So You Want to Read… is a new monthly feature here on eclectictales.com in which I recommend books by particular authors to readers who have never read a book from certain authors and would like to start. I’m always happy to recommend books and certain authors to my fellow readers and bloggers! 🙂
It’s September! Back to school for everyone who’s still in school…and keeping with the theme, for this month’s So You Want to Read, I will be featuring William Shakespeare (see tag) *cackles gleefully* Regular readers of my blog probably noticed that other than the Shakespeare Reading Challenge I hosted last year, I really got into reading dramatic plays this year, including more Shakespeare. The stories and the characters can be so exciting, the dialogue and soliloques thought-provoking, and I’ve seen some excellent filmed productions to date.
Maybe you want to get back to checking out some of Shakespeare’s works on your own, or maybe you want to read one for the first time. Here are 5 plays I’d recommend checking out (barring Romeo & Juliet because by now everyone must know something of it):
- Twelfth Night (review) — My favourite comedy from Shakespeare <3 I studied this play in Grade 10 English (which I really enjoyed; plenty of good memories there) and re-reading it earlier this year, it was just hilarious. Cross-dressing, mistaken identities, lovelorn individuals doing crazy things, yellow stockings. Oh, and I also recommend the 2012 Globe production of this play (review) 😉
- Much Ado About Nothing (review) — The first time I read this play last year I liked it enough but I had some issues with the main storyline. So why am I recommending it here? Because it does fare well in memory/gets better the more I remember it (hence the re-read; review), and I love Beatrice and Benedick’s story. I could read a whole play of the two of them bantering back and forth. My personal favourite production of this play has to be the 2011 Globe production (review).
- Macbeth (review) — For the tragedies, Macbeth certainly comes to mind as one of the most accessible. I studied this play in Grade 12 English and it’s just a fascinating psychological study of how a crime can weigh heavily on the conscience and tear relationships apart. Plus, there are witches and it’s set in Scotland.
- Othello (review) — Another familiar tragedy that many probably studied in school. I didn’t, so it was interesting to check out this play on my own. Again, it’s a very accessible play, and pretty suspenseful: you know things are going to go down poorly and yet you can’t quite turn away.
- Richard III (review) — From the histories, I was sort of 50/50 recommending Richard III for first time readers at first as I normally recommend reading everything in order starting from Richard II (review; commentary) right through the Henriad to get a sense of why things were the way they were by events of Richard III. But as a standalone it’s excellent, with lots of well-known dialogue, intriguing characters, and plenty of action. So yes, I highly recommend this play, it’s one of the best that I’ve read this year.
I hope this list of books helps if you’re interested in revisiting or reading Shakespeare for the first time! What are your favourite Shakespeare plays? Which would you recommend for first-time readers? Or which plays have you been meaning to check out?
Also, what’s your favourite edition of Shakespeare’s plays? I enjoy the editions published by Modern Library in conjunction with the RSC. They’re so informative and very pretty 🙂
So, as of 10 May 2015, I could proudly say that I read all of William Shakespeare’s plays. It’s pretty intense, the bulk of his works having been read in the last two years starting with the reading challenge I hosted in 2014 and wrapping up this year with the rest of his plays. You can read all of my reviews in the author tag. I just wanted to reflect a little bit on reading all of his plays, note my favourites from the batch (because there were so I loved, some I liked, and some I didn’t like (and some perhaps I need to re-read at some point)) 🙂
- Twelfth Night (review) — Always and forever, my number one favourite comedy from Shakespeare. Twins lost at sea, mistaken identities, love triangles and squares, yellow stockings…What’s not to love? 😀
- Much Ado About Nothing (review) — It took a second read for me to really enjoy the play (in my first read, I found the main storyline with Claudio and Hero extremely problematic and not terribly satisfying), but it’s really all because of Beatrice and Benedick 😀
- As You Like It (review) — Such a sweet, lovely play. A little weird at times with things being decided upon out of th blue but whatever, it works. Rosalind and Orlando are so cute too xP
- The Merchant of Venice (review) — I have a soft spot for this play because it was the first play I studied in school. It’s still an interesting play to read, and Shylock’s storyline continues to compel me more so than the main storyline with Bassiano, Portia, et al.
- Hamlet (review) — I always liked this play but it took a re-read earlier this year to truly appreciate the finer aspects of this play and the themes and elements that were running through Hamlet over the course of the play. It’s dark and introspective and just fascinating.
- Titus Andronicus (review) — Definitely one of those plays that prompted a more physical response as I was reading it (“Should I be weeping or screaming right about now?”), I couldn’t quite tear away from it even when it went bad to worse D= It had some great lines, not to mention an interesting take on, err, revenge
- Othello (review) — Another one of those plays that left me all flailing and reacting a bt more out loud (“OMG, Othello, don’t trust him!”), it was quite the page turner.
- Macbeth (review) — In retrospect, I do wish this play was a bit longer, but it’s pretty intriguing and tragic and thought-provoking all the same.
- Richard II (review) — It took a second read for me to love and really appreciate this play, both story-wise, characterisation-wise, and structurally as a play. It’s just so finely written, and there’s so much going thematically and these characters…
- Richard III (review) — Fell in love with this play the first time I read it. Richard III is such a bastard in this play and yet it’s quite a page-turner, it’s compelling, you’re left wondering how things will ultimately turn out for him (hint: not so well).
- Julius Caesar (review) — Friends! Romans! Countrymen! Lend me your ear…I enjoyed reading this play, but Mark Antony’s speech at Caesar’s funeral bumped it up to a favourite 😛
The Honourable Mentions
Because they stayed with me even though I may not have loved them completely (so that means I liked it…right?)…
- All’s Well That Ends Well (review) — Everything problematic about this play stems from Bertram, but I can’t help but like the play anyhow.
- Measure For Measure (review) — Again, problematic with the two leads here and Angelo’s actions later in the play are like WTF, NO!, but it’s a very interesting play with some contrasts and mirror issues similar to Richard II (at least in my mind 😛 ).
- The Tempest (review) — For the sheer amount of quotables in this play, yeah, it gets an honourable mention 😉
And those are my favourites! I suppose I’ll be moving along to Shakespeare’s other contemporaries now that I finished his works and Christopher Marlowe’s (see tag) and maybe a few of the more modern playwrights (been meaning to re-visit Arthur Miller). What do you think of the list? Which plays by Shakespeare are your favourites? That you want to read? Favourite playwrights/plays in general?
The Merchant of Venice
By: William Shakespeare
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my copy
Bassanio, a noble but impoverished Venetian, asks his friend the merchant Antonio for a loan to impress an heiress. Antonio agrees, but is forced to borrow the sum from a cynical Jewish moneylender, Shylock, who forces him into a chilling contract, which stipulates he must honour the debt with a pound of his own flesh. But Bassanio’s beloved is not as demure as she seems, and disguising herself as a lawyer, Portia proves herself one of Shakespeare’s most cunning heroines, in a witty attack on Shylock’s claim.
I first encountered this play in grade 9 English class and it holds a special place in my heart and amongst the Shakespeare titles as it is the first full play by him that I’ve read and studied. I guess in a way it’s fitting then that this is the last of his plays that I’m revisiting 🙂
Antony and Cleopatra
By: William Shakespeare
A battle-hardened soldier, Antony is one of the three leaders of the Roman world. But he is also a man in the grip of an all-consuming passion for Cleopatra, the exotic and tempestuous queen of Egypt. And when their life of pleasure together is threatened by the encroaching politics of Rome, the conflict between love and duty has devastating consequences.
And here we are, the last play by Shakespeare I have not read. Granted, I still have to re-read The Merchant of Venice (and which I will review here afterwards), but from the plays that I never read, this is it 🙂 I’m vaguely familiar with this play and what period of Roman history this takes place in so it should be interesting to read how Shakespeare approaches these events in his drama.
Troilus and Cressida
By: William Shakespeare
It is the seventh year of the Trojan War. The Greek army is camped outside Troy and Achilles, their military hero, refuses to fight. Inside the city Troilus, the Trojan king’s son, falls in love with Cressida, whose father has defected to the Greek camp. In an exchange of prisoners the couple are split – they believe for ever.
And here I am, down to the final two Shakespeare plays I have yet to read 😛 I suppose I decided to pick this one up first because it’s one of the lesser-known plays so I wanted to see what it was all about.