Characters of Shakespear's Plays is an 1817 book of criticism of Shakespeare's plays, written by early nineteenth century English essayist and literary critic William Hazlitt. Composed in reaction to the neoclassical approach to Shakespeare's plays typified by Samuel Johnson, it was among the first English-language studies of Shakespeare's plays to follow the manner of German critic August Wilhelm Schlegel, and, with the work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, paved the way for the increased appreciation of Shakespeare's genius that was characteristic of later nineteenth-century criticism. It was also the first book to cover all of Shakespeare's plays, intended as a guide for the general reader.
Then becoming known as a theatre critic, Hazlitt had been focusing increasingly on drama as literature, contributing miscellaneous literary criticism to various journals, including the prestigious Edinburgh Review. This was the first of his book-length literary studies. The plays, the thirty-five tha