-by Emma Bilsborough

The end of Summer means the slide into Autumn and Winter, the very best seasons for reading. It also means the beginning of a new school year, during which many students across the UK will study one or more of Shakespeare's plays. Though sometimes the English Literature curriculum can take all of the magic and mayhem out of the Bard's brilliant works as you rip them to shreds for essay content, it also introduces Children and young people to his talents. It was at school that I first read the Tempest and Midsummer Night's Dream, two of my absolute favourite Shakespeare plays.

Shakespeare has given us many a turn of phrase, and has helped us to build the language that we use today. His beautiful words have inspired generations of writers, actors, artists and creative types.

As readers of our blog may already be aware, we have a particular penchant for list making. It's far too much fun to list our favourites, whether it be characters, authors, genres; we never run out of things to wax lyrical about in the world of literature.

You've probably figured out what this is all leading to, but I'll say it anyway; here comes my list of my top ten favourite Shakespeare plays, which coincidentally are also the only ones I've read. Perhaps I ought to add a few to my Autumn reading list.

10. Romeo and Juliet

“These violent delights have violent ends,And in their triumph die, like fire and powderWhich, as they kiss, consume” 

A beautiful, tragic romance, but also a little ridiculous, Romeo and Juliet makes it in at number 10 on my list.

9. Macbeth

“By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes.” 

I love a spooky story, and the ghosts and witches of Macbeth provide exactly that - pure spookiness.

8. The Winter's Tale

“Exit, pursued by a bear.” 

Perhaps my favourite line of Shakespeare's, I'm tempted to change my email sign off to it. The Winter's Tale is brilliant, but doesn't have as much of the bard's humour that I'm so fond of.

7. Othello

"But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve, For daws to peck at: I am not what I am."

I studied Othello with uni last year and enjoyed the pure drama of it, but I didn't connect quite so well with the characters, so it's coming in at 7.

6. Taming of the Shrew

“If I be waspish, best beware my sting.” 

Taming of the Shrew inspired one of my absolute favourite movies, 10 Things I Hate About You. I just LOVE Katherina.

5. As You Like It

“'Rosalind is your love's name?'

'Yes, just.'

'I do not like her name.'

'There was no thought of pleasing you when she was christened.'” 

As I mentioned, I love the Bard's humour, and this one made me laugh out loud. It's also an excellent one to see performed.

4. The Tempest

“I would not wish any companion in the world but you.” 

I've a bit of a soft spot for this one, having read it in my teens when I was falling deeply in love with classic literature, which is why it comes up so high on my list, despite not necessarily being in keeping with my other faves.

3. Much Ado About Nothing

“I can see he's not in your good books,' said the messenger.'No, and if he were I would burn my library.” 

Another laugh out loud one from old Shakes.

2. A Midsummer Night's Dream

“And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.” 

I love the fantastical nature of this play, the magic and the fairies made it my number one Shakespeare play for such a long time.

1. Hamlet

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Knocking Midsummer Night's Dream off the top spot just this last year is Hamlet. I saw it performed live at Bishop's Palace in Wells and really loved it, every character is brilliant and funny and smart and unnecessarily dramatic (particularly you, Hamlet).

So there we have it, my top ten. I'm certainly not an expert on the depths of Shakespeare's writing, but sometimes it's lovely to just take it on face value. English teachers are wonderful, smart and brilliant beings, but they also have to work with a curriculum that sometimes leaves a little to be desired on it's teachings of Shakespeare - so read the plays, devour them, watch them, accept that some of them really are just a bit boring, and don't let studying them put you off. There's so much to love in his words.

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