The best Shakespeare play

As the title. I’ve tried to include all the biggies from his comedies, tragedies and histories - as well as included the mandatory ‘other’ option and an option for those who don’t care for old Bill.

Say what you like about Bill, he was rather prolific. At school we mainly looked at his comedies (A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night), which I think was a big mistake - looking back, I can’t stand them. The jokes fall totally flat and the puns are unbearable. Mind you, I can’t exactly blame him - in 500 years I’m sure people will be scratching their heads at The Simpsons. “The goggles, they do nothing”?

I have to say from my fairly limited readings, that my favourite bits tend to be in Hamlet - the famous “To be, or not to be…” soliloquy is found here, as well as “What a piece of work is man…”, both iconic Shakespearian lines.

I also like the “If you prick me, do I not bleed?” bit in The Merchant of Venice, although the overall antisemitic overcurrent in the play leaves a bad taste in the mouth these days. Henry V wins in terms of pure badassery.

My reading of the bard is still very limited, so what say the more literate Dopers?

The Comedy of Errors.

Downhill from there.

:shakes head at you people:

The plays, especially the comedies, really should be seen to be appreciated. The jokes might fall flat on the page, as might a Simpson’s joke read from a script. But acted out those same corny jokes will have me laughing like a loon.

My picks? Macbeth and Midsummer’s Night Dream.

I’ll give you two guesses which one I picked, and the first guess doesn’t count.

Richard II is the most poetic of all of Shakespeare’s plays, and has been one of my favourites for years.

apparently I’m not the only one who’s username is from the Bard - consequently my vote for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

I like The Winter’s Tale, which is a really weird play – the first half is pure tragedy, with Othello-like jealousy and evil twists of fate. The second half is lighthearted romance much like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with a ending that is either magic or a 16-year-long joke played upon the protagonist.

My overall favorite is The Tempest, and had this poll been six months ago, I’d have picked that alone. But this summer, the local Shakespeare company put on the best performance I’ve ever seen of Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I voted for that, too.

I cannot over-emphasize how much difference it makes seeing the plays as plays. I don’t feel that I’ve fully experienced the ones that I’ve only read, though I’ve liked almost all.

I wish I had (or will have!) the opportunity to see great stage productions of more of them. I’ve never seen a live Henry V or Othello that matched the best film adaptations, for example, though I like those plays very much.

Among those I have seen as great stage productions, I’ll go with The Tempest, then Antony and Cleopatra second.

If you have a Shakespeare repertory company anywhere within a day’s travel, please support them.

King Lear, of course. Not my favorite. That honor goes to Twelfth Night. But by far the best.

I just clicked off the BBC Hamlet, concluding a month of viewing 35 of the plays (library still needs to get back Errors and Merchant). I’ll give it to Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s clearly De gustibus non est disputandem.

I voted for Henry IV, Part 1 or 2, but I really mean Parts 1 and 2. There’s something about the sheer epic sweep of the history cycles that make them much more awesome than any single play can be. (Even better if you add Richard II and Henry V to the mix, but I figured ticking more than one box would be getting way too greedy.)

I’m gratified to see that my personal favorite, Hamlet, is the favored play. Hamlet may be the most quoted (and equally misquoted) play in the English language, and managed to incorporate (dark) comedy and tragedy effectively. The Branaugh film adaptation is pretty definitive, if slightly overwrought; I have the 2010 BBC production on DVD and trying to find a four hour block of time to watch it. I’m mildly disappointed that Akira Kurosawa never directed an adaptation, as itmwould have been the perfect métier for this play. However, no cinematic telling is really comparable to the immediacy of a great stage production. I was lucky enough to catch last year’s production at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival which was truly awesome.

In general, and especially with the comedies, the plays have to be performed and seen, not read. Like Chekov, what seems overwrought on the page is complex and nuanced in a good production.


I suspect that when Shakespeare was writing plays intended primarily as comedies, he made a point of using very broad humor in order to make sure his audience would get the jokes. Comedies have to be funny or they don’t work - and laugh-lines that don’t get laughs are, by definition, not funny.

But Shakespeare had plenty of very dark and funny lines in his histories and tragedies, and I think those hold up very well today. In these plays, I suspect Shakespeare felt he could get away with most of his audience missing a joke, so he was free to be more subtle in his humor. Richard Gloucester and Edmund in particular have some frankly great lines, as do many of the supporting characters in Richard III. (Remember the exchange between the assassins? “Ah, where’s your conscience now?” “In Gloucester’s purse!”)

I checked off Richard III, myself - it was hard, but the protagonist is such a fascinating bastard, he makes the play easily the most fun of the Bard’s works.

Yeah, me too.

I picked Hamlet here, but my favorite oration from Shakespeare is Marc Antony’s “I come not to praise Caesar” speech, how he rouses the crowd while still technically staying within the bounds layed down by the conspirators. Marlon Brando’s version literally gives me goosebumps.

Of all Shakespeare’s plays, West Side Story has the best music.

If we are saying the best, it’s a toss up between Hamlet and Lear. Personally I am going to go with Lear which I think has a little more depth to it than Hamlet and isn’t bogged down by so much extraneous nonsense as Hamlet is.

My favorite is The Tempest. Not his best, but very fun.

I like Hamlet quite a bit, but went with King Lear. (Why checkboxes?)

I personally enjoy Othello the most. So many beautiful lines; such a human tragedy. And Iago is such a wanker, for no apparent reason.

But Hamlet is far and away the best. Such a deep and thoughtful exploration of depression before the concept even had a name. I have of late, wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth.