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A Nonny Moose

Your most and least favourite Shakespeare play

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Most of us are exposed to the Bard of Avon, usually in an English Literature course, but it seems this playwright who passed away in 1616 is still going strong.  2116 will be his 500th anniversary.

 

Top of my list is the Scottish Play as they call it in the theatre -- Macbeth.  Probably the most fatally henpecked husband in all of literature.

 

Bottom is A Midsummer Night's Dream.  (Oops!  No pun intended)  Folderol on a grand scale.

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I actually quite enjoyed The Taming of the Shrew (it's possible I am shallow).  There have, of course, been untold versions of this tale over the years (famously when I was in high school was the movie 10 Things I Hate About You), and my favorite of them all was a parody episode of Moonlighting called "Atomic Shakespeare."  Ah, good stuff, it was.


I am also reminded of my freshman year English teacher in high school trying to get us to read Romeo and Juliet.  He hooked me by putting it bluntly: a bunch of teenagers, running around behind their parents' backs with their friends, getting into fights, crashing parties, etc.  Yeah, NO teens would do those sorts of things in modern times, noooOOOOoooo.  Okay, point for you, Mr. K.  Of course, not all of us commit suicide in mistaken grief, then commit suicide in REAL grief at the end of the story like they do, but yeah, even so, I can see where he was coming from.

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  • Original Poster
  • Hamlet, AIX?  Oh, yeah, the boy who couldn't make up his mind.  Fatal.

     

    If you like a lot of blood and guts try Titus Andronicus.

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    Au contraire Mr Moose, they are on opposite ends of my scale. Had to study Macbeth and disliked it, yet I enjoyed A Midsummer Nights Dream.

    Romeo and Juliet will always rank highly, no exception for me.

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    Chernobyl Kinsmen, Shakespeare's play about nuclear power in the Soviet Union. :P

     

    I haven't read or watched most of them in full. I have read Titus Andronicus and Macbeth, of which the former is my favourite so far. I'll have to see or read more to come to a proper conclusion of my most and least favourites.

     

    My favourite performance of Mr. Shakespeare's plays is the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). It at least mentions all of them, and covers what it can within the span of about an hour and a half in a comedic fashion. Act 1 is all the plays that aren't Hamlet. Act 2 is Hamlet. I can't link it here for reasons of language.

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    I do have a question relevant to this topic: is it better to watch the plays?  Or to read the words?  I would one day like to expand my horizons a bit farther, and I would like to do this in the most appropriate way possible.  So, to watch or to read, that is the question...

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    I don't really have a least favorite (since I haven't read or seen that many Shakespeare plays), but my favorite is Hamlet.  I've read it and seen a video of a live performance, and I must say it's a sad story and quite gripping. :lost:

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    I do have a question relevant to this topic: is it better to watch the plays?  Or to read the words?  I would one day like to expand my horizons a bit farther, and I would like to do this in the most appropriate way possible.  So, to watch or to read, that is the question...

     

    To read, or not to read, that is the question:

    Whether 'tis nobler to the Bard to peruse

    The prose and verse in written form

    Or to take seat and watch the play unfold

    And through this understand them. To watch, not read -

    No more - and by watching to say we end

    The headache, and the thousand daily distractions

    That we are given. 'Tis an education

    To watch, and to be wished. To read, to read -

    To read - perchance to think: ay, there's the rub,

    For in that thought of reading what ideas may come

    When we put down the play and think o'er it,

    on what we pause? There's retrospect

    That makes a chore of so long a work.

    For who would bear the length and depth of words,

    Th' writing long, the performance untimely

    The pages of archaic words, the length of plays,

    The unfound time, and the hours

    That patient men must put away for acts,

    When he himself must quietly sit

    Upon his chair? Who would the performance watch,

    The actors sweat under the bright stage lights,

    But that the dread of pages of such depth,

    The un-Cliff's-noted version, from whose words

    No simple mind returns unpuzzled still,

    And makes us think about the ills we have,

    Than watch some others that we know not of?

    Thus focus does make procrastinators of us all,

    And thus the powerful light of concentration

    Is sicklied o'er with wandering thoughts,

    And effort to understand Shakespeare's works

    With this regard attention turns awry

    And lose the name of action.

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  • Original Poster
  • Astro, that is one of the nicest parodies I've seen in a while.  Since it is unsigned I guess it is yours.  Congratulations.

     

    It is better to watch plays than read them unless you are of the stage craft.  There is a lot of nuance that is subject to the interpretation of the performers. 

     

    Of the films available I like:

     

    Olivier's Hamlet

    Branaugh's Macbeth

    Taylor/Burton Taming of the Shrew

    {Marble mouthed American actor whose name escapes me at the moment} Julius Caesar

     

    I never really understood Twelfth Night until I saw if performed by a little company in Belleville, Ontario.  They did it in 1920s formal dress.  It was hilarious.

     

    For parody, I rather like "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum".

     

    Best Broadway Musical build around a Shakespeare play -- Kiss Me, Kate.

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    This is a tough question to answer...

     

    Hamlet is probably my favorite. I've seen some really good performances of this - a lot depends on how strong the Hamlet actor is. Loved the Brannagh version, not such a fan of the Gibson version, and saw an incredible amateur society performance once.

     

    Hard to choose between this and Romeo and Juliet. One of my all-time favorite films is Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet which I thought was a fantastic modern interpretation. I also saw a stage production that was superb - done very much in the style of rival mafia families.

     

    Least favorite used to be Merchant of Venice, thanks to a useless English lit teacher who made every word more painful than I could imagine. I'm having a bit of a change to heart, thanks to the Irons/Pacino film.

     

    I think the Tempest is probably my least favorite right now - very hard to do well, and so far I've seen only rubbish performances.

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    I do have a question relevant to this topic: is it better to watch the plays?  Or to read the words?  I would one day like to expand my horizons a bit farther, and I would like to do this in the most appropriate way possible.  So, to watch or to read, that is the question...

    I would guess it would depend entirely on how good the performers are.

    I have read most of them.

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  • Original Poster
  • The more of them you see, especially by different companies, the easier it is to read a new one with some insight.

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    Shakespeare's works that I have read: Romeo & Juliet, Othello, Hamlet

     

    As things go, I can't say I was particularly enthused about any of them. The language is tough, you really need the "translation" and annotations to get them.

     

    What's perhaps amusing is that for supposedly wholesome classics, Shakespeare's works contain an awful lot of innuendo and violence. That, and lots of insults. I have a book sitting around somewhere that's just a list of lines from Shakespeare that are insults. :D

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    I never understood the point.

     

    Why do we torture our teenagers with a play about teenagers killing themselves?

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  • Original Poster
  • I don't think Romeo and Juliette is proper study before university.  People just don't die for love.  Utter foolishness.  If you want a similar theme, study West Side Story.

     

    If you are going to jam Shakespeare down kids throats, at least pick something of amusement.  Twelfth night has never been on any school curriculum that I have seen, yet it is hilarious and makes several points.  Midsummer Night's Dream is too complex for most students.  If you want to have fantasy, try The Tempest.

     

    There are many more modern works that can be used to introduce students to the dramatic literature.  How about Our Town?  So simply stageable that it can be performed by students at the front of a classroom.

     

    And, given the available media devices these days, there is no reason why stage productions cannot be studied by viewing them as well as reading them.  This material has a lot more impact when realized.  Pure reading is a bad technique for modern times.

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    I never understood the point.

     

    Why do we torture our teenagers with a play about teenagers killing themselves?

     

    Because that's how it's always been done and no one has come up with a good enough reason not to. Inertia is a powerful force in the pedagogical world, as it is in any profession where the consequences of getting something wrong can be severe.

     

    It's also a question of conformity and self-perpetuating societal expectations. We all expect every adult to have read some form of Shakespeare and would think it strange if they had not. What radical, innovative board of ed is going to mess with that? Not one that wants to have the incumbents win the next election.

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  • Original Poster
  • ^ When I was in high school, there was no comedy in any of the Shakespeare.  Let's see, we had Macbeth (twice), Hamlet, and Julius Caesar.  The second pass of Macbeth was in Grade XIII English Lit, and the grade XII class of the year before had the choice on that one.  In Grade XI we had Pygmalion by G. B. Shaw.  I don't recall any curriculum that is so cast in stone that R & J are actually required.  As a tragedy it sucks.  And yes, folks, in my day when you were university bound you took five years in high-school and had to write provincial exams to get into university.  Admission requirements were two English papers, two other language papers, and five other options.  I had English, Latin, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Physics and Chemistry.  Would have liked to take History but had no room in the time table.

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  • Original Poster
  • Othello is a whiz-bang study of how the team can undermine the manager if you have a rotten apple in the barrel.  I prefer the shortened, abridged version by Arigo Boito (the libretto for Otello by Giuseppe Verdi).  Less palaver, and more to the point (ouch!).

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    I simply never had Shakespeare in high school, but I don't live in an Anglophone country of course and the education system here is different... (nor have I read or seen anything written by him, a situation I plan to change :P )

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  • Original Poster
  • Timmie, I'll bet you had a good dose of Goethe, and other Germanic authors as well as some interesting Flemish stuff we never see here, even in translation.

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    I have never read nor seen a play from Shakespeare nor do I plan to. Shakespeare just doesn't interest me in any way shape or form.

    Now Euripides that's a whole other subject! The Trojan Women, best play I have ever read and also the saddest play I've ever read

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    Favorite is MacBeth, no question.

     

    Least?  Hmmm...  I don't care for Hamlet, personally. I suppose that one is officially on the bottom for me. However, if we factor in other things, like modern interpretation, then it's going to have to be Romeo and Juliet. That story, despite what the majority seem to think about it, is absolutely not "romantic." It is a tale of two idiots. Romeo is a dashing but breathtakingly stupid and reckless drama queen. Juliet is intelligent and bold, but lacks experience and wisdom.  This play is about two things. First is the mess that happens when you put two people like that together. Second is a social commentary on what happens when two families are too intent on bickering to notice what their own children are doing.

     

    NOT a love story. It chafes whenever I hear someone go on about how romantic it is. Shakespeare knew what he was doing. He knew when he wrote "What light through yonder window breaks," that he was writing a wagonload of cheese. It's supposed to make you gag. 

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    Either Hamlet or Much Ado About Nothing would be considered my favourites. My least would have to be Macbeth, only becuase it was tainted by a bad English class experience years ago.

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    Just remember to discuss the plays and not one another. I have no interest in reading many books yet that's not necessarily going to mean it's boring, bad or whatever, just uninteresting to me.

    Oh, I heard someone mention Euripides. I did the Baccae in Lit last year and I found it VERY INTERESTING. Worthy of study.

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