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Four Great Tragedies by William Shakespeare

Discover Shakespeare's four great tragedies: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth. Explore their themes, characters, and enduring significance.

Shakespeare's four tragedies include Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth. It is the most famous four of his tragedies. The stories are all taken from European historical legends. Since the nineteenth century, "Hamlet", "Othello", "King Lear" and "Macbeth" have been recognized as Shakespeare's four tragedies.

William Shakespeare is the most outstanding dramatist in the history of English literature and one of the most important and greatest writers of the European Renaissance. 

Do you know what are the representative works of Shakespeare? What are his main tragedies? 

This article sorts out Shakespeare's four major tragedies, including "Hamlet", "Othello", "King Lear", and "Macbeth", which are considered to be the best examples. 

Let's take a look at this work with the editor.


William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (William Shakespeare, 1564-1616) was a great dramatist and poet during the English Renaissance. 

Its four major comedies are: "The Merchant of Venice", "A Midsummer Night's Dream", "As You Like It", and "Twelfth Night". 

The four tragedies are: "Hamlet", "Othello", "King Lear", and "Macbeth". 

Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564, in a wealthy citizen family in Stratford, central England. He studied Latin, literature, and rhetoric in the grammar school in his hometown when he was young. Later, his family fell into poverty, and he helped his father in business. 

Around 1578, he went to London alone to make a living. It is said that he worked as a groom or servant, which was regarded as "the lowest occupation" at that time. 

Later, he became an actor and screenwriter and traveled with the troupe to various places, and had extensive contact with the lives of all walks of life in society. 

He played supporting roles in the troupe, such as the ghost in "Hamlet", and also acted as a director, but mainly wrote scripts. At first, he just edited old scripts, gradually rewritten them, or created them himself. 

He later became a shareholder in the troupe, returned home from London around 1613, and died on April 23, 1616.

Related Topics:

Shakespeare's four tragedies: Hamlet, King Lear, Othello, and Macbeth


"Hamlet" is one of Shakespeare's most representative works, and it is also a bright pearl in world literature. It has been performed for more than 400 years. 

Some commentators say that "there are a thousand Hamlets in the eyes of a thousand people." Everyone The most familiar one should be To be, or not to be, that is the question.

summary of the story:

Old Hamlet, king of Denmark, has died suddenly. Soon after, Queen Gertrude married the king's younger brother, the new king Claudius.

Later, the ghost of old Hamlet took Prince Hamlet to a secluded place and told him the truth that Claudius murdered his brother, usurped the throne, and occupied the king's wife. So Hamlet pretended to be crazy and waited for an opportunity to take revenge.

Once, Hamlet instructed the theater troupe to enter the palace to test Claudius by performing a play in which a villain kills his brother and usurps the throne to marry his wife. 

Hamlet notices that the countenance of the king and queen changes when they see this scene. So it was determined that Claudius had murdered his father.

When Hamlet was thinking about how to take revenge, the queen sent someone to ask him to talk to the harem and asked the former royal minister Polonius to hide behind the curtain of the queen's inner palace to listen to what happened. 

The queen tried to persuade him to be patient but was severely reprimanded by Hamlet. During the quarrel between the mother and son, Hamlet grabbed the queen's wrist to prevent her from going and held her down to make her sit down. 

At this time, Polonius, who was hiding behind the curtain, shouted in horror: "Help! Come and save the queen!" Hamlet thought that the king was hiding there, so he drew his sword and stabbed it behind the curtain. Hamlet mistakenly killed Polonius (the father of his lover Ophelia) before the royal minister.

At this time, the ghost of the father appeared again, reminding Hamlet not to forget to avenge him and take good care of the queen. Hamlet begged the queen hard, and the queen promised to do as he said.

The death of Polonius gives Claudius an excuse to deal with Hamlet. On the one hand, the cunning Claudius sent him to England as an excuse to protect Hamlet, and on the other hand, wrote a letter to the King of England to execute Hamlet. 

The wise Hamlet had doubts, so he secretly got the letter from the accompanying minister at night, skillfully erased his own name, and replaced it with the names of the two ministers. Soon, Hamlet was captured by pirates, and the pirates released Hamlet after learning the whole story.

Hamlet's return to the royal city coincides with the funeral of his lover Ophelia. It turned out that Ophelia went crazy because her father was killed and her lover was far away, and she fell into the water and drowned.

The vicious new king recruits Ophelia's brother Laertes to plot against Hamlet. The king instigates Laertes to pretend to be reconciled and proposes a sword contest to Hamlet. 

The new king made Laertes use a poisonous sword. During the match, Laertes stabs Hamlet with his poisoned sword. Hamlet seized the poisoned sword and stabbed Laertes back, and Laertes fell victim to the new king's tricks and his own folly. 

At this time, the queen accidentally drank a cup of poisonous drink specially prepared by the king for Hamlet and died of poisoning.

Hamlet saw through the trick, and when he was dying, he tried his best to insert the poisonous sword into the king's chest, and his revenge was successful. The dying Hamlet asks his good friend Horatio, who witnessed the tragedy, to live strong and reveal all the secrets to the public. 

When Horatio promises with tears that he will do so faithfully, the noble prince Hamlet dies. Horatio and the others wept and prayed to the angels for the prince's soul.

King Lear

"King Lear" was written in 1605. Among Shakespeare's plays, it is famous for its boldness and vigor.

summary of the story:

The aged King Lear wants to abdicate, hoping to distribute the kingdom to his three daughters. At the time of enfeoffment, he asked each of his daughters to talk about their love for him and allocated land to them according to the degree of their love for him. 

The eldest daughter Goneril and the second daughter Reagan tried their best to praise the king. Only the youngest daughter Cordelia was expelled by Lear for expressing her simple and sincere feelings, but because of her honesty, she won the favor of the French king and went to France Made queen. 

After distributing the land to the two daughters, the two daughters of King Lear decided to ask Lear to remove his original 100 entourage After discussion, otherwise King Lear would not be allowed to live in their court. 

Driven out of the house by two unfilial daughters, the grieving King Lear and his entourage Gloucester met poor Tom in the wind and rain, that is, Edgar, the son of Gloucester who was caught in Edmund's trick and ordered to expel him. 

King Lear thought that he had misunderstood his youngest daughter, so he should be punished by his two daughters. Later, when he was separated from Gloucester and poor Tom, a saint came to comfort him when he felt sorry for himself. 

King Lear tells the saints about the mistakes he made to Cordelia, and expresses his despair regretfully: he feels that Cordelia will never forgive him again. But the saints say that Cordelia has always loved her father. 

It turned out that this saint was Cordelia. After she learned of King Lear's plight in France, she immediately organized an army and secretly landed in England. Because she was worried about King Lear, she came to visit King Lear before the war. 

Meanwhile, both Goneril and Reagan fell in love with Edmund, who framed his father and brother for the throne. In the end, the younger daughter's army was defeated, and both she and King Lear were arrested. 

Edmund issued an order to hang them secretly and did not reveal the secret order until he died, but it was too late, although King Lear killed The murderer who wanted to assassinate the youngest daughter died, and she died anyway. 

Edgar finds Edmund and duels with him, and finally, Edgar kills Edmund. And when King Lear carried her to look for everyone, Goneril and Reagan were already dead. King Lear was too sad, and finally collapsed and died.


"Othello", also translated "Othello", is a tragedy adapted by Shakespeare in 1604 based on an Italian short story.

summary of the story:

Venetian patriarch Brabantio has a daughter named Desdemona, who has excellent character and appearance and will inherit a huge fortune in the future. 

Therefore, many people proposed to her, but she loved none of them but fell in love with Othello, a black Moor, a general of Venice, and they were married in private. To the Senate to sue Othello. Othello defends himself and tells the story of his love proposal. Desdemona confirms what he said, and her father has to agree. 

At this time, the Venetian authorities sent Othello to lead troops to resist the invasion of the Turkish fleet to the island of Cyprus, and Desdemona happily followed her husband. 

After they arrived in Cyprus, they received a report that the Turkish fleet was scattered by a storm at sea and would not attack for a while. One of Othello's officers is called Iago, who is very scheming and treacherous. 

He hated Othello for promoting the young officer Cassio to lieutenant general, so he plotted revenge and framed him. He persuaded Cassio to drink too much, instigated troubles, and instigated Othello to remove Cassio from his post as a lieutenant general. 

He also persuaded Cassio to go to Desdemona and ask her to intercede for him in front of Othello. Iago also used rhetoric to make Othello suspect that his wife had an affair with Cassio. 

Othello is fooled into thinking that his wife is having an affair with Cassio, and angrily strangles her to death. Iago sent minions to assassinate Cassio again but was only stabbed. Cassio dug out the letter from the assassin's pocket, confirming Iago's treachery. 

After finding out the truth, Othello stared at his beloved wife in great pain, drew his sword and committed suicide, and fell on his beloved wife's body. Shakespeare exposed the ugly face of extreme egoists represented by Iago in the play.


"Macbeth" is a play written by Shakespeare, an English playwright, written in 1606. Since the 19th century, Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear have been recognized as William Shakespeare's "four tragedies".

summary of the story:

General Macbeth, the cousin of King Deng Geng of Scotland, came back from serving the king in suppressing rebellion and resisting invasion and met three witches on his way. 

The witch told him some prophecies and lingoes, saying that he would become king, but he had no heirs to inherit the throne. Instead, the descendants of his colleague General Bancao would be king. 

Macbeth is an ambitious hero. He murdered Deng Geng at the instigation of his wife and became king.

In order to deceive others and prevent others from seizing the throne, he killed Deng Geng's bodyguards, Ban Kao, and the wife and children of the nobleman Mark Duff step by step. Fear and suspicion make Macbeth more and more ghostly and cruel. Lady Macbeth's insane suicide is also a great stimulus to him.

In the case of betrayal, Macbeth faced the siege of Deng Geng's son and the English reinforcements he invited, and ended up decapitated. A crime in the dark, an adventure of listening to fate: if you ever succumbed to desire, you too could be another Macbeth.

These world classics have been made into movies, and you can also choose to watch movies~

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