‘Not for an age but for all time.’ So Ben Jonson established what we now take for granted: Shakespeare's unique place among the world's great authors. Romeo and Juliet shows us the archetypal story of fated young love; Hamlet, the tortured psyche of the young prince of Denmark; Othello, a strikingly modern representation of racial difference; King Lear, a man stripped of all material and psychological comforts; and Macbeth, a dark investigation of the origins and effects of, evil. The plays throw a fascinating light on the concerns of Shakespeare's day, yet offer perennial insights into the nature of human emotion.
Comedies are among the best loved of Shakespeare's plays. In each a problem emerges, is then intensified to a point of maximum confusion and potential upset, before the chaos is resolved, however improbably, into general goodwill and a spate of marriages. The triumph of these plays lies in the way they mingle humorous stage business and dexterous word play with a more serious study of identity, gender, dreaming, the meaning of love, even of the theatre itself. They reassure us that with all its faults, the world will always in the end be redeemable.