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large number of dramas, the tragedies of the last-named, in particular, being hardly inferior to his great successor's early efforts; and by 1590 Shakspere himself was at work as a playwright, and by him the drama was raised to the highest excellence ever attained.
In the Classic Drama (and the French theatre is constructed upon that model) what are called the Unities are preserved, i.e. a unity in time and place and dramatic action. This means that the scenes portrayed should occur in about the same time that is occupied in acting them on the stage, and in the same immediate neighbourhood, and that the tragic and comic elements be kept quite distinct. A tragedy must be tragic throughout, and a comedy more or less amusing throughout. These arbitrary and artificial limitations our great master of dra­matic art declined to conform to; he depicted human nature as it is, and drew his characters with realis­tic truth from the living world around him, in which the sad and the joyous are ever found inextricably blended. The Tempest and the Comedy of Errors are the only plays in which the unity of time and place is preserved. Several of his comedies present a continuous panorama of happy, buoyant life; but in all his great tragedies the humorous is constantly found mingled with the dark and suffering side of humanity. The only distinction that can be drawn between his tragedies and comedies is that the former have mournful terminations, while the latter end happily.