It would be hard to argue the fact that William Shakespeare is one of the greatest contributors to modern English as we know it. It would be hard to find another writer whose works have endured such longevity. His plays and sonnets have been turned into movies, books, and music as well as translated into virtually every language. His plays are still discussed in English literature classes and they enjoy a new audience every time a new group of students sign up each session. His work is still as relevant today as it was when he wrote them in the 1500s. Here are 10 of best Shakespeare plays.
Top 10 Best Shakespeare Plays
Romeo and Juliet
The quintessential love story of all times, Romeo and Juliet is all about young love gone terribly wrong. This story has been performed as is well adapted to relate to more modern cultures as in the movie and Broadway show West Side Story. The two young lovers were even cast in the movie Romeo and Juliet with Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes playing the main characters. Each of the lovers are from families who are at odds with each other. The two fall in love but it is not to be and with one misunderstanding each of them meets their demise.
This is the story of a father who is torn between his two oldest daughters and the youngest one. King Lear decides to step down from his throne and begins to divvy up his kingdom. He feels that the only fair way to allocate it is to give a portion to each daughter based on how much the girl loves him. His oldest, Goneril, who is the Duchess of Albany gets her portion. The next one is Regan, who is the Duchess of Cornwall and she gets her share. But the youngest one, Cordelia is the only one who truly loves her father but says nothing, receives nothing. Jealousy and fighting ensue and all does not end well.
Banquo and Macbeth are two generals of King Duncan who meet three women who claim to see the future. They tell Macbeth that after receiving the title Thane of Cader he will ultimately be named the King of Scotland. When Macbeth’s wife hears about her husband’s future promotion, the two plot to move up the date and kill the King in his sleep. Macbeth does become king but he and his wife suffer from such guilt that it brings them each to their own demise.
This play, set in Denmark was written during a period from 1599 to 1601. It is about Prince Hamlet and his plot to seek revenge on the man who killed his father, the King. The man he is after happens to be Claudius, his uncle. Claudius becomes King and marries the prince’s mother. The emotions that ensue throughout this long story include feelings of madness that is real and some that is not. It also includes grief, revenge, rage, incest, and just about every form of moral corruption. That being said, it is one of the best Shakespeare plays.
Midsummer Night’s Dream
Definitely one of Shakespeare’s more magical and original works, a Midsummer Night’s Dream is set amongst a forest filled with delightful and mischievous fairies. The plot revolves around their antics and begins with a misplaced love potion. The wrong guy ends up in love with the wrong girl and that creates many comical situations. The magical cast includes the Queen of the Fairies, Titania along with Pease Blossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed, and Moth. Puck plays a big part and he is the servant of the Fairy King named Oberon. His shenanigans always get him in trouble but he means well.
This play was written around 1603. The tragedy is based on the relationship of four characters: Othello, Desdemona (his girlfriend), Iago (his advisor) and Cassio (his lieutenant). This story revolves around jealousy, suspicion, and insecurities galore. Othello is a general in the service located in Venice. While Iago is Othello’s friend he promotes Cassio to personal lieutenant which sets off Iago. When Othello ran off to marry Desdemona, Iago began plotting to kill the two of them. When Othello begins to doubt Desdemona, he confides in Iago that he is suspicious. Othello kills his wife, injures Iago and then kills himself.
The Winter’s Tale
Written in the 1600s, this was one of the last plays that Shakespeare wrote, also one of the best Shakespeare plays. It is a romantic comedy with touches of tragedy interspersed. King Leontes thinks his wife has been cheating on him with his friend Polixenes, the King of Bohemia. When Leontes asks his servant to poison him, he tells Leontes instead and they both leave the King’s home. What goes on next spans several years with false imprisonment, the death of Leontes baby and many misunderstandings. Shakespeare’s plays always include just the right amount of jealousy, murders, and overdue remorse which keeps things always interesting.
Much Ado About Nothing
Benedict does not like Beatrice which is perfectly fine because Beatrice doesn’t like Benedict either. That is until Benedict overhears Beatrice say that she secretly loves Benedict and she overhears him say he is secretly in love with her. What begins as a plot for a mixed up comedy encounters a few subplots that add to the confusion. There is a fake death that is set out to fix a situation with a jealous lover and a brother who is after vengeance. This play was turned into a movie in the 1990s that featured Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh.
This play is one of the few that Shakespeare wrote that is derived from events that really happened. Julius Caesar is the name of the play but he is actually killed off by the third act. The story revolves around Marcus Brutus. It depicts his struggles with conflicts he encounters with patriotism, friendship and honor. The scenario reflected what was going on in England at the time. Queen Elizabeth was getting on in years but would not name the person who would take over upon her death. The people worried that there would be a civil war upon her death with no one in charge.
Twelfth Night (or What You Will)
Written in the early 1600s, also one of the best Shakespeare plays, Twelfth Night is about the ripple effect that happens when one person assumes another identity and gender. The play was named in honor of the Christmas holiday. It begins with Viola, the play’s leading lady, left high and dry on the shores of Illyria. She cannot locate Sebastian, her twin brother, and believes him to be dead. She disguises herself as a man and assumes the persona of Cesario, a young page who works for Duke Orsino. The Duke loves Lady Olivia who really did lose her brother. Olivia falls for Cesario and Viola falls in love with the Duke.