Hi everyone! As an English Literature student there is one man that I have been unable to escape in my life. William Shakespeare. The Bard. The greatest literary mind of all time, according to some. I’m from a family where I was made aware of Shakespeare from a very early age, I can remember talking about his plays with my nan before I’d finished primary school. Since I arrived at university I have studied various Shakespeare plays and poems so I thought I would share my experience of his work in a post! I’ll be focusing on when I read the work and what I thought of it!
- The Tempest. I’ve studied this play twice. Considered to be one of Shakespeare’s last plays it was the first I properly studied. I was 11, in Year 7 in high school, and loved it. Miranda and Ferdinand’s relationship was easy to understand yet I didn’t understand some of the deeper themes such as domination as with the relationship with Prospero and Caliban. I also studied it in my first year of university where we looked at the metatheatricality of the play, especially with Prospero’s last speech. I’d give The Tempest 6/10 for enjoyment. The film with Helen Mirren as the wizard is excellent though.
- Romeo and Juliet. I studied this for my GCSE in English Literature. Before then I’d only ever watched the Leonardo di Caprio film, a masterpiece, and was excited to look at one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. Reading it and having to answer questions about it definitely lessened the love I had for it especially because my teacher liked looking at it from a modern perspective, therefore the sexist under tones really came to light. I’d give Romeo and Juliet 8/10 for enjoyment and would recommend this to anyone who wants to get into Shakespeare because the plot is easier than most to understand.
- Anthony and Cleopatra. I studied this play for my A Level English Literature exams. I loved this play and was often found comparing it to Romeo and Juliet (the main characters deaths mainly). This was the first Shakespeare play that I looked at in a lot of depth in terms of its historical context and religious symbolism. It is my favourite Shakespearian History play and by far my favourite play of Shakespeare’s that I have studied. Enjoyment 10/10- especially the scene where Anthony describes what a crocodile looks like.
- Sonnet 18. It was piece of seminar reading I did in my first year at university. Before starting university Sonnet 18 was one of my favourite poems and it still remains one of my favourite poems. By studying a well known sonnet it was easier to understand how the poetic form worked. I’d give it 10/10 for enjoyment and I am telling you to go and read it now if you haven’t ever looked at it!
- King John. Second year of university. I hated this play. It was very boring to read and I didn’t know what was actually going on half of the time whilst I was reading it. This play does have a slight place in my heart though because it was the first Shakespeare play that I saw performed at the RSC in Stratford Upon Avon. Even that doesn’t fully redeem it and I give it a 3/10 for enjoyment- Shakespeare has better history plays.
- Twelfth Night. Also a second year university text. I’ve always been a bigger fan of Shakespearian comedies than tragedies and Twelfth Night is a favourite. The plot can sometimes be rather complex but once I got to grips with it I really enjoyed it. Also the film She’s The Man is based on Twelfth Night and it’s amazing so we have to thank Shakespeare for that. I’d give it a 8/10 for enjoyment.
- Venus and Adonis. My most recent Shakespeare text. This is the first extended poem by Shakespeare that I have read and I have not yet completed my seminar discussion on it but I am looking forward to it! I’ve always loved reading how Ancient Greek mythological figures feature in Shakespeare’s work and so Venus and Adonis was a really interesting text to read! I’d give it 6/10 for enjoyment.
So there is all of the Shakespeare that I have ever studied. I have read a lot of his plays but I do really that you can get so much more out of them when you have large discussions about the themes, characters and context of the plays. What plays if any have you studied? What is your favourite Shakespeare play?