Do you want to quote more Shakespeare in your life but never find opportunities to say “brevity is the soul of wit”? Do you rarely hang below balconies exchanging love vows with the daughter of your enemy? This is just the list for you.
“What an ass am I!” —Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2
“I am not a slut,” —As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 3 (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
“Hell is empty and all the devils are here,” —The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2
“Commit the oldest sins the newest kind of ways,” —Henry IV Part 2, Act 4, Scene 5
“This is the excellent foppery of the world,”
–King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2
“Making the beast with two backs,” —Othello, Act 1, Scene 1
“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool,” —As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1
“To tell thee plain, I aim to lie with thee,” —Henry VI Part 3, Act 3, Scene 2 (Works great for courting hot widows.)
“I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,” —Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Scene 1
“I wasted time, and now doth time waste me,” —Richard II, Act 5, Scene 5
“Marry, sir, in her buttocks.” —A Comedy of Errors, Act 2, Scene 5 (No judgement here.)
“My horse is my mistress,” —Henry V, Act 3, Scene 7 (Uh, there might be something wrong with that.)
“Thou dost infect my eyes,” —Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2
“Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit,” —Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 5 (“Wit” is Shakespearean slang for penis.)
“[Wine] provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance,” —Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 3
“I had rather live with cheese and garlic in a windmill, far, than feed on cates and have him talk to me in any summer-house in Christendom,” —Henry IV Part 2, Act 4 Scene 1
“Now, gods, stand up for bastards!” —King Lear, Act 1, Scene 2
“Villain, I have done thy mother!” —Titus Andronicus, Act 4, Scene 2 (This means exactly what you think it does.)
“And thou unfit for any place but hell,” —Richard III, Act 1, Scene 2
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers,” —Henry VI Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2
“Heaven truly knows that thou art false as hell.”
—Othello, Act4, Scene 2
David Tennant as Romeo in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Romeo and Juliet (2000) - Part 3
Excerpts from a Scotland on Sunday article on David at the RSC in 2000
“He is perfect casting,
because of the intensity he brings to his work,“ Michael Boyd says. While Tennant’s great friend and former landlady, the comic performer
and author of Does My Bum Look Big in This?, Arabella Weir, says: "He’s
astonishingly focused for his age and amazingly straightforward and
honest. He’s trustworthy and he’s honourable.”
is still something uncynical and unspoilt about him, though. He confesses that being with the RSC can be scary. “Not only because you
are in the home of ‘world class classical theatre’ (as all the
brochures tell you), but these big Shakespearean roles come with a lot
of historical baggage attached. People tell you how romantic Ian
McKellen was as Romeo, or how masculine Sean Bean was, or how
marvellous Laurence Olivier was. You feel the weight of all those
ghosts, those performances that have taken on a mystical resonance. And
because it’s Shakespeare, you feel it’s hard to make it believable,
because it is so beautiful. With
this play, everyone has so many ideas about it, that you almost want
to play against the beauty. We did the balcony scene the other day and I
was doing: 'But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is
the east, and Juliet is the sun!’ And I was going: 'How can I say
that?’ It is beyond parody, but all you can do is be personal with it
and make it your own, if that doesn’t sound too pretentious. I know
that’s how Alex [who plays Juliet] feels about famous lines like,
'Parting is such sweet sorrow’.”
intensity of the rollercoaster he is on is overwhelming. Stratford is a
grueling, sometimes stifling, hothouse. Rehearsal followed by show,
followed by rehearsal, in one long punishing schedule. After one-and-a-half hours in the rehearsal room, there is just time for a
snack before voice warm-ups for the matinee of The Rivals. There,
Tennant’s rapier-thin young blade gets involved in sword fights and
various cunning derring-do disguises, then he is off again for lunch.
And back on again, for The Comedy of Errors. A short show, but a
physical one, as Tennant slides down those banisters, executes
pratfalls and turns in a brilliantly funny double act with Ian Hughes,
who plays his manservant, Dromio. He also does the neatly witty trick
of lighting two post-coital cigarettes after seducing his long lost
twin’s wife and then buries his head in Nina Conti’s cleavage.
Tennant is in his dressing-room, stripped to the waist, slapping
Simple moisturizer onto his face, swigging pints of mineral water, and
packing up his make-up box, an old-fashioned leather bowling case. As
we leave, we trip up over a bloody but unbowed Hotspur, about to go on
stage and die in Henry IV, Part 1. Falstaff is plumped in the corner
and wishes us a courteous good night, while various make-up girls daub
elderly knights. “It’s like this every night at this time,” says
Tennant. “You can’t move for men in armour and there’s blood
Photo credits include: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, photostage.co.uk, the Royal Shakespeare Company, and more
I'm curious: has Hamlet always been considered Shakespeare's best play? Which play was most successful during his life?
The hopeless pedant that I am, I have to point out that not everyone would agree with your claim that Hamlet is considered to be Shakespeare’s best play. It’s certainly one of the most popular and frequently performed, but there’s just no category for judging one play as the best.
But now for your question: as we have very few dependable records of the performances of Shakespeare’s plays (unlike the performance records of the Rose Theatre, which we do have), I can’t give you a straightforward and accurate answer of what the most popular Shakespeare play was in his lifetime.
What we do know is how many of his works were published, both legally and illegally. Judging by those records, Shakespeare’ most popular work of his lifetime was his narrative poem Venus and Adonis by a long shot. As plays go, Shakespeare appears to have been known as something of a history play specialist: Henry IV Part I and Richard III were the two most published plays. This is bolstered by the fact that Henry IV led to one spin-off (The Merry Wives of Windsor) and a sequel (Henry IV Part 2). There’s also a reference to one of the character’s from Henry VI Part 1 (Talbot) in Nashe’s Pierce Pennilesse, which suggests that was another contemporary box office hit. It also helps that these were plays written earlier in his career, giving them a longer run than many of his other plays. So while Hamlet, along with Romeo and Juliet and Pericles (amongst others) were successful plays (according to various accounts), the overwhelming reputation of Hamlet doesn’t stretch back to Shakespeare’s lifetime.
In fact, judging by reception history, the status of Hamlet in the modern day is more a result of the Romantics’ obsession with the play in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
In each volume of the Shakespeare On Stage series, a leading actor takes us behind the scenes of a landmark Shakespearean production, recreating in detail their memorable performance in a major role. They lead us through the choices they made in rehearsal, and how the character works in performance, shedding new light on some of the most challenging roles in the canon. The result is a series of individual masterclasses that will be invaluable for other actors and directors, as well as students of Shakespeare; and fascinating for audiences of the plays.
In chapter 1, Roger Allam discusses playing the iconic role of Falstaff in both Henry IV plays in Dominic Dromgoole’s production at Shakespeare’s Globe.
You can read an extract from the interview under the cut.
I recently saw a post saying that it doesn't matter what order one reads shakespeare, and I was wondering if this holds up for the histories. Some of them seem interesting to me, but I don't want to have to have read all the preceding plays before I can get to the more interesting ones. That being said, I want to be able to understand what's going on. Do I need to read the earlier histories to get context for ones that come after?
There are two sorts of contexts that can enrich one’s experience of history plays: historical, and fictional. It helps to know the history the plays are based on, because it gives you the context of the tensions in the play, and it helps to watch or read the history plays in order because there are certain continuities of character and of factions, etc.
But most of the histories are perfectly entertaining on their own. The exceptions are the sequel plays like Henry IV Part 2, and Henry VI Part 3 (You can actually read Henry VIParts 2 and 3 without reading Part 1, which was probably written as a prequel). Many of the histories weren’t even written in historical chronological order so it’s very unlikely the audiences of the time watched them in order either (a bit like Star Wars, come to think of it). But then again, Shakespeare’s audience would most likely have had a little more knowledge of their recent history than people have of the Wars of the Roses today, so that would have helped.
Basically, there are some references and recurring characters that you won’t get if you don’t know the history and haven’t read all of the plays, but it’s not like you won’t understand the plays on their own. Hardly anyone actually reads the plays in order when they first start on the histories. It’s more like it can make the plays more enjoyable if you happen to get the references. It’s like watching all of the Marvel films: it will help you understand the references and who all the characters are (including their backstories), but each film is generally enjoyable on its own as well.
So go ahead and read the plays you’re interested in!
There is a good order to read them in if you do decide to read the plays in historical sequence though.
Best of the Bard: “Most likely to...” awards for every Shakespeare play
I’ve got a few more posts coming up in the Best of the Bard
series, including my favorite plays and a post about what I learned from this
experience. For today, I wanted to have a little fun by providing the list of
plays and then assigning each of them a “Most likely to…” award. Let me know
what you think and what awards you would give your favorite plays!
Tempest Most likely to sing a dirge at a karaoke party
I’ve started a collection of Shakespeare movies – it is by no means comprehensive, but I have at least one adaptation of every play. I’m more than willing to distribute them to whomever wants them. If there’s a particular adaptation that you want, let me know and I can almost definitely get my hands on it for you. Message me for links.
Posting this under a readmore so that I can continue to add to it
The sons of York will destroy each other, one brother destroying another, uncles devouring nephews, fathers beheading sons. They are a house which has to have blood, and they will shed their own if they have no other enemy.