A lot of people think that running a blog like this is easy. “Oh Micah,” they say snidely. “Running a blog like that is easy!” Well surprisingly repetitive naysayers of the internet allow me to express briefly (and with a musical flair) the truth of the matter.

It isn’t.

Especially not having to write a “top five” Shakespeare article because some guy I don’t know asked me to do it (thanks Craig.) So take that Internet doubters, put that in your pope and smoke it…. wait, what?

Number 5: Twelfth Night

Tough battle here between Twelfth Night and Much Ado About Nothing for the fifth spot on the list. In the end I gave it to twelfth night for a couple reasons not the least of which being that it’s probably the Shakespeare comedy that I would most like to be in. Plus the triumvirate of Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Agucheek (another butt joke from Shakespeare? I think so.) and Feste are hard to beat humor wise. Feste is the one I’ve seen screwed up the most but Ben Kingsley (coming soon to an Iron Man 3 near you soon) wrote the book on how to play this character in a SUPER old school version of Twelfth night starring him and an incredibly young Helen Bonham Carter (Editor’s Note: Don’t ask me how Ben Kingsley wrote the book on how to play a character by being in a MOVIE. Micah is the Emeril of mixing metaphors.)

Feste as he should be (Accordian not required.)

Feste as he should be (Tiny accordion not required.)

Sure it’s another somewhat cliche’ “mistaken identity that would never actually happen” play but there are some absolutely hilarious scenes in this play that are well worth having to tie your common sense up in the next room.

 

Number 4: A Comedy of Errors

The very top of the Shakespearean comedy, A Comedy of Errors tops Twelfth Night because it (for the most part) just keeps the humor coming from start to finish. (Except that is for a fifteen minute opening monologue which is probably the longest, most boring opening to a comedy ever.) The play has a great mixture of really funny dialogue and some great physical comedy. It also leaves a lot of room for actors to get into their parts and just have fun with them (and no I’m not biased just because I was in this play with an awesome cast and had a blast. Shut up.)

Seriously though, that opening monologue should just be included in the program you give to the audience at the beginning of the play. Or maybe just run across the screen at the beginning like Star Wars except WAYYYY longer. You may want to pass out coffee and biscuits and just give the audience a pamphlet, it would probably save time.

All right now on to the big boys. The top three are about 4 bajillion times better then the rest of these plays. I’m sorry, it’s just the truth.

 Number 3: Othello

Okay, so, Othello is a great play. But not because of Othello. Or Desdimona. Or even really any of the characters or plotlines. EXCEPT for Iago. Iago is to Othello what the Joker is to the Dark Knight. In fact the two have a CREEPY amount of things in common. They both have ambiguous motives, both switch motives in the middle of their respective roles, both manipulate people, both think what they’re doing is completely normal and even a little bit hilarious, and you could take the whole monologue the Joker gives about being an agent of chaos, copy and paste it into Iago’s lines and it would totally work.

Okay… hang on… Sorry… little bit of a nerd-out there… I’m okay. All right… phew…

Sure he's an evil psychopath but you've got to admit; that's a kickin' sash.

Sure he’s an evil psychopath but you’ve got to admit; that’s a kickin’ sash.

Iago done right is mesmerizing (see Kenneth Branaugh’s Othello) without a good Iago I’ll be the first to admit that the play is blasse’ and a bit uninteresting from there on out. It’s still a decent play it just lacks anything to make it really stick out other then abject depression and a hilarious amount of racism.

Number 2: Henry the 5th

Okay I’m the first in line when it comes to admitting that most of Shakespeare’s histories are prime examples of “Shakespeare had to pay bills too” but Henry the 5th is the exception. Even the NARRATOR in Henry the 5th has some epic lines, and he’s the NARRATOR! He’s just there to tell you who Bernard the 22nd is related to. Henry himself is probably one of the best written leaders in the whole realm of fiction. He struggles with doubts and fears privately but when the time comes to rally the troops he presents a strong front and delivers the single most kick butt pre fight speech in history (And I’ll stand by that.) Sure the play occasionally talks itself a bit to death including a hilariously boring conversation where a bunch of french people sit around and compare horses (the ancient equivalent of hicks talking about trucks) but when Henry the 5th gets it right it hits you straight in the tear-box.

Number 1: Hamlet

What? Where else did you think we were gonna end up? As You Like It? Hamlet is probably the greatest play ever written, starring one of the best characters written, Hamlet strikes such a great balance between humor, tragedy, and deep philosophy that not even Shakespeare could top it. Hamlet is a character audiences identify with struggling with something so fundamental to ourselves that we can’t help but be brought along for the journey (and no it’s not the whole murder thing, it’s MUCH bigger then that). People (me included) have written whole papers on why Hamlet is awesome and I PROMISE I could go on and on and on about this play (I literally did the whole thing myself…. twice.) But seeing as this is a pop culture blog and I already went crazy with the whole Iago vs. The Joker thing, I will stop here and simply say: this play rocks.

Why yes there is a version of Hamlet that stars Doctor Who and Captain Piccard. All they needed was Darth Vader as Polonius and the entire world would have exploded.

Why yes there is a version of Hamlet that stars Doctor Who and Captain Piccard. All they needed was Darth Vader as Polonius and the entire world would have exploded.

 An honorable mention:

Macbeth: I was threatened that if Macbeth was on the bottom 5 listing I would meet with great bodily harm so I was glad that it hadn’t been on there anyway. It also (as you may have notice) is not on the top 5, here’s why: it suffers from something I like to call “Les Mis Syndrome”… though to be entirely accurate I guess you could say Les Mis has “Macbeth Syndrome” but since when has historical accuracy been something that I let bother me? A play with Les Mis syndrome is a sad sad tearful deathful event with NO comic relief. That’s what Macbeth is, it’s all death and death and blood and Scotsman who are NEVER played with Scottish accents (such a waste.) The only “comic relief” in the play is a scene with a drunk butler and someone knocking at the door, and the Butler pretends he’s the Devil… yeah… it’s about as funny as it sounds. I like Macbeth, but it’s not top five material.

So there you have it Internet! My top five and bottom 5 of Shakespeare!! Check back Thursday as I get back into that whole “this century” thing I do and (hopefully) review Iron Man 3!!!

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Comments
  1. Katrina says:

    If Hamlet wasn’t your top one, I think would have totally done this, “Wait? WHAT!” things since it was only your senior recital at Northland (which was INCREDIBLE, STINKING AWESOME, and AMAZING, if I didn’t say that a billion times that night and the next semester and probably at least once every semester at Northland when I would tell people all the Shakespeare productions I’d seen at Northland). So, yeah, pretty good list.

    Even if I haven’t, like, you know, read a ton of Shakespeare plays because reading it makes me about as ADD as a cougar on catnip (which I don’t know what that exactly looks like, but it’s an interesting mental picture) as I suddenly feel the urge to cast all my friends in the play.

  2. lbkirsop says:

    Micah, This post makes me so happy. Some of my favorite films of all time! Anyway, I think you’d be proud of me–I just finished a paper on Henry V for Leadership and Comm class comparing Olivier’s, Branagh’s and even Hiddleston’s most recent film performance and their connection to Shakespeare’s dark dichotomized script and their interpretation of leadership in Henry. Dr. Meers and I are looking to potentially get it published here soon as an article in an academic leadership journal. Maybe I’ll get a call from Branagh (or Hiddleston) himself. Here’s hoping!

    Again, FANTASTIC picks.

    ~LB

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