Favorites Friday: Shakespeare Plays

I’m a Shakespeare geek, and I own to that.  I was in Shakespeare Society in high school, and many of my best memories from high school involve the Bard.  So, today, my favorite Shakespeare plays:

Much Ado About Nothing

My favorite Shakespearean comedy, featuring my favorite Shakespearean couple, the ever-sparring Beatrice and Benedick.  The play is enormously funny, with plenty of serious undertones too.  It’s a great gateway Shakespeare play, far less intimidating than many of his others.  And I can recommend the Kenneth Branagh movie.

The Taming of the Shrew

Kate is, of course, a wonderful character, and I love the ambiguous ending–is she tamed?  Or not?  My favorite filmed version is the Broadway Theater Archive, which was universally known in the Shakespeare Society as “the shirtless Petruchio version.”  🙂  But it really is a wonderful example of how Shakespeare can be fun, active, raunchy, romantic, subtle, and so very, very far from the dry droning that people sometimes think Shakespeare is.

Othello

There’s something I like about the outcast character who the girl nevertheless falls for (it’s that Phantom of the Opera thing again) even if it all goes horribly awry in the end.  I’m fascinated by the character of Iago too–I think he’s more tragic than usually acknowledged.  I read Othello, and found the last act to be a page-turner.  Even if you do have to get past Desdemona talking, after being smothered.  I haven’t seen any filmed versions of Othello–any suggestions?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The four lovers lost in the forest is probably my favorite scene in all of Shakespeare.  Everyone fighting with everyone else, complete mayhem and confusion, and Puck dancing around through it all…Shakespeare at his most hilarious.  I’ve seen several movies…1935 and 1999 are both good.  If you want a bizarre trip, try the 1968 version, featuring Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Ian Holm, when they were very young.  Judi Dench plays an entirely green, mostly nude Titania.  It’s all rather odd…

Hamlet

There’s something about the tragedy of the Prince of Denmark…I don’t know if it’s the endless quotable lines, the mix of tragedy and farce, the many retellings, or just that it was the first Shakespeare play I read and understood on my own, but somehow I love Hamlet.  I’m rather attached to the Branagh version (be warned, it’s four hours) and I also enjoyed the 2009 version with David Tennant (Hamlet) and Patrick Stewart (Claudius).  Did you know IMDB gives you 73 results for Hamlet?

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

And I can’t not mention the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s brilliant presentation of all the plays of Shakespeare: 37 plays in 97 minutes, with three men bouncing around the stage playing every role, and doing a convincing show of making it up as they go along.  It’s brilliant, it’s hilarious, and it will actually teach you quite a bit of Shakespeare.  You also will never again be able to take a number of Shakespeare lines seriously, but it’s a small price!

8 thoughts on “Favorites Friday: Shakespeare Plays

  1. Wait. Waitwaitwaitwaitwait. There’s a version of my favorite Shakespeare play out there with both Patrick Stewart and David Tennant? Why didn’t I know about this? Please excuse me while I bump this to the top of my Netflix queue.

      1. ensign_beedrill

        Watched it this weekend and liked it a lot. Well, after I finally figured out that it’s supposed to be modernish. Took me a while. One of my favorite lines–Oh that this too, too solid flesh…–was just heartbreaking. And David Tennant, as I suspected he would, made a great crazy Hamlet. 🙂

        But I was sad that Horatio’s speech at the end was cut. I love that in the end he gives you a summary of what just happened.

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