9 Best Shakespeare Books Update 05/2022

Every play by Shakespeare is a classic, of course, but not all of them are. There are more than 40 plays that William Shakespeare worked on with John Fletcher and others. It would be dishonest to say that all of them are “classics” in the Bard’s work. This is not a list of the best Shakespeare plays, but rather a small group of some of his most talked about, read, performed, and adapted plays. We’ve added some facts about them as we go along. We haven’t tried to put them in any kind of order. That would be a step too far. If you had to pick one of Shakespeare’s plays that was the best, which one would you choose?

Romeo and Juliet

The most famous scene in this play, which was written in the mid-1590s, is the “balcony” scene. There has been some debate about whether it would have had a balcony when it was first performed. (Shakespeare just says that Juliet will appear “at a window” in the stage directions.) However, Romeo and Juliet has become a favorite story around the world, even though the story, like most of Shakespeare’s plays, was not written by the Bard himself but was adapted from other sources. Many Valentines are sent to “Juliet” in Verona, Italy, every year, and many people write them.

Macbeth

Macbeth is based on a real king and queen of Scotland named Mac Bethad mac Findlach and Gruoch. It was written soon after the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, which was a Catholic plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament in London and King James I of England. Obviously, James was King of Scotland already when he took the English throne in 1603, and he claimed to be Banquo’s son. This is why the play talked about Banquo’s descendants. A riot broke out in New York City in 1849 because two actors who were competing with each other got into a fight over who should play the role.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When you read this play, you learn about “the course of true love” and how it never runs smoothly. In 1911, Herbert Beerbohm Tree staged a production of the play that was very well-known. The play was about magic and fairies, and it had live rabbits on stage. It has even had an effect on Hollywood movies, like Die Hard, which was made in 1988. The director of the movie was inspired to make it happen over one night after reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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King Lear

This play, which starts with the titular king preparing to split his kingdom between his three daughters, was based on an earlier play about ‘King Leir’, the king of ancient Britain, who was the subject of that play. Original play: The story has a happy ending in the original play, but Shakespeare saw that there was a lot of room for tragedy in this story of parents and kids and civil war. Shakespeare’s play also has the earliest known reference to a “football player,” though footballers didn’t make as much money back then as they did now.

Hamlet

Hamlet is often thought to be Shakespeare’s best work. It is based on an earlier play that has been lost. In the more intense and psychologically complex soliloquies the main character speaks, it looks like he changed a lot as a playwright at this point. Hamlet, which was written around 1600-1, has been translated into Klingon, which isn’t very common. The full title of the Klingon Hamlet is The Tragedy of Khamlet, Son of the Emperor of Qo’noS. It was translated by Nick Nicholas and Andrew Strader of the ‘Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project’, who used the fictional language from the TV show Star Trek. Does this play by Shakespeare have to be the best one of them all? It didn’t seem that way to T. S. Eliot, who wrote about Hamlet in 1919.

The Tempest

First performed in 1611, it is often called Shakespeare’s farewell to the London stage. It was the last play he wrote all by himself. John Fletcher, who worked with Shakespeare on many other plays, helped him write this one about a shipwrecked ship and a magical island. Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the lost play Cardenio were all written with Fletcher.

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Richard III

In the past few years, the real remains of King Richard III were found under a Leicester car park. This play has always been popular. One of the most interesting things that happened after the play was written was that the real King Richard, though not exactly a “crookback,” did have scoliosis and a slightly deformed spine, which means that the propaganda that Shakespeare’s play helped spread had some truth to it.

Othello

Shakespeare wrote a great tragedy about the dangers of jealousy called “The Green-Eyed Monster.” It is called “The Moor of Venice,” which refers to Othello’s ethnic and religious background as a North African Twelfth NightMuslim. A short Italian novella called Un Capitano Moro is Shakespeare’s source for the play. Many of the characters that he used in the play are there, but only one is named by their rank or title. Desdemona is the only person who isn’t. Her name, fittingly, means “bad luck.”

1 Henry IV

This is probably Shakespeare’s most well-known history play, but Henry V is also a favorite. Young Prince Hal (later to become Henry V) and his best friend, Sir John Falstaff, like to go to the Boar’s Head tavern, where they like to eat and drink wine. The standout scene takes place in the tavern. As soon as Hal and Falstaff get a summons from the king to appear before him, they play out what they think the meeting will be like. This reveals more about the king’s distant relationship with his son compared to Hal’s warm friendship with that personification of England, fat John Falstaff. But at the end of the scene, there’s a surprise. We won’t say more about it here, because we don’t want to give away the ending.

Henry IV, Part 1 | Book by William Shakespeare, Dr. Barbara A. Mowat, Paul  Werstine | Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster

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