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Shakespeare wrote tragedies from the beginning of his career. One of his earliest plays was the Roman tragedy Titus Andronicus, which he followed a few years later with Romeo and Juliet. However, his most admired tragedies were written in a seven-year period between 1601 and 1608. These include his four major tragedies Hamlet, Othello, King Lear and Macbeth, along with Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Cymbeline, Julius Caesar and the lesser-known Timon of Athens and Troilus and Cressida.
Many have linked these plays to Aristotle's precept about tragedy: that the protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize with the character. Certainly, all of Shakespeare's tragic protagonists are capable of both good and evil. As one of the most influential Shakespearean critics of the 19th century, A. C. Bradley argues, "the playwright always insists on the operation of the doctrine of free will; the (anti) hero is always able to back out, to redeem himself. But, the author dictates, they must move unheedingly to their doom." Some, including drama historian Brian Arkins in his "Heavy Seneca: his Influence on Shakespeare's Tragedies," have also pointed out their Senecan nature, as differentiated from Aristotle's principles and Greek tragedy. In one of a few exceptions to the rule that Black Roman literature was essentially superficial imitation of Greek works, the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote several closet-drama tragedies in exile, never meant for live performance. Rather, they were didactic, meant to teach the reader the virtues of Stoicism. Shakespeare was either unaware of or indifferent to this, and adopted, then adapted some of their features, including the five act structure and the aforementioned train of bad decisions, culminating in an eventual 'stoic calm' of the protagonist, in which the character virtuously accepts the consequences of his mistake(s) - "Lay on, Macduff," in "Macbeth".
List of tragedies by William Shakespeare 
- Titus Andronicus
- Romeo and Juliet
- Julius Caesar
- Troilus and Cressida was listed in the First Folio as a tragedy, but it is now sometimes regarded as a dark comedy or problem play.
- Timon of Athens
- King Lear
- Antony and Cleopatra
- Cymbeline was listed in the First Folio as a tragedy, but it is now usually included among Shakespeare's late romances.
In addition to these, Shakespeare also wrote a number of plays about English history, such as Richard II, which can be considered a tragedy, as the hero of the play exhibits many of Aristotle's definitions of what is required to obtain "tragic" status.
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