For your reading pleasure, and in (eager) anticipation of the upcoming Shakespeare Festival, we asked members of the CHFA community for their favorite or least favorite Shakespeare plays. Here’s the long and short of it! See the poster and list of events here.
Sherraine Pate Williams – MFA Student, Poetry
No one but Shakespeare’s Richard III does the individual’s conflicted inner turmoil any better:
“What do I fear? Myself? There’s none else by.
Richard loves Richard; that is, I and I.
Is there a murderer here? No. Yes, I am.
Then fly! What, from myself? Great reason why:
Lest I revenge. What, myself upon myself?
Alack, I love myself. Wherefore? For any good
That I myself have done unto myself?”
This play seems to highlight how language itself can be used to gain power, frightfully much like it is still used today:
“Conscience is but a word that cowards use,
Devis’d at first to keep the strong in awe:
Our strong arms be our conscience, swords our law.
March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell;
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell.”
Miranda Wilson – Coordinator, Regional Academic Outreach
The Tempest is my favorite because of the magic and father/daughter relationship coupled with the more serious issues of slavery. My least favorite is Hamlet. Try as I may, I do not like the main character, and the play as a whole is too depressing for my taste.
Matthew Evans – English and Philosophy alumnus; English teacher at McCracken County High School
Romeo and Juliet: mainly because most people misunderstand it. It’s my favorite to teach since everyone “knows” that it’s a beautiful love story, and you can have so much fun pointing out all the dirty jokes and ridiculous characters. That, and we all know that couple that get way too serious too quickly and it’s nice to know that people haven’t changed that much in 400 years.
Katherine Summerfield –Theater Major
My favorite Shakespeare play is Macbeth. Hands down. Because of Lady Macbeth. She is a complex and well written character and the show is an amazingly well written story that has transcended time. My least favorite is Hamlet. I have studied/ read/ analyzed Hamlet more than I care to admit to. Public school flooded my English classes with Hamlet. And now I’m just sick of him.
David Balthrop – Chair, Theater Department
Favorite: It’s a tie. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (saw the best Royal Shakespeare Company production of this in London) and King Lear. “You must bear with me. Pray you now forget, and forgive; I am old and foolish.” To this, I can relate!!!
Least Favorite: Strangely enough…The Comedy of Errors. I’ve seen too many bad productions of that one!
Andy Black – Assistant Professor, English and Philosophy
My favorite is Julius Caesar. I taught this for seven years to eighth graders, so even the most seemingly obvious lines have taken on extra meaning and race through my mind while I’m jogging or driving. At this year’s performance, I’m looking forward to hearing a skeptical Brutus ask Cassius, “Into what dangers would you lead me, Cassius, That you would have me seek into myself For that which is not in me?”
Rusty Jones – Associate Professor, English and Philosophy
Favorite: The Winter’s Tale. I’m always deeply moved by the play’s depiction of the power of forgiveness and love.
Least favorite: Titus Andronicus. This play, to my mind, was just Shakespeare trying to out-gross Christopher Marlowe.
Helen Beckert – History Major
Much Ado about Nothing, mostly because my class wrote Christmas carols about the characters to study for our test over the play.
Pamela Parker – English and Philosophy Adjunct Faculty
Favorite: Othello, because it’s the most perfectly realized of the tragedies as well as the greatest love story. Othello’s explanation of how he and Desdemona fell in love is one of my favorite passages in all of literature. (Act I, scene 3, lines 127-169).
Least Favorite: The Merry Wives of Windsor gets my vote. I couldn’t read it all the way through, despite multiple tries.
Jeff Osborne – Associate Professor, English and Philosophy
- King Lear
This is the most powerful articulation of the essential tragedy of the human condition: our failure to recognize that human affection is the only source of meaning in an indifferent and often cruel and unjust world. Loving, rather than being loved, is our only chance for redemption. The cost of ignoring this is absolute and total despair. The play is almost intolerably heartbreaking.
Macbeth captures the nightmare of the unconscious, the horrifying reality of another “self”–potentially more powerful than “I” am–lurking somewhere within. Macbeth acts despite himself, maybe even to spite himself. The most terrifying aspect of Macbeth’s tragedy is the idea that time reduces all human aims–those that hit and miss the mark–to nothingness.
- Romeo and Juliet
Whereas most tragedies seek to instruct us in the danger we pose to ourselves, to demonstrate in some fashion the causes behind our missing the mark, Romeo and Juliet reveals (terribly, almost nihilistically) that all our aims are at the mercy of the Untimely, the name Shakespeare uses to signify our fate to live as beings with aims in a world that is totally indifferent to them.
Ted Brown – Professor, English and Philosophy and Former Dean of CHFA
My two favorite Shakespeare plays are King Lear and The Tempest because they indelibly capture both the pain and the promise of human existence.
Peter Murphy – Professor, English and Philosophy
Just to be contrary, I’m going to vote for The Merry Wives of Windsor as my favorite. I know the critics rank this one way down on the list of his most accomplished work, but I love it. For one thing, it extends the character Falstaff beyond just his relationship with Hal and for another it has some of the truly great farcical scenes in drama.
Festival director Rusty Jones allowed us to post a presentation he used about Julius Caesar for his Humanities course. Julius Caesar opens the Murray Shakespeare Festival on Monday, March 8th at 7 PM.