Shakespeare’s later comedies were written at the astonishing pace of about two plays a year. In them, he moves beyond the farce of his earlier comedies to richer and more varied dramas. These range from the famous “problem plays,” which blend humor with tragedy, to the idyllic romances set in such timeless locales as the Forest of Arden. They contain some of his wittiest and most memorable characters, from cross-dressing heroines, bantering lovers, and wisecracking fools to the villainous but sympathetic Shylock and the boisterous and bawdy Falstaff. This volume contains The Merchant of Venice, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure. The authoritatively edited text of the plays is supplemented with footnotes, bibliographies, a detailed chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times, and a substantial introduction in which Tony Tanner discusses each play individually and in the context of Shakespeare’s work.
Shakespeare forged his tremendous art in the crucible of his comic imagination, which throughout his life enveloped and contained his tragic one. His early comedies—with their baroque poetic exuberance, intense theatricality, explosive bursts of humor, and superbly concrete realizations of the dialects of love—capture as in a chrysalis all that he was to become. They provide a complete inventory of the mind of our greatest writer in the middle of his golden youth. This volume contains The Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love’s Labor’s Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and it’s companion piece, Romeo and Juliet, which Tony Tanner describes in his introduction as “a tragedy by less than one minute.” The texts, authoritatively edited by Sylvan Barnet, are supplemented with textual notes, bibliographies, a detailed chronology of Shakespeare’s life and times, and a substantial introduction in which Tanner discusses each play individually and in the context of Shakespeare’s oeuvre.