Best William Shakespeare Plays


The Top Ten

1 Hamlet

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: Hamlet, the King of Denmark, has died and his brother, Claudius has taken over as the new king of Denmark. Gertrude, the widowed queen, marries Claudius shortly after his death. However, King Hamlet has left a son, Prince Hamlet, who grieves for his father. His best friend, Horatio, comes and informs him that on the nightwatch, two of his soldiers encountered a ghost who resembled his father. Hamlet watches that night and encounters the ghost. The ghost tells him that he is his father and that he was murdered by Claudius. The ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death. Tirelessly, Hamlet seeks confirmation that Claudius did murder his father before he carries out the deed because he believes he might be going insane. He resolves to act as if he is insane in order to throw everyone off.

I can easily deem this Shakespeare's best play because of how complex it is and how fascinating the story is. The plot described above is only the surface of the story. ...more

I'm a high school junior and I have just read this play in school. Before it, I had only read a couple of Shakespeare plays, and I wasn't sure if Shakespeare really deserved his reputation. I found the language hard to understand, and even after discussion and note-taking gave me the general feel of the plays, I thought they were a bit boring. But Hamlet was a different story. I was gripped from start finish, and though I didn't understand every single word, I understood it a lot better because I actually cared about what was going on. The plot is so well thought-out, and I plan on reading it again at some point to get an even better idea of it. Honestly, this is probably my favorite thing I've ever read period, not just of Shakespeare.

I watched the Lion King and after a few years I have just noticed that it is the exact same plot. I took the time to read this story and boy, did it thrill me! At first, I never knew why this was so popular, and how this makes The Lion King popular but this story is a must read, even if you aren't a Shakespeare fan. - Daviddv0601

The finest of all Shakespeare's plays. Fascinating and nearly perfect as prose and plot. Brilliant and accessible.

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2 Macbeth

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: Three witches meet with Macbeth and inform him that he will be Thane of Glamis, and then the king of Scotland. He goes home and reports this news to his wife, Lady Macbeth, who then devises a plot to assassinate the Scottish king, Duncan, and frame his guards for the murder so that Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain will flee the country leaving Macbeth to take the throne. After he does this, however, he becomes so paranoid about losing his position of power that he commits murder after murder until finally his soldiers all leave him and he is defeated

This play is notorious for its legendary superstition, believed widely because Shakespeare wrote a real witch's incantation into the text and because of this, superstitious actors believe the play is cursed. In the beginning of the play, the witches seem to know about Macbeth's rise to power before it actually happens, but if Macbeth hadn't met the witches, he wouldn't even have considered ...more

In the last year I read several of Shakespeare's play, I'm in highschool age but from Germany. I absolutely loved Macbeth. I read it within two days, because it simply was so exciting.- It's the number one piece of literature, which shows what happens with humans who seek power.

Masterful and amazing, one of the greatest works of literature of all time.

You described it very well

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3 Romeo and Juliet

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: Two households, the Montagues and the Capulets have a long standing feud with each other. Two young members from both households meet at a masked ball and immediately fall in love with each other. They keep this a secret from their families in order to maintain peace, yet, the day after the marry, multiple deaths occur leading to violence, Romeo's banishment from Verona, and ultimately, their deaths.

This is widely regarded as Shakespeare's most popular play, but let me be very blunt. Just because this is the most popular play does not make it the best. People are familiar with this play mainly due to the fact that they read it and most likely re-read it all throughout high school. The romantic chemistry between the title couple is practically non-existent, the supporting characters have more interesting story arcs, and have more development. Ultimately, this play did make the list despite its lack of a strong story and lead characters because it ...more

The play leaves out so many morals in my opinion... - Turkeyasylum

Tragic, touching, EMOTIONAL. Romeo & Juliet is a classic of international literature, the best love story ever written.

Every time I read the end I cry. Young Juliet is so lovely and sweet and Romeo too.

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4 Midsummer Night's Dream

I didn't really understand it in the beginning and wasn't sure if I'd like it or not, but after reading it all the way through, I picked up on what was going on. I have read other plays by Shakespeare such as Hamlet, Julius Caesar, and Romeo and Juliet. I truly enjoyed Hamlet the most; although, A Midsummer Night's Dream is definitely a close second.

I performed this once. Hamlet might be my favorite, but this is certainly better than Romeo and Juliet. Personally, I care more about these characters than those the titular morons of that play.

Really entertaining and full of drama and magic. It's really good middle ground for those who are fans of fantasy and realistic problems.

I wanted to pick 4 they are so good!
1. Midsummer Night's Dream
2. Much ado about Nothing
3. Romeo and Juliet
4. Macbeth

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5 Othello, The Moor of Venice

Contains the finest villain ever

Shakespeare was the first great psychologist, as this play bears witness.

Best villain

6 King Lear

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: King Lear is the king of Britain who is giving up his throne and dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, Goneril, Regan, and Cordelia. When he gives away pieces of the kingdom, he has each daughter speak and say how much they love him so it'll look like he's giving them portions on who has the best response. Goneril and Regan are evil and don't love their father, but they lie to him and say they do. Cordelia, who actually does love him, angers him when she says she loves him according to her bond, no more or less. Because of this, Lear divides Cordelia's portion of the kingdom between Goneril and Regan. In a subplot, Edmund, the illegitimate son of the Earl of Gloucester wants to take away his father's title because Gloucester is clearly embarrassed by having to admit that he had an affair and that Edmund was born out of wedlock.

This play's main theme is about relationships between fathers and their children. It's a lengthy story ...more

King Lear should be much higher than eleven. It should at least be top five.

King Lear is Shakespeare's best. Many critics believe it too. It should be the number 1

7 Julius Caesar

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: Julius Caesar, returned from war, is elected to rule Rome due to his success in war. Fearing that his rise to power is too great, Cassius and other Senators decide to assassinate him on the Ides of March (March 15th), but after the assassination, conspirators Brutus and Cassius continuously fail to demonstrate that their cause was just.

Like Romeo and Juliet, this is another one of Shakespeare's popular tragedies, and one of the few that involves war. This is also Shakespeare's only play where the title character dies before the halfway mark of the show, as the assassination occurs in Act III, scene I. (The play is 18 scenes long, making Act III, scene II the halfway mark)

Julius Caeser is the first William Shakespeare play I read and the one I will always love. This has the balance of a spectacular ending based off the famous roman king. It is clever that Shakespeare comes up with a play about a famous king. This was well written and has a spectacular audience ending. Plays should come up with the imagination that Shakespeare has in this play

Beautiful. It doesn't deserve top five, but it's still worth voting for.

Something I can understand

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8 Henry V

The greatest of the history plays. A tale of bloody battles and England's finest leader, King Henry V, a brilliant thinker and an even better warrior.

Amazing. Not as high as number six, but it is perhaps the greatest piece of literature about war, along with War and Peace.

9 Twelfth Night

Great play, very entertaining. It should be higher than nine.

This is confusing and hilarious. It fuses shakepears love of comedy.

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10 Richard III

This play is amazing, It should be ranked higher.

Iago as the greatest Shakespearean antagonist? Oh how I scoff at your ignorance!

Iago may be a spectacularly spontaneous and malignant mastermind bearing a grudge quietly seeding the seeds of doubt in the hearts of everyone with every spoken word and action, but he holds not a candle to the genius of one Richard the Third Earl of Gloucester who in an atypical fashion for a Shakespearean antagonist was winning hearts instead of cutting them out. A man with great dis-figuration and greater ambition, he laid out his Machiavellian machinations bear to the audience in his opening soliloquy and almost bought a country to its knees. Iago may have been silently moving pieces into the night, but it was Richard who embraced the light as he did the shadows and with not only great cunning, but also with a daring that would leave the Heros of Greece looking tame in comparison, carried on his plots with the same precision as did Shakespeare himself.

The Contenders

11 The Merchant of Venice

Genre: Comedy

Its like well good

Fond memories of the brotherhood

Best book ever

There are unnecessary side-plots and even more unnecessary characters. Many of the characters have very redundant dialogues (such as Bassanio, Launcelot, Lorenzo, and ESPECIALLY Gratiano). The only reason why it is so famous is because of Shylock's witty dialogues and Portia's role in the play.

12 Much Ado About Nothing

Genre: Comedy

Summary: Prince Don Pedro of Aragon comes to Messina, Italy to visit the governor of the country, Leonato. With him, be brings a Florentine named Claudio, his bastard brother, Don Jon, a Paduan soldier named Benedick, and Don Jon's followers, Borachio and Conrade. Upon their arrival, Claudio falls in love with Hero, Leonato's daughter and wishes to marry her. Don Jon, hoping to interfere, thwarts Claudio's attempts to marry her by convincing him that she is disloyal. Probably one of Shakespeare's most famous subplots, Don Pedro convinces everyone at a dance that despite their seeming contempt for one another, they can set up Benedick with Hero's quick witted and shrewish cousin, Beatrice.

This is very widely regarded as Shakespeare's best comedy, and for good reason. First of all, the play's main themes are deception and gullibility, which are obvious in Claudio's character due to the fact that he falls for everything. Pranks, Hero, ideas, etc. and also, ...more

With such a vibrant pair as Beatrice and Benedick who spar instead of flirt, how can you not love this play? Add to the above a veritable mess of plots, schemes, tricks, and betrayals with an extra helping of the amazing "wedding" scene, I'd be hard pressed to hate anything about this play.

A strong minded women in the era has got to be worth a vote. Also it opens with some top notch banter and has the best plot/mood twist probably ever(kill claudio)

13 The Taming of the Shrew

It has a great storyline and captures the ongoing and relevant issues of Shakespeare's time

14 The Tempest

Genre: Romance

Summary: Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, causes a tempest and a shipwreck to a ship that is returning from Tunis due to his brother Antonio having usurped his position. Passengers of the shipwreck wash up on the island inhabited by Prospero, his daughter Miranda, and his slaves Ariel and Caliban. After twelve years of not seeing his enemies, Prospero decides to set things straight with them, and ultimately it results in his departure from the island, Miranda's wedding, and his fulfillment of revenge, albeit with a happy ending.

I'm not normally a fan of Shakespeare's romantic works, but this one deserves the spot because of how memorable it is. The plot, subplots, and supporting characters all make wonderful impressions and are all wonderful examples of Shakespeare's unique writing style. The end of the play is perhaps one of the earliest uses of a fourth wall audience interaction, (not an aside, an aside is classified as when a character is speaking ...more

Absolutely astounding. The Tempest deserves to be in the top ten.

I love how it actually has a happy ending

15 Henry IV Part 1

Amazing play

Henry IV Part 1 is a truly exeptional mixutre of outrageous comedy, battles and intelligence. A story of fathers, sons and honour.

16 Henry IV Part 2
17 As You Like It

The humor in this play is astonishing. I was so lucky to get the opportunity to watch it at the Globe Theater in London, England and every single individual performance was spectacular. There is so much richness and warmth throughout the play and definitely one for the ages. This is one of those play that if you go and see it you are expected a good time.


18 Titus Andronicus

The amount of darkest emotions and traumatic experiences occuring to each of the characters can not be summed up in a mere comment. It must be experienced, it must be felt.

The play contains violence so gruesome, not only because it is gorier than most modern horror flicks, but mostly because of its wicked and vile nature, and the scars it leaves on the characters. Also: the extremely dark irony of how unnecessary all of this is. Revenge for revenge, and the acts of brutality in this one are worse than simply death. Characters get mentally destroyed in this play, in ways more twisted than you can imagine. I don't know all of Shakespeare's plays but it's the only time I've seen one of his works to be as dark as Goethe's works (who is to Germany what Shakespeare is to English language territories, so I often compare them), or even darker. Goethe has written classic works where a character's depression gets more and more intense throughout the book so in its initial release ...more - Martin_Canine

Genre: Tragedy

Summary: Roman emperor, Titus Andronicus has returned from war with only four remaining sons and one daughter out of the twenty-five he had previously. He has captured Tamora, the Queen of the Goths, her three sons, and Aaron the Moor. He murders her oldest son to his own sons, and because of this, Tamora makes it her life mission to destroy Titus and make the Andronicus family suffer.

This play makes the list primarily because I believe it to be Shakespeare's most utterly disturbing tragic play. Like most of his tragedies, this play's theme has a lot to do with revenge, hatred, and insanity. Secondarily, out of all of his plays, I find that the villain of this play, Aaron the Moor, is perhaps the best Shakesperean villain ever written. Why? Because instead of someone like King Claudius from Hamlet, Edmund from King Lear, or Iago from Othello, his dying wish wasn't to make amends with anyone whom he had wronged, his dying wish was that he wished he had ...more

This is a beautiful story, except for the fact that it is 30000000 PAGES LONG!

19 The Winter's Tale

A beautiful play I recommend it to any Shakespeare lovers!

20 Antony and Cleopatra

I am amazed this is no 20

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900 votes
27 listings
7 years, 208 days old

Top Remixes (8)

1. Hamlet
2. Macbeth
3. Romeo and Juliet
1. Othello, The Moor of Venice
2. King Lear
3. Hamlet
1. Hamlet
2. Romeo and Juliet
3. Midsummer Night's Dream

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