Tomorrow is the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. In honour of this momentous occasion, Team YP shares their favourite work by England’s greatest writer.
All the world’s a stage
I usually don’t like tragedies, but Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of Hamlet (which I watched through National Theatre Live) was a stage performance unlike any other I’ve seen before. He’s devastated by grief, he’s consumed by the notion of revenge but at the same time there’s a smartness and charm to him.
All the other acting was great as well, and director Lyndsey Turner made creative use of the stage and scene changes to add to the dramatic effect. Watching the play made me realise that as good as Shakespeare’s plays are for reading, they only truly come to life on stage.
Melanie Leung, Reporter
Impossible to choose just one
Frankly, the fact that I have to choose one is cruel. I am very fond of Taming of the Shrew because I think it packs a powerful feminist punch that most people are not aware of, and it all depends on how it’s read. (Plus, it’s what the brilliant movie 10 Things I Hate About You is based on).
But I also love Richard III because I love a good villain, and Henry V because of that character’s transformation.
I love Othello as well, because it’s a great story with so many brilliant characters. But ... The Tempest is my favourite. Aside from the fact that Miranda and Ferdinand are perhaps two of the most pointless characters ever, I like the play because it doesn’t have a distinct goodie and baddie. Everyone has their own agenda and everyone is flawed. We can all relate to the anger and negativity felt by Prospero, while Ariel is impish and delightful (I’ve always enjoyed productions in which Ariel is a female more), and her desperate desire to be free and be an individual is also incredibly engaging. The Tempest is angry, tempestuous, funny and magical. What’s not to love?
Heidi Yeung, Web sub-editor
Not your average love story
I love Romeo and Juliet. Admittedly the actions of the main characters are frustratingly stupid, and yes, it doesn’t have a happy ending, but the plot is a lot more interesting and less predictable than Cinderella, and offers a more realistic insight into human behaviour and our habit of acting irrationally. Best of all, the 1996 Baz Lurhmann adaption conveys all of this in a beautifully shot, easy-to-understand film that everyone will love.
Lucy Christie, Sub-editor
A classic masterpiece
I like Julius Caesar. Of all the characters Shakespeare has written about, I find Brutus the most interesting. He is almost pathological in his devotion to honour over the life of his friend. And yet we can sympathise with him and understand his ideals of not having Rome ruled by one single person.
Susan Ramsay, Editor
A master of timeless tales
I like Twelfth Night, or What You Will, as Shakespeare’s portrayal of Viola and her love triangle is inextricably intertwined. No other characters of his plays, except Hamlet, can be as complicated as Viola in terms of her gender issues and inner torment.
We can sympathise with her when she identifies herself as “poor monster”. Disguised as Cesario, a man, she faces an internal conflict when she’s unable to tell Duke Orsino how much she loves him. But the most powerful part appears to be the depiction of the infamous and impassioned triangle: Viola loves Duke Orsino; Duke Orsino loves Olivia; but Olivia loves Viola/Cesario. Shakespeare’s greatest strength is his ability to make everything real and timeless, as anyone can mess up their relationship like Viola.
Ben Pang, Reporter
Better a witty fool than foolish wit
Ben stole mine, but I’m sticking with it because I love it for TOTALLY different reasons.
Twelfth Night is hilarious, especially if you skip the whole love triangle/pentagon thing and focus on the shenanigans between Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Malvolio and Maria. Bullying is never cool, but the trickery and teasing that takes place here are more about seeing an arrogant character get his comeuppance. Also, it has two of the best-named characters: Toby Belch and Andrew Aguecheek. It also has some pretty feminist themes – the women here are really in charge – which many people find surprising in 17th century writing. Plus it has some excellent quotes, including “In nature there’s no blemish but the mind/ None can be called deformed but the unkind”, a reminder that it’s how you act, not how you look, that is important.
Karly Cox, Deputy Editor
A modern telling
Being Canadian, I feel like I have to choose Strange Brew. Sure, on the surface it is the story of two boneheaded “hoser” brothers who are offered their dream job. But, if you look beneath the surface, you’ll find that Bob and Doug McKenzie are actually unwitting participants in a modern (well, 1983) retelling of Hamlet. A young woman has doubts about her father’s “accidental” death – especially after she discovers his ghostly message telling her the truth surrounding his demise, and how it’s related to the hostile takeover of the family business.
Sam Gusway, Sub-editor