He’s the writer we all measure ourselves by and inevitably fail. Thanks, Shakespeare. His works are genius no matter how you look at them – deep philosophical contemplations on life or action-packed adventures. His words torture thousands of high school students… and then again in college where, hopefully, they begin to take meaning. Yes, Shakespeare is the eternal torturer. Here’s why we love him.
Hamlet was the first Shakespeare play I fell in love with, and remains not only my favourite Shakespearean work, but one of my favorite plays by any playwright. When I was younger, I was drawn to Hamlet’s relatability as a sensitive young university student. The more I read it, however, the more the genius of Shakespeare’s linguistic subtleties became apparent. Hamlet is just as full of action and drama as it is philosophy, psychology, and poetry. It is at once a murderous ghost story and an intricate tale of self-discovery and passion.
Additionally, Hamlet is an actor’s dream, chock full of multi-faceted, challenging roles. It’s also a director’s dream, open to countless interpretations and stagings. Playwright’s as well have taken liberties with the Bard’s Hamlet, notably Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and W.S. Gilbert’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. While other Shakespearean works might provide more humour or romping fun, Hamlet is truly incomparable in the world of drama.
Romeo and Juliet
Shakespeare astounds me. His mysterious life is a Shakespearean play (surely, Tom Stoppard would agree). Was he a certified creative genius or a regular old working playwright, whose wit and invention we’ve exalted to an incomparable degree? Was he a man, a woman, or the first Wu Ming-like writing group? With all the mystery and interpretation surrounding Shakespeare’s life and work, I tend to favour one of his most straightforward, Romeo and Juliet. Never have I read such passionate, high-stakes drama and violence written with such elegance. The machinery of his verse is not only impressive; it never ceases to leave me breathless. I just hope the Tony Awards will get their act together one day and stop snubbing him. He/She/They deserve(s) it!
I was introduced to Shakesy at the tender age of 9, when my parents enlisted me in theatre. My first speaking role was Sprite #1 in The Tempest. As a child, I loved the story for its fantastical, fairy tale qualities. But upon studying the play in college, I learned it was so much more than a bit of magic. Shakespeare’s last play pokes fun at the very nature of theatre itself. Prospero wields the unlucky sailors and inhabitants of the island like a playwright spells fortune or misfortune for his/her characters. Quite often The Tempest is studied as Shakespeare’s last thoughts on life, the afterlife, and the human soul. However you interpret it, The Tempest is a damn fine story, if Sprite #1 doesn’t say so herself!