Narrowing Things Down

Nearly 56% of you folks voted for a play by Shakespeare, so I'm happy to do that! Just tell me which one...or maybe more than one!


  1. Please rank these plays in order from 1 (your favorite) to 6 (your least favorite).

    Play #1:Hamlet
    Overview: Prince Hamlet must find out who killed his father, but in a climate of deceit and treachery where nothing is as it seems, determining truth from fiction is somewhat difficult.
    Pros: It's a play, which means we can see a filmed version of it. The play is also a major classic, one of those works that you must read if you want to consider yourself "culturally literate." Hamlet's family problems make for interesting reading.
    Cons: If you don't like Shakespeare, you might not like it.

    Play #2: Othello
    Overview: A sociopath named Iago takes revenge on his boss, Othello, for promoting another guy to a job he himself thought he deserved. To get revenge, Iago convinces Othello that his wife cheated on him, with tragic results.
    Pros: A fast-moving plot with a relentless focus on jealous obsession.
    Cons: If you don't like Shakespeare, you won't like it. Also, even though there's a great film version of this, I can't show it in class because it's rated R, and all the other ones are major in "worse than the film of _Clan of the Cave Bear_."

    Play #3: Twelfth Night
    Overview: Seen "She's the Man"? You'll find this plot familiar: Orsino is in love with Olivia, who's sworn off men...that is, until she falls in love with the attractive young man Cesario. The problem? Cesario's in love with Orsino...who has no idea that Cesario is really a woman in disguise. Complicated and funny love triangle!
    Pros: Good film version we can watch in class. Very funny.
    Con: It's funny in a Shakespeare way, not in a "Family Guy" way.

    Play #4: A Midsummer Night's Dream
    Helena loves Demetrius, but Demetrius loves Hermia...who loves Lysander, who hates Demetrius. Together, the two couples enter into the woods where mischief begins when the fairies who live there decide to mess with them and with a group of blue-collar workers who are in the forest rehearsing a play for the king. Good stuff!
    Cons: Same con as above. I'll try to find a classroom-acceptable version to play in class, but I can't guarantee that one exists.

    Play #5: The Merchant of Venice
    Overview: In order to get married to the wealthy Portia, the maxed-out-his-plastic protagonist Bassanio needs to borrow money from Shylock the moneylender, using his friend Antonio as the cosigner. When Antonio can't pay the money back, Shylock demands his grim payment: a pound of Antonio's flesh.
    Pros: Focused, gripping plot with a strong and intelligent female character in the lead and a tense courtroom scene. Good film version we can see in class.
    Cons: Critics frequently accuse the play of being anti-Semitic in its portrayal of Shylock. There are clearly anti-Semitic characters in the play, but others argue that the play itself does not send an anti-Semitic message. A controversial play.

    Play #6: The Taming of the Shrew
    Overview: The lovely and docile sister Bianca can't get married until her shrewish sister Katharina does. Luckily, along comes the virile Petruchio, a man born to "tame the shrew" by killing her with kindness.
    Pros: Very funny, even slapsticky humor, especially given the immediate chemistry between Katharina and Petruchio.
    Cons: Many have found it to have a decidedly antifeminist message: after all, we're talking about a man "taming" a woman here. Others disagree, pointing out that this is a love match, not a gender war.

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    Twelfth Night  
    Midsummer Night's Dream  
    The Merchant of Venice  
    The Taming of the Shrew  

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