.
In recent months, I have had an almost unhealthy obsession with Much Ado About Nothing. Claudio is a young soldier who falls in love with a girl named Hero. He has a superior officer Don Pedro help him woo Hero. The brother of the superior officer gets jealous or has some other motivation to stop Claudio from marrying Hero. In a side plot, Don Pedro sets a plot to have Benedick and Beatrice fall in love. Comic hilarity ensues while they are trying to get the pair together. Then, tragedy strikes the members of the play. It almost comes to an ending in the Fourth Act! Hero is accused of being unfaithful, and a priest suggests that Hero pretends to be dead. This is to see Claudio’s reaction. Yet in the process, Benedick and Beatrice fall in love because Beatrice wants Benedick to kill Claudio. Long story short, there is not one wedding but two. Yes, there are tons of sad materials like the family pretending like Hero was killed by her father, but does that make the story tragic? Possibly. Yet, that does not take away from the ending. The people live in harmony.
Another play that almost has a tragic plot yet happy ending is The Winter’s Tale. A king accuses his wife of having an affair with his friend. Then, she dies after giving birth to his daughter. An oracle tells the king that there will be no peace in the kingdom until he finds his heir. The kings sends his infant daughter to a foreign country to die. Lucky for the baby, a bear attacks the man in charge of killing her and she is found by a shepherd and his son. 16 years pass. The girl falls in love with the prince of the country, the son of the man accused to be having the affair with her mother. The king of this country does not like her son being in love with a peasant girl. So through a set of magical coincidences, the second king, prince, and girl (along with her adopted family) go back to her native country. She meets up with her father. This fulfills the prophecy of the oracle. But wait, there’s more. The first king and his daughter go to the wife of his adviser where there is a statute of his wife/her mother. The queen has been alive this entire time waiting for her daughter to return. Happy ending!
All of this is to say that you cannot not judge an author or playwright on the most famous/taught work from his or her collection. I know Shakespeare is considered boring and tragic. But as any other author, you have to look further. Maybe then, you could accept a Disney/Shakespearean Ending.