Remembering Shakespeare

3 min read

On June 29th, 1613, the famous Globe Theatre went up in flames during a production of William Shakespeare's Henry VIII due to the misfire of a theatrical cannon. The theatre was and, in history, still is strongly associated with Shakespeare, from its creation to its destruction (even though it was rebuilt and stood for another thirty years after this unfortunate mishap). The first play to be held in the theatre was one of Shakespeare's - though exactly which play is debated - and the association is so strong that the theatre itself is often referred to as Shakespeare's Globe. In memory of this historic event, we have decided to take a look back at some of Shakespeare's most famous and enduring plays, plays which are still performed in theaters around the... ahem, globe... today.

 

Macbeth

The Tragedy of Macbeth is one of Shakespeare's most memorable plays - and it certainly is not for the faint of heart. Written to show the personal damages caused by seeking power for the sake of power, Shakespeare used actual history for influence when writing the play with an account of Macbeth, King of Scotland - though, of course, this tragic play differs dramatically to the actual history used for inspiration.

Following Macbeth's grapple for power and the ultimate cost of it, including one of the most memorable plot-twists of all time (no spoilers here, even if the play has been out for centuries), Macbeth is one of the Shakespearean plays still used to educate generation after generation on the arts of drama and theatre. Used regularly in education such as high school teaching, famous segments including the Song of the Witches and the renowned "to be or not to be" monologue have lost none of their dark, foreboding magic.

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Romeo and Juliet

While it's hard to claim that Shakespeare has one particular work that stands above the rest, such an argument wouldn't be unreasonable in regard to his classic play Romeo and Juliet. For many, it's the first work that comes to mind when this legendary playwright's name is brought up in conversation. Encapsulating tragedy in every sense of the word with its final act, the influence of this tale of two star-crossed lovers upon modern theatre and drama cannot be overstated.

Unknown to some, Shakespeare was influenced by two other works when writing Romeo and Juliet; The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet by Arthur Brooke and Palace of Pleasure by William Painter. Of course, he turned it into a story of his own, introducing new characters and expanding the plot. But nonetheless, it is perhaps an extra source of inspiration to many budding writers, playwrights, and actors out there to know that even someone as legendary as Shakespeare looked to others for inspiration to better his own work.

Nonetheless, Romeo and Juliet formed the groundwork for many aspects of theatre and writing that we know and utilize today. One of the most common of these is the use of archetypal young lovers - seen as the titular characters in this particular work.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Moving on from tragedies, Shakespeare also knew how to write comedies exceptionally well, conjuring tears of joy and laughter from audiences as easily as tears of sorrow and heartbreak. One of his most popular works and frequently performed across the world, this complex and, at times, utterly bizarre comedy is another play in which Shakespeare demonstrated why his name is one we respect centuries after his time.

With fantastical elements and following multiple subplots, A Midsummer's Night Dreams contains a variety of elements that are considered to be staples in Shakespeare's works. These include lover's bliss and ambiguous sexuality, among many others. Overall, this is a brilliant high note to end this list on; after all, shouldn't we remember William Shakespeare with a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts?

While you're here, don't forget to check out our vintage William Shakespeare books along with all of our other classic works of vintage literature, plays, prose, and novels!



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