What Makes a Great History Play? Shakespeare Wrote 10 of Them!

A history play, also known as a chronicle play, is a dramatic work where the events of the plot are either partially or entirely drawn from people and events of the past. It is also considered a theatrical genre. William Shakespeare wrote ten of these plays, each loosely based on an English monarch and the period in which he reigned. Importantly, these plays remain works of fiction, whether based on an historical figure or not. This page contains a curated selection of resources on this topic. – Justin Cash


History Play Resources

Excellent article for students of theatre about the characteristics of a Shakespearean play in this genre and the differences to other Shakespearean dramas with historical settings.

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Comprehensive article detailing the origins of the genre and its development through the centuries.

William Shakespeare: Legendary Wordsmith - Fast Facts | History

Resources from Encyclopaedia Britannica about the chronicle play.

Comprehensive discussion about the chronicle play in English theatre history from TheatreHistory.com.

Characteristics of Shakespeare’s examples of this type of drama.

Explanation of Shakespeare’s history plays from No Sweat Shakespeare.

History Play

Article discussing English ‘chronicles’ and their influence as sources for some of Shakspeare’s history plays.

Interesting article on Shakespeare’s works of this genre.

Wikipedia entry on the this theatrical genre through the ages.

Useful account of why the chronicle play was popular in England in the late 1500s and early 1600s.

Scan of 1902 text The English Chronicle Play by Felix E Schelling. Includes discussion on different types of chronicle plays such as the legendary and the biographical plays.


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[…] tragedy, or history. When a red flag was used, it indicated that the play would be about blood, as historical plays frequently used blood as a subject. Most likely, the flags were only seen during the […]