Shakespeare's Plays - Ranked and Reviewed
Submitted by lbangs on Tue, 11/23/2004 - 10:26
- The Taming of the Shrew - Obviously, this play has a major, fatal flaw. The happy ending will, at best, only seem like a happy ending to less than fifty percent of the play’s audience. In fact, the very idea of successfully taming a shrew strikes a sensitive reader as absurd at best, horribly sexist at worst, and the unconvincing manner in which the titular task is achieved commits even worse dramatic sins. Most of the play's characters, however, live much more convincingly than they do in the majority of the Bard’s early plays, and the wit bares its fangs, honing a razor’s edge that cuts through much of the overly-ornate dialogue from this period. Still, no matter how much one enjoys portions of this play, there is an elephant in the room, and ultimately one cannot overlook it.
- Henry VI Part I - If you know your English literature, you might already be snorting. Apparently the evidence hints that Shakespeare only wrote parts of this play. It is an historical play, covering the early reign of Henry VI, and although the material is not the most riveting the English chronicles have to offer, the strong, moving language carries the day. They tell me that WS’s scenes are most likely the rose garden incident (dramatically and visually strong, but not containing the best dialogue) and the final episodes of Talbot’s life (much, much better). In fact, several scenes here probably make for better visual spectacle than reading, especially when Joan calls up demons from under the earth for a little chitchat and the various skirmishes and battles. Talbot, York, and the king’s uncles certainly stand out here, striking strong profiles even as their characters miss the finer nuances of Shakespeare’s more vivid creations. The play is good but, compared to Shakespeare’s later works, nothing to spend too much time mulling over.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona - This one is obviously an early effort. The drama is forced in areas, and the wordplay is overly ornate in the style of the time (try reading some Lyly some day...). Some of the wit bores rather than delights. Still, the lyrical passages are moving, Lance delivers some fun musings, and a dog plays a supporting part (a rare role on the contemporary stage *not* played by a man, I assume).
I am working my way through the collected works of the bard. As I read them, I will rank them above with my favorites on top and provide a few lines of reaction.
For these readings, I am using the Oxford Complete edition.