Shakespeare's four greatest tragedies were written in a remarkably short period of time, between 1598 and 1606. Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, and King Lear are each so singular an achievement that any rereading of them reinforces the awe and almost idolatrous worship that this most uncanny of the world's great writers invariably inspires. In these four plays, Shakespeare engages the problem that is central to tragedy and crucial to any human community--the problem of violence and revenge--on an unprecedented scale. No other literary texts have been more instrumental in deepening our knowledge of ourselves as individuals and as a civilization.
This authoritative edition of the plays is supplemented with footnotes, bibliographies, a detailed chronology of Shakespeare's life and times, and a substantial introduction in which Tony Tanner discusses each play individually while setting each in context.