Wow. This is the last one. The last entry of 365 Days of Shakespeare! And what a crazy year. I’m still sort of amazed that I managed to (retroactively) finish something I started, since honestly…that doesn’t happen too often. I have about six half-finished novels and four outlined plays that can testify to that. But it has been a lot of fun, and I have learned a lot. Hopefully I’ve provided some interesting tidbits and laughter along the way. Well, here is the last entry…and then on to the next project!
NUMBER 1: Hamlet
This really shouldn’t surprise anyone, and I know that there will be some eye-rolling as it is assumed that every Shakespeare fan’s favorite play is Hamlet. It isn’t. I’m actually weird in this regard – most people I talk to either love Hamlet but don’t rank it as their favorite, think it’s okay but is kind of annoying, or outright can’t stand the play. Which blows my mind. I have loved this play since I was a little girl and my mom got me the Animated Tales version, then took me to see a family friend play Horatio (my dream role since that tender young age). I love the delicate beauty of the soliloquies, the deep, harrowing look at madness, and the heartbreaking emotion of every confrontation. Hamlet is truly one of the greatest characters ever written. Call him a whiny emo kid all you want, you can’t deny the kid can craft a sentence into a work of art. Hamlet also allows for so much interpretation that it is almost impossible to see two companies perform the show exactly the same way – there is almost always at least one glaring variation. For being the first Shakespeare play I ever loved, Hamlet takes the number-one spot in my heart.
Wow. This is the penultimate entry of 365 Days of Shakespeare! Hard to believe! Let’s not waste any time getting down to it!
NUMBER 2: King Lear
Phew. This is one of the big ones. King Lear is one of those plays that intimidates anyone trying to put on a production, whether actors or directors or technicians. How to do the storm? Is Cordelia really such a naive girl, or is she trying to be strategic too – only her way backfires? Don’t forget about the Fool! So much in this play is monstrous in its scale that it can be hard to find people willing to do it. But when you do, it can often be a thrilling experience. I always think of the production from the third season of Slings and Arrows…that’s pretty much how I think it should be done. It is a difficult, heartbreaking show, but one that can be one of those life-changing plays when it’s done right.
Eek! Two more entries after this and I will have reached nirvana! Wait, that’s not how these things work?
Oh well. Number three!
NUMBER 3: Othello
It’s not just because Emilia was chosen as my number-one Shakespearean badass, but that doesn’t hurt the cause. The way the play explores the idea of insecurity in even the most secure relationships in a terrifying way – I mean, Othello and Desdemona practically worship each other, but a few words and misunderstood gestures and a misplaced handkerchief is all it takes for Othello to murder her. The manipulation employed by Iago in this play is absolutely masterful, and it is always interesting to explore his motivations, relationships to the others in the play, and why he is so infuriatingly scary and wonderful at the same time. It’s hard not to root for him, to be honest, when you consider how effortlessly his work takes effect. Shivers. For all its complexity and horrific relationship commentary, Othello takes the number three slot.
We’re really getting down to it now. Only three entries remaining (and may I just say that I accidentally typed “thee” instead of “three”…take from that what you will)! So, you may be wondering is my personal choice for number four on my list of Shakespeare’s top five best plays…so it’s a good thing you clicked on this entry because now you get to find out!
NUMBER 4: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
I freaking love this play. I love everything about it. I love the balance of light and dark, of romance and rape, and the little girl in me cannot help but love the fairies and all their magic, not to mention the utter hilarity of the mechanicals. This is one of those plays that has so much room for interpretation, and yet every production seems to remain true to what is at the core, and it makes every viewing experience something really joyful. This play was the first of Shakespeare’s I ever performed in, as Titania, and it was a truly (pardon the expression) magical experience. The dialogue is witty, the songs are fantastic, and all of the characters are a blast to play. A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes the number four spot and leaves pixie dust in its path.
As you all know, I just looooove me some lists. I guess it’s from all the repeated viewings of High Fidelity my freshman year. Well, now that 365 Days of Shakespeare is winding to a close (holy crow, I actually retroactively achieved this since I’m technically posting this in late October even though I changed the date to be September so it looks like I was totally on top of things? Go me and my run-on sentences!), I thought it would be good for me to talk about the plays I personally consider to be Shakespeare’s five best. So here we go, beginning with number five!
NUMBER 5: Much Ado About Nothing
This play is so utterly charming right from the get-go that it is my go-to for depressing, rainy days. It cheers me up better than a hot cup of cider, and that’s saying something, because I love me some cider. What’s nice about this play is that is also comes with a pretty universally loved film, so I don’t feel like I’m cheating when I watch it instead of reading it. Keanu aside, it is a really well-cast and hilarious movie. Though the play takes an insanely dark turn – as most of Shakespeare’s comedies are wont to do – Dogberry is always there at the ready to lighten the mood and crack us up with his malapropisms (or, as I think they ought to be called, Mistress Quicklyisms, but it doesn’t seem to want to catch on). For justice towards bad guys, romance, comedy, and a happily ever after, the number five spot goes to Much Ado About Nothing.
I was on Shakespeare Geek and just cannot help myself. This is too funny:
TOP 20 SHAKESPEAREAN FAUX PAS:
- Inviting Lady Macbeth to a dinner party and constantly telling her where she can wash up.
- Inviting Macbeth to a dinner party and constantly saying, “What a great Banquo!” instead of “What a great Banquet.”
- Asking Henry V “Whatever happened to Richard II? We hardly ever see him around anymore!”
- Telling Rosalind she looks just like a boy actor playing a girl pretending to be a boy acting like a girl.
- Asking the two noble kinsmen which one is the noblest.
- Casually mentioning to Mcduff that your wife and children weren’t butchered by a desperate megalomaniac.
- Inviting Claudius to see Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap with you.
- Trying to compliment Hamlet by referring to him as “The Great Dane.” He hates that.
- Shouting “No! It’s your imagination!” whenever Macbeth starts on that “Is this a dagger?” nonsense.
- Answering all of Hamlet’s rhetorical questions in a sarcastic tone of voice (viz. “What’s Hecuba to him? He dated Hecuba in high school!”).
- Standing in the way of Richard III’s ascent to the throne.
- Offering Othello a handkerchief after he sneezes. It’s kind of like offering Lady Macbeth a moist towelette.
- Singing the Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand” when Lavinia (from Titus Andronicus) is in the room.
- Slipping a fake spider into the martini glass of Leontes (from The Winter’s Tale).
- Referring to Gertrude as “Hamlet’s father’s brother’s wife.”
- Requesting the pianist at a bar to play “We Don’t Need Another Hero” when Claudio is right there.
- Showing up at a social occasion wearing the same cloth-of-gold of tissue dress as Cleopatra.
- Serving Caesar a salad . . . over and over again . . . every single time he comes to your place.
- Proposing marriage to Isabella—even though you know she’s almost finished taking her vows to be a nun.
- Asking King Lear about his 401(k).
It just occurred to me that the quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that is so lovely – “Lovers and madmen have such seething brains/Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/More than cool reason ever comprehends” – would be really interesting if a space was inserted between “mad” and “men”. Thus creating “Mad Men”. And now that I think about it, we could probably apply a Shakespearean character to each one on Mad Men…Don has a bit of a Hamlet complex now and then, especially when you consider the daddy/mommy issues…