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Although the precise date of many of Shakespeares plays is in doubt his dramatic career is generally divided into four periods 1 the period up to 1594 2 the years from 1594 to 1600 3 the years from 1600 to 1608 and 4 the period after 1608 Because of the difficulty of dating Shakespeares plays and the lack of conclusive facts about his writings these dates are approximate and can be used only as a convenient framework in which to discuss his development In all periods the plots of his plays were frequently drawn from chronicles histories or earlier fiction as were the plays of other contemporary dramatistsShakespeares first period was one of experimentation His early plays unlike his more mature work are characterized to a degree by formal and rather obvious construction and by stylized verseChronicle history plays were a popular genre of the time and four plays dramatizing the English civil strife of the 15th century are possibly Shakespeares earliest dramatic works see England The Lancastrian and Yorkist Kings These plays Henry VI Parts I II and III 1590-1592 and Richard III 1593 deal with evil resulting from weak leadership and from national disunity fostered for selfish ends The four-play cycle closes with the death of Richard III and the ascent to the throne of Henry VII the founder of the Tudor dynasty to which Elizabeth belonged In style and structure these plays are related partly to medieval drama and partly to the works of earlier Elizabethan dramatists especially Christopher Marlowe Either indirectly through such dramatists or directly the influence of the classical Roman dramatist Seneca is also reflected in the organization of these four plays especially in the bloodiness of many of their scenes and in their highly colored bombastic language The influence of Seneca exerted by way of the earlier English dramatist Thomas Kyd is particularly obvious in Titus Andronicus 1594 a tragedy of righteous revenge for heinous and bloody acts
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