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MorpheusSandman
10-29-2009, 09:32 AM
I thought this might be an interesting exercise; I know I had a hard time composing my list. Feel free to add any commentary as well:

1. Hamlet (For me, an easy #1. It's the most profound piece of literature I've ever read and the most profound I could ever imagine reading. There's only one other work of art (in any medium) that had a comparable effect.)
2. King Lear
3. A Midsummer Night's Dream
4. Antony and Cleopatra (Perhaps his most underrated since it tends not to get mentioned with the "big four" yet I think it's equal with Macbeth and quite a bit better than Othello.)
5. Macbeth
6. The Tempest
7. As You Like It
8. Julius Caesar
9. Merchant of Venice
10. Troilus and Cressida (Another underrated gem. Shakespeare's rendering of the Trojan War is unique and the tonal and character complexity is a thing of beauty.)
11. Winter's Tale
12. Richard III
13. Measure for Measure
14. Othello (For me, his most overrated. I've always thought that Othello's murderous hatred advanced too fast in narrative logic terms. I like Iago as a villain, but there's something about Othello and even Desdemona I find unsympathetic. But Shakespeare's language is indeed in top form.)
15. Cymbeline
16. Coriolanus
17. Romeo and Juliet
18. Henry V
19. Much Ado About Nothing
20. Twelfth Night
21. Henry IV 1 and 2
22. Love's Labour's Lost
23. Richard II
24. Merry Wives of Windsor
25. Pericles
26. Titus Andronicus
27. King John
28. Timon of Athens
29. All's Well that Ends Well
30. Henry VI 1-3
31. Comedy of Errors
32. Two Gentlemen of Verona
33. Taming of the Shrew
34. Two Noble Kinsmen
35. Henry VIII

craig
10-29-2009, 12:54 PM
Oh, fun. I'll see if I can't get a list together in a bit. I'm sure it will be even more idiosyncratic. Let me react to yours for a minute, because that's so much easier:

1. Hamlet (For me, an easy #1. It's the most profound piece of literature I've ever read and the most profound I could ever imagine reading. There's only one other work of art (in any medium) that had a comparable effect.)

You just kind of get lost in a play like that, don't you? Spend your whole life wandering around in it. I had the great fortune to play the King in a college production.

4. Antony and Cleopatra (Perhaps his most underrated since it tends not to get mentioned with the "big four" yet I think it's equal with Macbeth and quite a bit better than Othello.)

This one doesn't do it for me. To the extent it's "Julius Caesar, Part II," I like it rather well, but the overgrown children in the title roles leave me cold.

10. Troilus and Cressida (Another underrated gem. Shakespeare's rendering of the Trojan War is unique and the tonal and character complexity is a thing of beauty.)

Used to like this one a lot more; I find I don't care for it very much now. I actually think the Iliad already speaks powerfully to the moral ambiguity of the characters and the war.

14. Othello (For me, his most overrated. I've always thought that Othello's murderous hatred advanced too fast in narrative logic terms. I like Iago as a villain, but there's something about Othello and even Desdemona I find unsympathetic. But Shakespeare's language is indeed in top form.)

I think it's too scary to watch or read. I've been known to switch off a recording just after "Willow." I don't have the courage to face that last act.

21. Henry IV 1 and 2

I find 2 substantially weaker than 1, for all its good points.

30. Henry VI 1-3

Again, 2 and 3--"The Contention" are very different and far superior to 1, which I am inclined to think of as a hastily tacked-on prequel: "Joan la Pucelle: The Phantom Menace." They're bleak, gritty plays that articulate Shakespeare's central nightmare of the disintegration of society like nothing else in the canon. Quick: tell me who the "good guys" are? The "bad guys?"

MorpheusSandman
10-29-2009, 09:26 PM
You just kind of get lost in a play like that, don't you? Spend your whole life wandering around in it.Indeed. It's like a ghost you can always only vaguely get a sense of but never really get a handle on. The "other work" that affected me more was Neon Genesis Evangelion; but we're talking about works separated by several centuries in completely different mediums so it's rather impossible to directly compare, but Evangelion quite literally saved my life.


I had the great fortune to play the King in a college production.What fun! I hate I've never given acting much of a try. I have no idea if I'd be good at it or not, but I tend to watch people like Brannagh and Olivier with mass amounts of envy.


To the extent it's "Julius Caesar, Part II," I like it rather well, but the overgrown children in the title roles leave me cold.The "overgrown children" part is telling because even though it's related to Julius Caesar it feels, to me, much more like a remake of Romeo and Juliet. The luxuriousness of the language, the mix of love, obsession/devotion, immaturity, and a more distant commentary set against a backdrop of strife and intrigue... Just like R&J's romance is tempered by the more sobering criticism of the delusions of love by Mercutio, A&C's romance is tempered by the flawed and almost sardonic immaturity of the characters.


I actually think the Iliad already speaks powerfully to the moral ambiguity of the characters and the war.I quite love The Iliad but we're obviously dealing in very different forms. I actually think reading The Iliad alongside T&C gave me a greater appreciation for both. For me, it's the tonal richness of comedy and tragedy in T&C that Shakespeare never mixed better and to greater and more ambiguous effect.


I don't have the courage to face that last act.Perhaps I just need to see a good stage or film version. The only one I've seen is Fishburne's and I didn't like it at all. It might have diluted my appreciation for the play.


I find 2 substantially weaker than 1, for all its good points... Again, 2 and 3--"The Contention" are very different and far superior to 1, which I am inclined to think of as a hastily tacked-on prequel: For me, it's very hard to separate the part-ed Histories since they seem to follow each other in such a logical manner. Even when I tend to think one is stronger than the other I get the feeling that they're better a as a whole rather than in parts.


They're bleak, gritty plays that articulate Shakespeare's central nightmare of the disintegration of society like nothing else in the canon.Hmmm, well, I'll have to pay more attention through my next run-through. I found them a bit bloated and lacking in Shakespeare's transcendental language that seems to elevate his best plays into the stratosphere.

kelby_lake
10-30-2009, 12:03 PM
It's kind of hard to rank them, so I might do a league A, league B, etc. of my opinions:

Ones I love
Othello- Did it at school, loved it. Iago is brilliant :) And I really liked the 1995 film, even though Fishburne wasn't old enough to play Othello.

Hamlet- It's very wordy: a bit like a sort of puzzle. You can't pinpoint a definition for it, as in Othello to an extent, and so I like it. It also has some great themes.

Julius Caesar- Just brilliant. Linguistically Shakespeare is at the top of his game, it's dramatically interesting, fast-paced, and full of modern relevance. You could stage it in modern dress and no one would question it twice.

Titus Andronicus- It's just great :) So much bloodshed. It may be a tragedy but there's some moments of tragiccomedy. Almost a satire in how extravangant the revenge is.

Measure for Measure- Yes, it's flawed, but there's some great conflicts in there. It has a lot of potential.

Macbeth- Just a great example of a tragedy.

Ones which are okay

Romeo and Juliet- the most overdone Shakespeare play ever. It has potential to be something more interesting on stage but on the page...it's a nice romance, nice story, not outstanding.

A Midsummer Night's Dream- Funny, if not more than a bit creepy. It also gets done too much. The comedy is done knowingly (I love the Mechanicals) and there are some darker themes but it isn't as great as the tragedies.

Much Ado About Nothing- Witty and funny. Claudio and Hero are a bit insipid and Don John's not the greatest villain but it's enjoyable.


Ones which just bore me

As You Like It- I can't remember anything about the story AT ALL except that the famous 'All the world's a stage...' speech comes from it. That's not a good sign.

craig
10-30-2009, 04:44 PM
Okay...I think this is about where I'd put them at this moment in my life:

1. Hamlet (life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans)
2. Henry V (straightforward on a first glance, but deeper and more ambiguous every time you see it)
3. Macbeth
4. Lear (we who are young will never see so much, or live so long. How hard it is to build up, how easy to destroy!)
5. Henry IV, Part 1 (it would be a great play even without Falstaff)
6. The Winter's Tale (pure magic)
7. As You Like It (Who is not in love with Rosalind?)
8. Richard III (great on its own, even better as the culmination of the tetralogy)
9. Othello
10. Caesar (a trip to the Land of Bad Options)
11. Richard II
12. 12th Night ("Viola in Wackyland")
13. Romeo & Juliet (we all destroy our own children)
14. Merchant (A pleasant little romantic comedy, utterly stolen by one of the most remarkable characters in literature.)
15. Dream
16. Much Ado
17. The Tempest
18. Henry VI, Part 3 (You do _not_ want to mess with Queen Margaret.)
19. Coriolanus (politics is a problem)
20. Titus (blood will have blood, and then _that_ blood will have blood, and so on until we're all dead)
21. Henry VI, Part 2 (Energy, passion and the nightmare vision of anarchy more than compensate for Shakespeareís still-developing powers of poetry)
22. Antony & Cleopatra (okay, so I have no taste. I find it overlong, unfocused, and centered on un-compelling characters)
23. Love's Labour's (a great feast of languages)
24. All's Well (under-appreciated)
25. Henry IV, Part 2 (yeah, it's got Falstaff in it, but it's a low point in the narrative)
26. John ("And hang a calfskin on those recreant limbs!" Gotta love The Bastard)
27. Cymbeline (wild and whirling mish-mash; the original version of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare(Abridged))
28. Measure (similarities to All's Well, but less satisfying for me because the Duke could end the game at any time by throwing back his hood)
29. Timon
30. Two Noble Kinsmen
31. Pericles (that reunion scene is wonderful, but, the play as a whole is kind of a rambling mess)
32. Errors (excellent farce, but ultimately shallow--no connection to reality)
33. Henry VIII (as many good elements as there are, it's a muddle on the stage)
34. Troilus & Cressida (I think the Iliad does a perfectly good job of deflating its own heroes. The Shakespearean retread does very little for me.)
35. Henry VI, Part 1 (how do they lose France while winning battle after battle?)
36. Windsor (slander on Falstaff's name. What do you say about a play in which Sir John Falstaff is, like, the fourth or fifth funniest role? If this hadnít made it into the Folio, who would argue that Shakespeare actually wrote it?)
37. Shrew (Unable to be reconciled with any modern conception of gender relations. The play probably should not be performed. Why it is so often produced, I am not sureóI think the big attraction is the poster for the show, in which the actress playing Kate gets to look all tough and spirited. No one ever makes a poster based on her big speech at the end.)
38. Two Gents (Silly and vile. What redeems it? The ladder scene is funny, and Launce the clown is good, but itís not enough.)

Furthermore, allow me to present my list of Ten Early Modern Plays that Are Much Better Than Shakespeare's Worst Play:

1. Doctor Faustus, Christopher Marlowe
2. The Alchemist, Ben Jonson
3. The Changeling, Thomas Middleton and William Rowley
4. The Duchess of Malfi, John Webster
5. Edward II, Christopher Marlowe
6. Volpone, Ben Jonson
7. The Revenger's Tragedy, Thomas Middleton
8. The White Devil, John Webster
9. Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe (I cheat and count both parts here)
10. A New Way to Pay Old Debts, Philip Massinger

It was an amazing time for dramatic art!

Hmmm...I also wrote a response to your response, but I guess I didn't post it. I'll see if I can't resurrect it.

MorpheusSandman
10-30-2009, 06:20 PM
Titus Andronicus- It's just great :) So much bloodshed. It may be a tragedy but there's some moments of tragiccomedy. Almost a satire in how extravangant the revenge is.Julie Taymor's adaptation gave me a greater appreciation for the play. It's rather amazing how it manages to be just about everything at once; exaggerated tragedy, genuine tragedy, a great thesis on the absurdity of revenge, sardonic parody, etc. If you haven't seen them I'd also highly recommend a film trilogy by a Korean director Chan Wook-Park that's all about revenge; Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance. The mix of tones reminded me a lot of Titus and Park is a phenomenal director with a superb eye for composition and a unique ability to mix art-cinema with a more mainstream approach to extreme violence.


Romeo and Juliet- ...on the page...it's a nice romance, nice story, not outstanding.For me I often think that the surface romance overshadows the deeper significance of the play. The great irony of the play is that it's only known for the famous tragic romance, yet it's really tempered with a more sobering criticism of love and the fools it makes of people. I also think it contains some of Shakespeare's most glorious language.


A Midsummer Night's Dream- Funny, if not more than a bit creepy. It also gets done too much. The comedy is done knowingly (I love the Mechanicals) and there are some darker themes but it isn't as great as the tragedies.For me, AMND is Shakespeare's greatest play about art and the relationship between fantasy and reality, how they're inextricably linked, and how one informs the other. If you haven't read it you should really check out Neil Gaiman's Sandman issue of the same name which tells the story of the first staging of the play in front of the very real beings of Faerie.


As You Like It- I can't remember anything about the story AT ALL except that the famous 'All the world's a stage...' speech comes from it. That's not a good sign.Sometimes the least memorable ones are the ones that get infinitely better with repeat readings. I think my favorite part of the play is actually the conversation between the shepherd and Touchstone:
CORIN

And how like you this shepherd's life, Master Touchstone?

TOUCHSTONE

Truly, shepherd, in respect of itself, it is a good
life, but in respect that it is a shepherd's life,
it is naught. In respect that it is solitary, I
like it very well; but in respect that it is
private, it is a very vile life. Now, in respect it
is in the fields, it pleaseth me well; but in
respect it is not in the court, it is tedious. As
is it a spare life, look you, it fits my humour well;
but as there is no more plenty in it, it goes much
against my stomach. Hast any philosophy in thee, shepherd?

CORIN

No more but that I know the more one sickens the
worse at ease he is; and that he that wants money,
means and content is without three good friends;
that the property of rain is to wet and fire to
burn; that good pasture makes fat sheep, and that a
great cause of the night is lack of the sun; that
he that hath learned no wit by nature nor art may
complain of good breeding or comes of a very dull kindred.

TOUCHSTONE

Such a one is a natural philosopher. Wast ever in
court, shepherd?

CORIN

No, truly.

TOUCHSTONE

Then thou art damned.

CORIN

Nay, I hope.

TOUCHSTONE

Truly, thou art damned like an ill-roasted egg, all
on one side.

CORIN

For not being at court? Your reason.

TOUCHSTONE

Why, if thou never wast at court, thou never sawest
good manners; if thou never sawest good manners,
then thy manners must be wicked; and wickedness is
sin, and sin is damnation. Thou art in a parlous
state, shepherd.

CORIN

Not a whit, Touchstone: those that are good manners
at the court are as ridiculous in the country as the
behavior of the country is most mockable at the
court. You told me you salute not at the court, but
you kiss your hands: that courtesy would be
uncleanly, if courtiers were shepherds.

TOUCHSTONE

Instance, briefly; come, instance.

CORIN

Why, we are still handling our ewes, and their
fells, you know, are greasy.

TOUCHSTONE

Why, do not your courtier's hands sweat? and is not
the grease of a mutton as wholesome as the sweat of
a man? Shallow, shallow. A better instance, I say; come.

CORIN

Besides, our hands are hard.

TOUCHSTONE

Your lips will feel them the sooner. Shallow again.
A more sounder instance, come.

CORIN

And they are often tarred over with the surgery of
our sheep: and would you have us kiss tar? The
courtier's hands are perfumed with civet.

TOUCHSTONE

Most shallow man! thou worms-meat, in respect of a
good piece of flesh indeed! Learn of the wise, and
perpend: civet is of a baser birth than tar, the
very uncleanly flux of a cat. Mend the instance, shepherd.

CORIN

You have too courtly a wit for me: I'll rest.

TOUCHSTONE

Wilt thou rest damned? God help thee, shallow man!
God make incision in thee! thou art raw.

CORIN

Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get
that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's
happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my
harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes
graze and my lambs suck.

TOUCHSTONE

That is another simple sin in you, to bring the ewes
and the rams together and to offer to get your
living by the copulation of cattle; to be bawd to a
bell-wether, and to betray a she-lamb of a
twelvemonth to a crooked-pated, old, cuckoldly ram,
out of all reasonable match. If thou beest not
damned for this, the devil himself will have no
shepherds; I cannot see else how thou shouldst
'scape.

kelby_lake
10-31-2009, 06:05 PM
Agree about R and J and the surface romance getting in the way. That's why I'd like to have two people of the same gender- if people saw it as more of an intense friendship or rebellion against the hatred of the parents, it might be more interesting.

atiguhya padma
10-31-2009, 07:11 PM
Apparently William Golding was once asked which 5 Shakespeare plays he would preserve if all the others had to go. His answer was: Antony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Twelfth Night and Love's Labours Lost. I think I would only agree with Hamlet, and possibly A Midsummer Night's Dream. For me the following are like lightships of literature:

Hamlet
Macbeth
King Lear
Richard III
The Merchant of Venice
Othello

Then I would say that I really enjoy the following:

Henry V
Merry Wives of Windsor
A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Tempest
Troilus and Cressida

kelby_lake
11-03-2009, 01:23 PM
The tragedies are the best

Vladimir777
11-03-2009, 02:27 PM
So, Morpheus, I gotta ask: what was the other work of art you mentioned that had a comparable effect on you as Hamlet?

MorpheusSandman
11-03-2009, 07:14 PM
So, Morpheus, I gotta ask: what was the other work of art you mentioned that had a comparable effect on you as Hamlet?A '95-'97 anime series and concluding film: Neon Genesis Evangelion (http://www.amazon.com/Neon-Genesis-Evangelion-Platinum-Collection/dp/B000767QTA) / The End of Evangelion (http://www.amazon.com/NEON-GENESIS-EVANGELION-BOX-SET-DISC/dp/B0009S4J5K/ref=cm_cr_dp_orig_subj). You can read my review of both on the front page under the moniker of Suzanne ("A Masterful Work of Artistic Storytelling" on the series and "The Brilliant Conclusion to a Most Profound Series" on the other). Most would call me crazy but I honestly believe it's on the same level as Hamlet; but I've spent so much time with both, so much time studying them and attempting to gain an understanding of their deepest nuances and complexities that I think I'm in a fair position to do so. Both are examples of works that immensely effected me emotionally on my first several experiences but have equally impressed me intellectually as I came to understand the craft behind the art and how they accomplished what they accomplished. Of course, two works separated by different mediums and 400 years obviously aren't directly comparable but I find them equally brilliant and profound.

Vladimir777
11-18-2009, 05:15 PM
Fair enough. :)

ajvenigalla
03-09-2017, 06:17 PM
The ones I've read

1. Hamlet
2. Macbeth
3. Lear
4. Othello
5. Henry IV Parts 1 and 2
6. Twelfth Night
7. Merchant of Venice
8. Antony and Cleopatra
9. A Midsummer Night's Dream
10. Romeo and Juliet
11. Richard II
12. Coriolanus
13. Henry V
14. Taming of the Shrew
15. Much Ado about Nothing
16. Taming of the Shrew