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All-Time Favorite Shakespeare Plays

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Jasmine
(@jasminetarkheena)
NarniaWeb Nut

I'm sure we've seen the plays by William Shakespeare at one time or another. I'm sure we've read them. I'm sure we have an all-time favorite play of his.

A lot of people would most likely say Hamlet, The Prince of Denmark or Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth. Those are among his best known. While I love them (how many times have Hamlet have been re-told? Prince Caspian has been said to be influenced by Hamlet and even Disney's The Lion King. Even the Broadway musical West Side Story is often view as re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.), I don't know if I consider any of them my all-time favorite.

I think my all-time favorite Shakespeare play is Othello, Moor of Venice. Much like the Calormenes in Narnia, there's controversial debate about Othello being racist. Moors were an Islamic group from North Africa who settled in Spain hundreds of years ago. I love this play because it touches on heavy themes about manipulation, jealousy. You know the phrase "green eyed monster?" That's where it all came from. Othello's right hand man, Iago (not the parrot), is envious that he didn't get a promotion. He manipulates Othello into thinking that his wife Desdemona is being unfaithful (which wasn't true of course).

What are your all time favorite Shakespeare plays?

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

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Topic starter Posted : November 24, 2021 11:52 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

My favourite is Twelfth Night, and I've seen several productions of it,  including one at The Globe Theatre in London (look it up if you've never heard of the Globe).

Shakespeare was a genius, and his writing has gifted us with many expressions  as Jasmine mentioned. 

I was fortunate to study many of his plays in high school and university, and to live in a city where there are regular staging of his plays. (I've even played minor roles in several)

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : November 24, 2021 12:01 pm
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Courtenay
(@courtenay)
NarniaWeb Guru Friend of NarniaWeb

Macbeth is my favourite, or at least the one I know the best. My older sister was studying it at high school and she had an illustrated edition of the play, which looked so cool that I read it too and loved it. A few years later I got to study it at school too and enjoyed it all the more for already being familiar (pun not intended Shocked ) with it! By that time I was going to a school in Melbourne, and our class got to attend a session with four young actors from the Bell Shakespeare Theatre Company (one that specialised in putting on innovative new versions of his plays) — I don't remember everything they did, but they acted out some of his best scenes and talked about how the plays work as great drama for any age.

I'm just remembering there's a famous poster listing all kinds of common phrases and sayings that are actually quotes from Shakespeare — well, there are probably a few versions of it, but this is the one I've seen most often: Quoting Shakespeare

And I'm not sure if this is a proper thing to encourage NarniaWebbers to do, but if you Google "Shakespearean Insult Generator", you'll find a few websites that will put together useful words and phrases from the Bard for taunting your enemies... Grin  

"Now you are a lioness," said Aslan. "And now all Narnia will be renewed."
(Prince Caspian)

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Posted : November 24, 2021 2:35 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

My favorite plays include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest, Hamlet, Macbeth, and As You Like It.  I like the tragedies about as much as the comedies.  It has been a long time since I watched a live performance of a Shakespeare play, but I have many of the plays and some of the movies on DVD and blu-ray.  Now that theaters are reopening with Covid restrictions lifted there may be more opportunities to see the plays in the theater.  I recommend the Stratford and the Globe Shakespeare plays on DVD if you can’t attend the plays in person. It is also worth checking the theater department of local colleges for the live presentation of plays in your area.

 

This post was modified 2 weeks ago 6 times by Narnian78
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Posted : November 25, 2021 9:40 am
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Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

Great topic, Jasmine. I tend to love Shakespeare's comedies (my favorite is probably Much Ado About Nothing) but I don't care that much for his tragedies. It's hard for me to feel that sorry for their tragic protagonists since I feel like they're so stupid and self-absorbed that they deserve what happens to them. Ironically, I'm more likely to be moved by the comedies since I actually like their protagonists and feel sorry when something bad happens to them. Nevertheless, the tragedies do contain great writing and there are reasons why they're classics. 

Posted by: @jasminetarkheena

there's controversial debate about Othello being racist.

I consider Shakespeare a fundamentally ambiguous writer (though some of his plays are much more ambiguous than others) so I don't believe we can say for sure what his intentions were with Othello. The play can be definitely be interpreted as being racist in that the plot reinforces the idea that a marriage between a black man and a white woman could never work out. But, on the other hand, if the characters, mainly Roderigo and Othello, were less inclined to believe stereotypes about Moors being hotblooded and Venetian women being promiscuous and interracial romances being generally doomed, then the villainous Iago would not have been so successful or at least would have had to work harder. We can't really ask Shakespeare what he meant by the play. (Of course, some would say that it being up for interpretation is itself just my interpretation. Giggle )

This is kind of changing the subject, but if anyone's interested in commentary on Shakespeare's plays, I highly recommend the writings of Alexander Leggatt. He wrote a book on Shakespeare's history plays, a book on his comedies and a book on his tragedies. They're very expensive to buy, but I've been able to borrow them through interlibrary loan. And if you're a member of archive.org, you can borrow digital versions of them on there.

 

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : November 26, 2021 7:16 am
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Cleander
(@the-mad-poet)
NarniaWeb Junkie

Cool topic! Thanks @Jasmine!

I haven't read/watched every Shakespeare play out there, but my all time favorite has to be Henry V. I kind of blame Kenneth Branagh for making me fall in love with his awesome adaptation. The monologues are some of the most epic and inspiring of all of Skakespeare.The themes of a king connecting with his subjects and the toll that war takes on people hits me right in the feels, especially the way the Branagh film portrays it. And I know because I actually watched it again last night Grin .

I also like Hamlet, because... it's Hamlet. Julius Caesar is another good one, especially as portrayed in the old Charlton Heston film. I actually enjoyed Macbeth mainly because of the strange resemblance to Prince Caspian (an apparent "army" of trees shows up to take out the baddies, etc.)

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Posted : November 26, 2021 6:16 pm
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

My favorite Shakespearean actor is Laurence Olivier. His best films were Henry V, Richard III, and Hamlet. Probably Henry V was his best film because his speeches in it were so memorable. Although I also like Kenneth Branagh, I think Olivier’s acting was so lively and powerful and perhaps was the best of modern times.  It’s kind of sad that films like these aren’t made anymore, but some of today’s actors are really quite good such as Patrick Stewart and Mel Gibson. The plays are usually well done when made into films and the performances are quite enjoyable. 🙂

This post was modified 1 week ago 2 times by Narnian78
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Posted : November 27, 2021 8:18 am
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Jasmine
(@jasminetarkheena)
NarniaWeb Nut

@narnian78 I think Hamlet is one of best known. And there's countless stories about where the uncle is the villain and the nephew is the main hero (though I don't think Miraz was as quite of a coward in Prince Caspian as Claudius is in Hamlet. It is possible that Miraz may have poisoned Caspian IX, like Claudius did to King Hamlet).

@col-klink I don't think we can know for sure what Shakespeare was trying to get at with Othello. I think the argument is that the villainous Iago is jealous of Othello because he married Desdemona, and Iago wanted to have her for himself (As a Christian, I'll try to be sensitive on this topic). He says at one point that he is in love with Desdemona. He tries to make it look like she was being unfaithful to Othello.

@the-mad-poet I've read Macbeth as part of a Literature Class in my senior year of High School. Lady Macbeth was influential to Macbeth, similar to Jezebel to Ahab or Herodias to Herod Antipas.

 

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

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Topic starter Posted : November 28, 2021 1:33 pm
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Cyberlucy
(@cyberlucy)
NarniaWeb Regular

I also favor The Twelfth Night.  I love the version done in thr 90s by Trevor Nunn.   

Decades ago the BBC did special series of all the plays featuring well-known UK actors .  It was fabulous.  I rented all of them from the library over time.  

 

These are only shadows of the real world

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Posted : November 29, 2021 12:50 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

@cyberlucy 

The BBC series was called the The Shakespeare Plays and it first aired on PBS during the 1970’s and 1980’s.  I think I saw all of the 37 plays. There was also a series called An Age of Kings, which was broadcast around 1960. It was a short series made from parts of Shakespeare’s history plays and featured well known actors like Sean Connery. I own the miniseries on DVD and found it quite enjoyable with moments of great acting. The programs were made on a lower budget than the movies, but they brought more of Shakespeare’s plays to the screen. Both of the series are well worth watching. 🙂

This post was modified 1 week ago by Narnian78
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Posted : November 29, 2021 3:34 am
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Jasmine
(@jasminetarkheena)
NarniaWeb Nut

I think I heard of BBC Shakespeare mini-series, but haven't seen them. I've seen school performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. I've also seen an opera version in Italian of Hamlet on PBS (Italian music is famous for opera). In the State of Oregon, they have the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland every year March-November.

I've listened to an audio of Hamlet some years ago; Stash Kirkebride, who voiced Rishda Tarkaan in the Focus On The Family radio theatre adaptation of The Last Battle, voiced Hamlet. (I love his portrayal as Rishda and I was impressed with him as Hamlet. I could even almost see him voice Iago in Othello).

I've also seen on a YouTube a French musical of Romeo and Juliet. It's another well known play. A movie, West Side Story, is coming out this December, and I think it's often viewed as a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet.

Even a movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, has often been viewed as re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew.

So Shakespeare plays has an impact on pop culture as well.

 

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

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Topic starter Posted : November 29, 2021 9:26 am
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Narnian78
(@narnian78)
NarniaWeb Nut

I wonder if other people have struggled to understand Shakespeare’s history plays.  I remember when that when I was in college it was difficult for me to understand Henry IV parts I and II and Henry VI, parts I, II, and III. Even my professor said that we Americans can have a hard time with these plays because English history is often not so well known to us. Our country’s history is much shorter than England’s and we don’t have royalty here. But I think those plays are remarkable with many fine characters, and certainly Shakespeare mastered the art of writing them.  I would recommend watching DVD’s of the plays since seeing them will help you to understand them. Richard lll is probably the one which is most often performed here in the U.S. and at Stratford in Canada. The others are not often performed in theatres, although there are the two movies of Henry V, which are easily available. The BBC series from the 1970’s is not too hard to find on DVD or streaming video.  There are many editions of the plays, and some offer clear, understandable texts. I recommend the Folger library paperbacks for readable editions of the plays. They are a great help in interpreting Shakespeare’s language. Most of them are probably still in print since people have used them for decades.

This post was modified 4 days ago 16 times by Narnian78
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Posted : December 3, 2021 4:21 am
Jasmine
(@jasminetarkheena)
NarniaWeb Nut

@narnian78 I think the dialect could be difficult to understand at times. Shakespeare plays has a lot of words that we don't use anymore. While I like both tragedies and comedies equally, I think the endings in the tragedies are more real-life than the comedies.

"And this is the marvel of marvels, that he called me beloved."
(Emeth, The Last Battle)

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Topic starter Posted : December 3, 2021 7:58 am
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Col Klink
(@col-klink)
NarniaWeb Nut

I see a number of people citing Twelfth Night as their favorite. Could someone tell me why? Blush I mean it can be a really fun play and at times a moving one, but I'm always surprised when people list it among Shakespeare's best plays or even his best comedies. I'd put it on his B-list.

For better or worse-for who knows what may unfold from a chrysalis?-hope was left behind.
-The God Beneath the Sea by Leon Garfield & Edward Blishen check out my new blog!

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Posted : December 3, 2021 10:57 am
coracle
(@coracle)
NarniaWeb's Auntie Moderator

@col-klink it has humour and sadness, and bitter-sweetness at several different levels.

A bereaved sister emerges from her long grief for her brother when she is attracted to a personable young man, and seeks to marry him.  A woman disguises herself as a young man, covering her grief for her own drowned brother while she finds a way to survive in foreign country. They are both without parents and have to trust others for advice and kindness.

A group plots to humiliate a senior servant who has ideas above his station in life. Although most characters face a good or reasonable future, one or two are left alone and uncared-for.
The wild romp that is Twelfth Night (the last day of the Christmas season) is like life, where people deal with challenges in different ways, and treat others in different degrees of kindness or unkindness. Truth emerges, and people who have learned from their experiences, must now take on their responsibilities of real life.
It is full of humour but darkness attempts to take over; there are many poignant scenes and memorable lines. Perhaps some of us see it as an image of our lives?

@jasminetarkheena in terms of language, Shakespeare was alive when people spoke Early Modern English. (vowels had changed since Middle English), but his writing was very poetic and creative; he invented phrases and usages of many words, and wrote a lot of his plays in unrhyming verse (harder to read than just plain sentences). Grammar and spelling have also changed a lot since then.

There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (for it had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.
"...when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards."

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Posted : December 3, 2021 6:36 pm
Jasmine and Col Klink liked
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