What Is a List of Shakespeare’s Tragicomedies?

Though the list may vary among critics, William Shakespeare’s tragicomedies include “All’s Well that Ends Well,” “The Merchant of Venice,” “Measure for Measure,” “Troilus and Cressida,” “The Winter’s Tale” and “Timon of Athens.” These are also referred to as the “problem plays” because they are not easily classified as one genre.

The three main problem plays commonly discussed as tragicomedies are “Troilus and Cressida,” “Measure for Measure” and “All’s Well that Ends Well.” William Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies are defined by an identifiable set of tropes and characteristics. The tragicomedies combine these characteristics, usually by providing a comic situation that delves into darker topics and ends unresolved. These three plays are the strongest examples, though critics now include six plays in the classification.

While tragicomedies usually do not address truly tragic circumstances, the humor tends to be darker, and the characters tend to be less likable. The endings do not include the death of most major characters like in a tragedy, but they do not include a joyous happily-ever-after comedy ending either. For instance, “Measure for Measure” ends with forced marriages, not necessarily true love. “The Merchant of Venice” ends happily for Bassanio and Portia, but the dark story of Shylock’s ruin parallels their fate.

All of Shakespeare’s plays have elements of several different genres, but the tragicomedies are the most problematic to place. They are also some of his least popular plays, which have fallen out of favor compared to many of his comedies and tragedies.