Here are my abridged thoughts on the plays as I read them.

All’s Well That Ends Well (1602)

Read: Yes Seen: No

When I first read this play, I was disappointed because it failed to meet my expectations. However, the second reading several years later, then freed from preconceptions, allowed me to enjoy the confusing elements of the play and complex humanist characters.

Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

As with many plays, when I read this I was not impressed. But, when the words were spoken by actors, rather than interpreted through my doleful imagination, the plot, characters, and events sprang to life, surprising me with their potency. I find this play especially interesting as a look at more mature relationships, which so many of the Bard’s other well known plays center around youths.

As You Like It (1599)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Currently, this play has the place in my heart for favorite comedy by Shakespeare. The pure joy in the midst of the hardship these characters face elevates my spirit without fail. Rosalind’s internal conflict drives the play, and that sets this play apart from most other comedies, and even some tragedies.

Comedy of Errors (1589)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Not to discredit Shakespeare, but just lying on the page, this play is not intensely impressive. Instead of painting a clear portrait, this play feels like Shakespeare has built actors and directors a play ground, where they can manifest the most absurd and hysterical actions.

Coriolanus (1607)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

After watching this for the first time, the only thing running through my head was why haven’t I heard of this play before?! The epitome of man vs. society, this story deserves a higher place in the cannon; it has drama, comedy, a smidgen of romance, and plenty of tragedy.

Cymbeline (1609)

Read: Yes Seen: No

I desperately want to see this play performed, because it is such a strange conglomeration of things. One thing I especially love is that this is a play that can either be a dark dramatic war drama, or a ridiculous farcical comedy.

Hamlet (1600)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

It’s recognized as one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays, and I agree.

Henry IV, Part I (1597)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Every time I watch a production of this play, I find myself surprised by different moments, different characters. Shakespeare has crafted such a varied and full cast of characters, that even though there are multiple plot lines, each feels complete and connected.

Henry IV, Part II (1597)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Where I love almost every second of part I, there are lots of moments in this second part where the side stories feel tedious. I’ve yet to see a production where I don’t find myself impatiently tapping my feet during the Shallow and Falstaff scenes.

Henry V (1598)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Thoughts:

Again, another classic that I believe fully deserves its place as a recognized Great.

Henry VI, Part I (1591)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Honestly, I enjoy the first Henriad more, but this play has amazing capacity for great fight choreography and hilarious moments.

Henry VI, Part II (1590)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Henry VI, Part III (1590)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Henry VIII (1612)

Read: No Seen: No

Julius Caesar (1599)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

This play confuses me textually because I can never decide whom to sympathize with. Shakespeare weaves a complicated political drama, where the actors and directors ultimately get to decide who is the hero and who the villain, and to what degree. So, even though I don’t necessarily love the text of the play, I find stagings deeply intriguing.

King John (1596)

Read: Yes Seen: No

King Lear (1605)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Another tragedy I have a difficult time watching, not only because it is sad, but because Shakespeare deals with the fears of every person, growing old and losing their mind. As an intellectual, those are especially terrifying, adding family betrayal and loss makes it truly horrific.

Love’s Labour’s Lost (1594)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

This play, as some great moments. But generally, I find it has far too much of all I dislike about Much Ado (bumbling police officers, contrived gossiping), and not quite enough of all the things I do like (clever word play, fascinating characters, and a happy ending).

Macbeth (1605)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

In my mind, this is the darkest of all of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The fall from grace is so brutal, depraved, and complete, and there are moments that genuinely scare me when reading or watching.

Measure for Measure (1604)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Merchant of Venice (1596)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

The political incorrectness within the play opens it for challenging, but generally rewarding, staging decisions. For a “comedy” it has a wide array of complicated and potentially problematic characters, giving actors and directors a lot to work with.

Merry Wives of Windsor (1600)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

It’s freaking hilarious.

Much Ado about Nothing (1598)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

I want to love this play, because it is a thoroughly well loved play, but the character of Claudio is just difficult for me to like, which makes the ending difficult. Benedict and Beatrice are pure bliss.

Othello (1604)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Whereas Shakespeare’s other tragic heroes have a flaw that causes their downfall, Othello commits the crime of being too trusting (or naive, or jealous). Any way you take it, his flaw is much less than ambition, greed, or wrath. And with only one villain to speak of in the play, the carnage is painful to watch because it hurts so many.

Pericles (1608)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Richard II (1595)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

I adore this play. Not only is the language absolutely stunning and provocative – full of fascinating political philosophy – the characters are entirely ambiguous.

Richard III (1592)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Romeo and Juliet (1594)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Taming of the Shrew (1593)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Tempest (1611)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Timon of Athens (1607)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Titus Andronicus (1593)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Troilus and Cressida (1601)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Twelfth Night (1599)

Read: Yes Seen: Yes

Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594)

Read: Yes Seen: No

Winter’s Tale (1610)

Read: No Seen: Yes

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