As the English play-wright, Shakespeare hits his 455th birthday, we’ll be rounding up our top plays from the Elizabethan, literary mastermind! Recovering the grimmest tragedies, sobering romances and intricate, arresting comedies, we will be taking you through the highlights of Shakespeare’s literary canon.
Believed to be Shakespeare’s first tragedy and written nearing the end of the 16th century, Titus Adronicus is by Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy. If you’re fan of gore and horror, Titus Andronicus is a definite must read.
The play engages in the story of Titus, a Roman General, who returns after a decade of war and brings with him captives: Tamora, Queen of Goth and her three sons, Alarbus, Chiron, and Demetrius. He becomes the play’s antihero as he ticks off a cycle of revenge between him and Tamora, after offering her son Alarbus as a human sacrifice to avenge the loss of his own brother as per Roman Laws.
Packed with references to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, which foretells the tragic story of sisters, Philomena and Procne, Titus Andronicus is not for the faint hearted. The play questions the morality of Roman Laws, yet in a wider, contemporary context reminds us of the blurred lines distinguishing acts of justice from selfish acts of revenge.
A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Written around the year, 1956, A Midsummer’s Night Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved plays, as result of its light hearted comedy. The play consists of different narratives that are all interweaved and headed by the wedding of Theseus, the Duke of Athens to Hippolyta, formerly Queen of The Amazons. Alongside references of love in Greek mythological characters, the play chronicles mortal love through the characters Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius.
The love between the mortals is tampered with by the mischievous fairy, Puck that leads to a series of odd parings. Nonetheless, the comedy gently fixes all these odd couplings and bickering, which is perfectly summarised by Puck’s statement to the audience in the Epilogue.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream.
– Puck, Epilogue, A Midsummer's Night's Dream
— Robert Burgess (@RobLBurgess) December 19, 2017
A Much Ado About Nothing
Set in Messina, Italy, A Much Ado About Nothing skips the intrusion of a mythical fairy stirring drama into the hearts of lovers and instead uses the good old tactic of gossiping and ‘rumour has it’.
The play follows Benedick and Claudio, who return from war and are subsequently, acquainted with Hero and Beatrice. Although, Hero and Claudia fall deeply in love, Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into squashing their egos and finally confessing their love for each other. The darker side of rumours and gossiping, albeit leads to Hero and Claudio falling apart as false rumours of her infidelity are spread.
“Which is the villain? let me see his eyes”
— Shadow and the Fox (@shadowandfox) March 31, 2019