In 2016 the world is commemorating 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare. To mark the occasion there are lot of events, performances, TV and radio programmes.
To get into the spirit of things, I’ve put together a list of my favourite Shakespeare plays. It’s too difficult to pick an overall favourite, so they are not in any particular order.
I have fond memories of studying them at school or university, teaching them, watching them, and not so fond memories of missing out on performances at local theatres, just because we are very bad at getting organised for tickets!
Here’s my list. As you can see, I definitely prefer the tragedies.
I first read Macbeth as part of my GCSE in English Literature, many, many, many years ago. It’s actually 21 years, and now I’ve worked that out I feel really old. Anyway, as a 15 year-old, I loved it. I’ve been to see several performances of Macbeth. I’ve also taught this play, which was great. Shakespeare should be taught with drama. They are plays after all. I’ve got a box full of props, and always enjoyed watching my classes act it out.
This is a favourite from my A levels. I also studied it again for my degree in English Literature. I was so disappointed to miss Dominic West’s performance at the Crucible in Sheffield. We tried to get tickets, but they’d sold out. We had to phone every day to see if any became available, but trying to fit a phone call in during working hours proved too difficult for Chris and me. We failed miserably. I can only imagine how good this would have been!
As you like it
This is definitely my favourite comedy. I studied this play as part of my Shakespeare module at university. We also went to see a performance at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, which was fantastic. This time we were organised and even had front row tickets, which is a first.
I’ve seen many different performances of Hamlet. The first was during my A level days, when I’d been up partying the night before, so really struggled to stay awake during the performance. Shame on me! The best one was a performance the Royal Shakespeare Company put on for a local school. It was absolutely fantastic. The one that got away was the performance at the Crucible with John Simm. I was so disappointed to miss this. I think someone started a petition to film it while it was on. Not sure if that ever happened, but I will look into it!
Romeo and Juliet
I was introduced to Romeo and Juliet when I was in year nine, so I was about thirteen. The English teacher gave out copies that had clearly seen better days. He asked various students to read the parts. Imagine a bunch of self-conscious teenagers, all with heavy Barnsley accents, reading Shakespeare. We destroyed it. I remember sitting there thinking I just wanted to get out of the lesson.
Thankfully, the Baz Luhrmann film made everything better. I fell in love with Leonardo DiCaprio. I fell in love with the play. I’ve since taught it for GCSE and love it even more. I’m still rather fond of Leonardo DiCaprio too. If he should ever visit Barnsley, I’ve made it clear to my fiancé that I would have to cancel our wedding, and run away with DiCaprio. Sorry, I’m digressing here.
Anyway, these are my top five Shakespeare plays. They all bring back such wonderful memories. For me, they capture the time and place that I first discovered them. It’s great to remember.
What’s your favourite Shakespeare play? Do you prefer the tragedies or the comedies?