Where did Shakespeare get his ideas for the history related plays?Where did Shakespeare get his ideas for the history related plays?

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shaketeach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The history plays, Richard II through Richard III, were fairly recent history for Shakespeare.  It wouldn't be far fetched to think that as a young child, he heard storiesabout the War of Roses from relatives and other children of survivors. 

The source for the history plays is Holished's Chronicles but I would think also stories heard as a child growing up in the midlands were also influential.

The Plantagenet family had ruled England from the time of Henry II (approximately 200 years).  This family was followed by the Tudors.  Henry Tudor aka Henry VII, came to the throne by defeating Richard at the Battle of Bothsworth Field.  The Tudor claim to the throne throne was weak, through an illegitimate line of John of Gaunt.  Elizabeth I was a Tudor.

Shakespeare used recent English history to tell about power, misuse of power, what men will do to gain that power, not to mention how wars affect everybody from the kings to the innocent women and children.  Families are ripped apart. 

Shakespeare, however, manipulated history to tell his story and for dramatic purposes.  The series of plays begin with Richard II being usurped by Henry IV and ends with the death of Richard III in battle and the end of the War of the Roses.

The plays span war from the Hundred Years War through the War of the Roses.  With the Tudor victory, both external and internal wars are finished.

Are his history plays the truth?  That remains to be seen.  The truth is we don't know since Elizabethan has a distinctly Tudor twist.

shaketeach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When speaking of Shakespeare's history plays, this refers to his plays about English history.  A second group of these would be King John, Henry VIII, and Edward III.  The source was also Holinshed.

As for the so called second group mentioned by blacks, they are the Roman plays which would also include Titus Andronicus.  the source for these plays is Plutarch's Lives.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think Shakespeare liked to write about monarchs because that's what's interesting to people. We are still interested!  He also chose historical events and people that the common folk were interested in.  He chose important events, but also dramatic ones.

kruda | Student

Thanks a ton.

blacks | Student

shakespeare's historical plays divided into 2 groups: 1st group called chronicles which are all about british history, i mean english kings and queens . They are all come to him by the Hlinshed's hitorical book "Chronicles"!

And about 2nd. group called historicals, like Anthony and Cleopatra, i really don't know!!! But maybe because thay (history of Julius caesar, Anthony and Cleopatra) were that much famous he heard about them, and knew them!!!

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