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In general, Shakespeare's plays fall into four categories. These categories can vary, and the plays within them can vary, but for the most part these are the subcategories of his Renaissance plays:
1. Tragedies: These plays, of course, represent the downfall of a tragic hero with all the common elements of a tragedy. Examples include Romeo and Juliet, Othello, and Macbeth.
2. Comedies: Unlike the tragedies, Shakespeare's comedies end happily, almost always with a marriage. Examples include The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado about Nothing, and Two Gentlemen of Verona.
3. Histories: While these plays normally fall within the bounds of a tragedy because of the hero's tragic downfall, flaw, and realization, they also focus on real-life figures, such as Shakespeare's Henry V, Richard III, etc.
4. Romances: The rarest of Shakespeare's plays, the romance blends tragic elements with a happier ending. A Winter's Tale is the best example of this, and some literary critics would place The Merchant of Venice in this category because while it ends happily for the couples; it is tragic for Shylock, and Antonio--another main character--retains his melancholy outlook at the play's conclusion.
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