A Study on ‘Tragicomedy’ as the 3rd Genre－ Emphasis on Shakespeare’s Last Plays －
In 1623, when Shakespeare’s colleague playwrights, John Heminge and Henry Condell published his first Folio edition of the complete plays, they put his plays in three categories, comedies, histories, and tragedies, following the Elizabethan standard criteria about dramatic genre. In catalogue, 35 plays were entered; fourteen comedies, ten histories, and eleven tragedies. Troilus and Cressida which was missed in this catalogue, however, was inserted between histories and tragedies without pagination. Therefore, the total number of his plays entered in this edition was 36.
While Pericles and The Two Noble Kinsmen which are proved to be collaborated plays, were not entered in the first Folio edition, they are considered now as plays belonged to the legitimate Shakespeare’s canon, according to the effort of the academic circle. A number of editors of the complete Shakespeare’s works these days include these plays in their edition, however, they usually classify them not as ‘tragicomedies’ but as ‘romances’ along with Bard’s last plays, ..Cymbeline.., ..The Winter’s Tale.., and ..The Tempest... About this, a polemical challenge would be elicited to suggest ‘tragicomedy’ as a better terminology rather than ‘romances’. In style and subject matter, they are belated examples of the old ‘romance’ tradition of literature, to which Sidney’s Arcadia and Spencer’s The Faerie Queens belong, a fact that may be related to a strain of nostalgia running through them for the Elizabethan era. This tradition explains the label them as ‘romances’.
In urging the case for Shakespeare’s last plays to be thought of as ‘tragicomedies’, I inspect the Italian definition(s) of the tragicomedy by Cinthio and Guarini, as well as English counterpart by Fletcher, and suggest the fact that ‘tragicomedy’ as a literary terminology is a lot better than ‘romance’ for the Shakespeare’s last plays.