Traditionally, the plays of William Shakespeare have been grouped into three categories: tragedies, comedies, and histories.
"Comedy", in its Elizabethan usage, had a very different meaning from modern comedy. A Shakespearean comedy is one that has a happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare's other plays. Patterns in the comedies include movement to a "green world", both internal and external conflicts, and a tension between Apollonian and Dionysian values. Shakespearean comedies tend to also include:
* A struggle of young lovers to overcome difficulty, often presented by elders
* Separation and re-unification
* Mistaken identities
* A clever servant
* Heightened tensions, often within a family
* Multiple, intertwining plots
* Frequent punning
Several of Shakespeare's comedies, such as Measure for Measure and All's Well That Ends Well, have an unusual tone with a difficult mix of humour and tragedy which has led them to be classified as problem plays. It is not clear whether the uneven nature of these dramas is due to an imperfect understanding of Elizabethan humour and society, a fault on Shakespeare's part, or a deliberate attempt by him to blend styles and subvert the audience's expectations.