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Three Shakespeare Plays Everyone Should Read

By: Kelly Branco, Reporter and Book Nook Editor

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William Shakespeare’s plays are taught in high schools and middle schools around the country. His plays are considered classic works in the theater. Although, many people don’t enjoy these plays and/or don’t know which ones to read. Many people shy away from the language and the concepts because they don’t understand them. William Shakespeare created many words in the modern English language such as “elbow” or “bandit”. Many of his plays inspired many other movies, books, and concepts we have today (for example West Side Story and witches). So for anyone who wants to get into reading Shakespeare or to anyone who’s just curious, here are the three Shakespeare plays you should read.

Photo Credit: Photo via Legend Love Story under Creative Commons License
After one kiss, Romeo sneaks to Juliet’s balcony one hour after meeting her to profess his undying love.

Romeo and Juliet

Romeo and Juliet is the story of the classic star-crossed lovers. Although this was loosely based off of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

The Montagues (Romeo’s family) and the Capulets (Juliet’s family) have a feud and they’re always fighting. Romeo is heartbroken after his love Rosaline rejects him because she won’t give him what he wants. Benvolio, Romeo’s cousin tells him that he will help him forget Rosaline and look at other beautiful women. Mercutio, a royal but neither Capulet or Montague, goes along with Romeo and Benvolio to the party because they’re all best friends. Romeo crashes the Capulet’s masquerade party and sees Juliet. Juliet’s parents want to marry her off to the much older and noble county Paris. Once Romeo and Juliet see each other its love at first sight. They see each other at secret meetings with the help of Juliet’s Nurse and Friar Lawrence and got married. Although, their love is short-lived after three days and they both commit suicide. 

I think this is a play that everyone MUST read, or see it live. There’s lots of sword fighting and angsty teenagers. I feel like almost everyone can relate to liking someone so much that you thought you were in love. The story is beautiful and it also is easier to understand than some of Shakespeare’s other plays.

Macbeth

Photo Credit: Photo via Picryl under Creative Commons License
Because of the witches prophecy to Macbeth and Banquo Act 1 Scene 3 it causes Macbeth to think how he can defy his fate and rewrite it.

Before anything, NEVER say Macbeth in a theater, backstage or on stage. It’s an old theater superstition, it’s a “cursed word”. If you do need to talk about it in a theater say “The Scottish Play”.

Macbeth is about well, Macbeth. The king promotes Macbeth because of his amazing acts as a Scottish general. He meets these witches who tell him that he’ll be the king of Scotland one day. He’s intrigued and does whatever he can to be the king and stay there. So he becomes king all thanks to his wife and goes mad with power. Lady Macbeth starts to feel guilty after what she did and becomes very guilty. Macbeth also gets some prophecies from apparitions and he believes he’s invincible. SPOILER: he’s not.

This play is probably one of the most action-packed Shakespeare plays out of the three. Also, the character of Lady Macbeth is very interesting. She’s basically Macbeth’s puppeteer, she’s ruthless and cruel but she goes through a change in this play. The arc of Macbeth as a character is also super interesting to watch. And the fact that these witches basically lay his whole life out for him.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Photo Credit: Photo via Flickr under Creative Commons License
As per Oberon’s request a mischievous fairy, also called a puck, named Robin Goodfellow (so ironic), squeezes a love potion in Titania’s eyes in order to make her fall in love with the first thing she sees. She sees a man with a donkey head and falls in love with him.

This one is probably my favorite Shakespeare play. It’s so funny and if you see it live it’s even funnier.

A lot goes on in this play as there are so many characters. Lots of characters have similar names. There’s lots of talk of marriage as Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius but she loves Lysander (who loves her back). Theseus, a god, tells Hermia she must marry Demetrius, die, or become a nun. So naturally, she and Lysander run away. I can’t forget about Helena, Hermia’s best friend who loves Demetrius. Demetrius basically messed with Helena’s feelings. He said he loved her but then he left her to try to marry Hermia. Then there’s Oberon, the fairy king, and his wife Titania. Lots of things are happening in their marriage there as well, they fight over a child that’s not even theirs and the custody of the child between them. There’s also Bottom and his crew who want to put on the timeless play of Pyramus and Thisbe for Theseus’s wedding. Through lots of “love potions” in people’s eyes and fighting this play is hilarious in every way. I saw it live and almost couldn’t stop crying of laughter. Oh, and someone’s head turns into a donkey head.

This play is good for anyone who wants a laugh. Hermia is one of the sassiest characters ever and some of the things she says are so petty. There’s lots of situational comedy, it’s very entertaining.

No Fear Shakespeare

Photo Credit: Kelly Branco
A sample page of a No Fear Shakespeare book looks like this. This is from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

One reason that so many people shy away from Shakespeare is that they don’t understand the language. Shakespeare wrote in Old English so the phrases are differently written than the way we speak English now. Sparknotes created a series of Shakespeare plays called “No Fear Shakespeare”.  Sparknotes structures each book in a way where the Shakespeare version is on the left pages of the book and the English translations are on the right side.

You can buy these books online, or in stores. I usually get them from barnesandnoble.com. Also, if you don’t want to spend money, you can go onto sparknotes.com and search up “No Fear Shakespeare”. Here are the links for the online versions: Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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About the Contributor
Kelly Branco, Reporter and Book Nook Editor

Kelly Branco is a senior and this is her first year working on The Declaration. Branco is a fan of theater, she loves to perform and watch Broadway shows...

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Three Shakespeare Plays Everyone Should Read