Top 10 Best William Shakespeare Plays

The Top Ten
1 Hamlet Hamlet: A tragedy centered on Prince Hamlet's quest for revenge against his uncle, who murdered Hamlet's father and usurped the throne

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.

2 Macbeth Macbeth: A tragedy about the destructive ambition of a Scottish general, Macbeth, who becomes consumed by power and paranoia

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 murdering Duncan, so it's unclear if the witches were manipulating him or if they knew that he would go through with the murder. Initially, he has no reason to murder Duncan because he's a good king, but Lady Macbeth prompts him to go through with the deed so he can conquer the throne. Arguably, Lady Macbeth is the true villain of the play due to the fact that she already has an evil side, whereas Macbeth sort of develops his slowly after the murder. The history of this play includes that of reported injuries, demolitions, and even deaths that have occurred because of actors uttering the name of the play backstage. In order to avoid this, actors will commonly nowadays refer to it as "The Scottish Play"

3 Romeo and Juliet Romeo and Juliet: A tragic love story of two star-crossed lovers from feuding families, whose deaths ultimately reconcile their feuding households

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 is regarded as one of the best love stories of all time.

4 Julius Caesar Julius Caesar: A tragedy focused on the conspiracy against the Roman dictator Julius Caesar, his assassination, and its aftermath

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)

5 Midsummer Night's Dream Midsummer Night's Dream: A comedic play that intertwines the lives of four young lovers, a group of amateur actors, and magical fairies

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.

This love story from Shakespeare is really entertaining. When I was in bare stages theater, I did this play with a wonderful friend of mine Heather white I had the role of puck and it was fun. I really love and admire Shakespeare and this play is enjoyable.

6 Richard III Richard III: A historical play about the rise and fall of Richard III, exploring themes of power, deceit, and the nature of evil

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.

7 Henry V Henry V: A historical play that follows the life of King Henry V of England, highlighting his military successes, including the Battle of Agincourt

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.

8 King Lear King Lear: A tragedy about the aging King Lear, who divides his kingdom among his daughters, leading to devastating consequences

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 involving war, treason, and betrayal. whether it's betrayal of a country, another person, or even within a family. King Lear is a primary example of a plot and subplot reflected of each other.

9 Othello, The Moor of Venice Othello, The Moor of Venice: A tragedy that explores themes of jealousy, betrayal, and racism as the military general Othello is manipulated by his ensign, Iago

This is a wonderful play , I have a big collection of Shakespeare 's plays and this is my second favorite play with Romeo and Juliet as my first favorite . This is a wonderful play with a great humor and drama . This play is so amazing and very powerful !

Othello presents the man who all villains aspire to be; the one they were named after! It's... IAGO!

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

10 The Merchant of Venice The Merchant of Venice: A play that features themes of love, mercy, and prejudice, involving a vengeful moneylender, Shylock

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.

Hulloa Merchant turns bankrupt and was 'bout to forfeit whole 'heartedly ' to nascent Jew Shylock. But his friends wife a rich heiress Portia saves him.

The Contenders
11 Twelfth Night Twelfth Night: A comedy involving mistaken identities, love triangles, and gender-swapping disguises

Genre: Comedy

Summary: A pair of twins, Viola and Sebastian get in a shipwreck and are separated from each other. They believe each other is dead, even though they both survive the wreckage. Viola washes up in a country called Illyria and decides to disguise herself as a man and enter the court of the Duke of Illyria, Orsino. Orsino is in love with a countess named Olivia who is grieving for her brother and refuses to have any suitor until seven years of time have passed, until she meets Viola (who is under the guise of Cesario) Viola can't return her affections because she falls in love with Orsino. In a subplot, Olivia's steward, Malvolio, earns the ire of her uncle, Sir Toby Belch and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and they play a prank on him by having Maria, Olivia's housekeeper, write a letter addressed to Malvolio professing her love to him and that she wishes to see him in yellow stockings, cross gartered, and smiling constantly.

This play is similar to the Comedy of Errors, yet, only has one pair of twins, and Sebastian is not given as much development as Viola. The play's subplot seems to suggest that despite the merriment of all the characters, in order for there to be comic balance, someone must suffer. This someone is of course Malvolio, who not only falls for the prank but also wholeheartedly believes Olivia is in love with him.

12 The Tempest The Tempest: A play that combines elements of romance, magic, and political intrigue, set on a remote island

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 to the audience directly to deliver a part or parts of a monologue without eliciting an audience response)

13 Henry IV Part 1 Henry IV Part 1: A historical play that explores the relationship between King Henry IV and his son, Prince Hal, amidst political turmoil

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

14 Antony and Cleopatra Antony and Cleopatra: A tragedy by Shakespeare that tells the story of the passionate and tumultuous love affair between Roman general Mark Antony and Egyptian queen Cleopatra
15 Much Ado About Nothing Much Ado About Nothing: A comedic play revolving around the romantic relationships of two couples and their trials and tribulations

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, Don Jon is a relatively interesting villain because he doesn't want to thwart Claudio's marriage so he can woo Hero or because he hates Claudio, but rather, he only does so because he wants to create mischief. Benedick and Beatrice share a similar story, but their romance isn't ruined by anyone, rather, it's kept alive and strong for the fact that everyone has tried and successfully gotten them together.

16 The Taming of the Shrew The Taming of the Shrew: A comedy centered on the courtship of Petruchio and the headstrong Katherina, involving disguises and a battle of wits

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

17 As You Like It As You Like It: A pastoral comedy about love, deception, and disguise, set in the Forest of Arden

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.

It's wonderful. Hilarious, relatable and has some good Shakespeare insults in there as well...

18 Henry IV Part 2 Henry IV Part 2: A historical play by Shakespeare that continues the story of King Henry IV's reign, focusing on his struggles with rebellion and the eventual rise of his son, Prince Hal
19 The Winter's Tale The Winter's Tale: A tragicomedy by Shakespeare that tells the story of King Leontes, who wrongly accuses his wife of infidelity, leading to a series of tragic events and eventual redemption

This play is very interesting. It is very good too! Though it is classified as a comedy, it isn't quite as funny as other Shakespeare comedies. It has its moments, but not as many as A Midsummer Night's Dream, or Twelfth Night. Still worth a read though!

A beautiful play I recommend it to any Shakespeare lovers!

20 Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus: A bloody tragedy centered on the cycle of revenge between the Roman general Titus and the captive queen Tamora

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 done more evil in his lifetime.

21 The Comedy of Errors The Comedy of Errors: A farcical play involving two sets of identical twins, mistaken identities, and comic misunderstandings

Genre: Comedy

Summary: Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse is caught in the town of Ephesus and is to be sentenced to death for entering since it is against the law for Syracusans to enter Ephesus. Duke Solinus grants him permission to tell why he came to Ephesus, and Egeon reveals a long time ago he had a pair of twin boys and had bought two poor boys from an unwealthy woman to be companions and servants to his sons. They had been separated by a shipwreck and now, Egeon is trying to find his other son, with his son setting out for the same purpose. Because they had been separated and were identical at birth, both Egeon and his wife Emelia had assumed they had ended up with the son named Antipholus and the slave named Dromio. Because of this, both sons and slaves are named Antipholus and Dromio of either Syracuse or Ephesus, respectively, and their encounters in Ephesus involve mistaken identity mainly due to the fact that they are all twins and thus cannot tell anyone apart from each other

On the surface this sounds like one of the weaker comedies, but it's actually very compelling. Some parts of the play are written in rhyme, and it's Shakespeare's shortest play. Due to it being a comedy, there are multiple parts that involve mistaken identity and mostly situational irony. Such situations involve Antipholus of Ephesus being locked out of his own house after being mistaken for Antipholus of Syracuse, Dromio of Ephesus being beaten for being "insubordinate" to Antipholus of Syracuse because he believes that he stole his money, and Antipholus of Syracuse falling in love with his brother's wife's sister, Luciana.

22 Measure for Measure Measure for Measure: A dark comedy by Shakespeare that explores themes of justice, morality, and hypocrisy, set in the city of Vienna where the Duke temporarily abdicates power to his deputy, Angelo
23 Merry Wives of Windsor Merry Wives of Windsor: A comedy by Shakespeare featuring the character Falstaff, who attempts to woo two married women, leading to humorous and chaotic situations

Enjoy the "fat knight's" antics and he persues Mistress Ford and Mistress Paige much to their husbands' concern.

24 Love's Labour's Lost Love's Labour's Lost: A comedy by Shakespeare centered around the King of Navarre and his three companions, who swear off women for three years, only to fall in love with four visiting ladies

This play is very amusing, but I wish it has a slightly more satisfying ending. People think that, out of the two plays by Shakespeare that are lost, one of them was part 2 to this play. I wish we had it! This is a wonderful play

25 Troilus and Cressida Troilus and Cressida: A tragic play by Shakespeare set during the Trojan War, exploring the doomed love story of the title characters and the darker side of war and politics

This should be in the top 20 at least. Also Lear is number 2 (in my humble opinion)

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