illustrated portrait of English playwright and poet William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

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Which type of Shakespearean play is lighthearted and typically ends with a marriage?

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Shakespeare wrote three types of plays including comedies, tragedies and histories. Some critics, however, have argued that Shakespeare's last play The Tempest could be considered a tragicomedy, because it combined elements of both genres. In Shakespeare's time, when audiences approached the Globe Theatre they were instantly aware of what type of play was being performed on any given day by the color of the flag flying at the top of the building. A white flag indicated a comedy, black was for tragedy, and red was the color used when the company was putting on a history. In general, Shakespeare's comedies were lighthearted and usually ended in a marriage. In an eNotes critical essay, Lisa Hopkins has argued that marriage, whether single or multiple, is an obsession in Shakespearean comedy but is not a "theoretical prescription" for comedies, not, at least, in the same way that Aristotle set down the rules for tragedies. Nevertheless, Shakespeare often ends his comedies with a nuptial ceremony. If tragedies end in the saddest point of a person's life, namely death, then the happiest and maybe even funniest event in a person's life is marriage.

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