So April 23rd is the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birthday (and death, unlucky, right?) so to commemorate that and because I am a self confessed Shakespeare nerd, I decided to to do a quick impromptu post about my Top 10 Shakespeare plays! These are in order because I have a very distinct favourite…so let’s get into it!
10. Anthony and Cleopatra:
I studied A&C last year in my Shakespeare class and I was really sceptical about whether I would enjoy it or not. I ended up writing half an essay on it, so it can’t be that bad! I really do enjoy the tragedies (which will become apparent later) and these two are two characters that can’t help but love to hate. If you consider A&C as a Romeo and Juliet for “grown ups” it’s really funny to see just how fickle they both are. As I ended up enjoying this one a lot more than I thought I would, it earned it’s place on my list!
9. Much Ado About Nothing:
I really need to re read this soon as I don’t remember a great deal what happens! It’s on my list though because I studied this as part of my GCSE in English Lit (all those years ago, yikes!) and it like kick started my love for looking at Shakespeare in a more academic way. I love them as they are as plays but more than that I love looking at WHY and HOW he wrote the characters the way he did and I have this play to than for that. I also really remember loving the film adaptation so I should re-watch that soon, too.
8. The Tempest:
Often seen as Shakespeare’s official last play, The Tempest is a really poignant read. It’s pretty unique and focuses on themes like love, family, race, colonialism and has a sprinkling of magic too. It says a lot in a small space, it’s set on a tiny Island but boy, is this play mighty. I didn’t really consider it a favourite for a long time but in 2017 it;s become more and more poignant, given or current political climate. It also inspired the title of one of my all time favourite books, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. So for that reason alone, it made it on my list.
7. Twelfth Night:
I studied this again as part of my Shakespeare class last year and features one of my all time favourite Shakespeare characters, Viola. The comedy of the play revolves around Viola disguising herself as Cesario and falling for the Duke. Uh oh! It’s hard to really put into words what happens in this play because it’s so topsy-turvy (as Shakespeare so often is) but it’s wonderful and satisfying and yes. Oh, and long lost siblings, that’s a thing too.
I studied Othello as part of my Alevel in Drama and Theatre Studies in which we had to compare how a performance we saw compared to the original playing conditions, which I find myself doing unconsciously all the time now! I just really enjoy the narrative of Othello. Iago is one of Shakespeare’s best characters, in my opinion and he fuels everything that happens. Because of this, it has a really unique dynamic and the tension throughout just completely draws you in.
5. As You Like It:
There’s a theme here with my love Shakespeare. Whenever I’ve been “forced” to study it, I’ve just fallen more and more in love with his work. As You Like It is no exception. When I was doing pre-uni acting classes we were told we had to research a Shakespeare play and do a presentation on it. I chose As You Like It because I’d never really heard of it before. It’s one of the best stories and also features another one of my favourite Shakespeare ladies, Rosalind! This one I think is a particularly underrated Shakespeare play.
I studied this in my first year of university but I’ve always really enjoyed it. I think it has a really interesting story and I really enjoy the speeches etc in this one, specifically. It was this one that sparked my love for looking at different interpretations of mental health in Shakespeare so I owe it a lot!
3. Henry V:
Another I did in my Shakespeare module that I fell in LOVE with. I have always been quite daunted by Shakespeare’s history plays and I have still haven’t properly explored them but I feel like this was a great place to start. I saw Alex Hassal as Henry at the same time and it made me love it even more because I saw these historical characters as actual humans for the first time. I was completely gripped by the story and I can’t wait to explore more in this timeline.
2. A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
I feel like Midsummer is a lot of people’s favourite Shakespeare plays and for good reason! It’s so much fun. A lot of his plays are so heavy and involve a lot of difficult subjects. On the whole (depending on your interpretation) Midsummer is whimsical and funny and a bit of escapism. I love that it revolves around fairies and intertwines three different narratives. I really enjoy it as a story and if you haven’t ever read a Shakespeare play this is a good one to start with in terms of how fun it is BUT the romance stuff does tend to get a bit confusing! As it so often does with Shakespeare.
Are you surprised? Probably not. Macbeth is a really common favourite Shakespeare play, also with good reason! I was in a production of Macbeth (I was a Witch, of course) at Primary School and this combined with my mum getting me kiddy Shakespeare books is what started my obsession. I LOVE Macbeth and I pretty much adore any adaptation I’ve seen. It’s one of my favourite stories and Lady Macbeth is my favourite Shakespeare character. I have so much to thank Macbeth for and it’s just an absolute masterpiece!
Have you read any Shakespeare? Which is your favourite? Let me know!
Thank you lovelies and happy reading! ox