I am not bound to please thee with my answer

The topic of the day at work tonight was a simple question:
Which is your favourite of Shakespeare's plays?

I do believe that the answer you give to this question may tell a lot as to your measure of a man. As the learn-ed amoungst you may have guessed, my favourite is The Merchant of Venice. Not only does it have some of Shakespeare's most oft-quoted verses: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?" or "But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit" or "A pound of flesh, to be by him cut off
Nearest the merchant's heart"; but the quotes from the play are very unlikely to be recalled as Shakespeare's works themselves.

As for the play itself its themes include the concept of revenge and mercy, the Christian concept of self-sacrifice, and that women are even more deceitful than the Jews (ha!). (Bear in mind that the Wikipedia article on the play indicates that the work is extremely popular in Israel with Shylock being a sympathetic character.

Other popular choices of play was Othello (the choice of warmongers and loners), A Midsummer Night's Dream (romantic dreamers and followers of the occult), and MacBath (violent incenstians with delusions of grandeur).

Plays that never got mentioned, which I found odd, include Hamlet (which was one person's runner-up to MacBeth), Romeo and Juliet (arguably the Bard's most famous... in North America probably the most read), and any of the Henry plays.

Plays I never expected to hear that top my list include Julius Caesar and Troilus and Cressida. I'm a big fan of The Illiad, and when I was a kid loved The Odyssey. Strange, really: when I was younger it was Odyssey for Homer and Lion Witch and the Wardrobe for The Inklings group. As I've aged and matured [you sure about that last bit? -ed] its flipped around to Illiad and Lord of the Rings (which I read as a kid but never fully appreciated).

If I had been into Shakespeare as a 12 year old I probably would have fallen into the Hamlet/MacBeth camp as well. I prefer Hamlet over MacBeth mostly I think because the former is a Dane. I also enjoy Othello and King Lear (less so if/when I become a father, I imagine).

So anyways, I think its time to put this question to the blog-reading public. The guestbook is standing by ready to accept posts. Which Shakespeare play(s) do you like the most? What do you think being a fan of Play X (X not necessarily equal to your own choice) says about that person?

Philosophical questions aren't my forte, but feel free to make suggestions. I think this might be an interesting discussion.

Bonus link #1: The movies on film and screen which have been adapted from Shakespeare's works. Some are false starts: Shakespeare didn't write "Black Adder" or "Je rentre à la maison", but it does give a fairly wide range of available films. For example, you could try to track down the 1912 film Cardinal Wolsey, a retelling of Henry VIII starring Clara Kimball Young who's only 3 Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon.

Bonus link #2: If you think your workplace and circle of friends aren't meeting your intellectual capacity (and I know mine isn't), you might enjoy this article on C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
What Tolkien did was help Lewis see how the two sides, reason and imagination, could be integrated. During the two men's night conversation on the Addison Walk in the grounds of Magdalen College, Tolkien showed Lewis how the two sides could be reconciled in the Gospel narratives. The Gospels had all the qualities of great human storytelling. But they portrayed a true event—God the storyteller entered his own story, in the flesh, and brought a joyous conclusion from a tragic situation. Suddenly Lewis could see that the nourishment he had always received from great myths and fantasy stories was a taste of that greatest, truest story—of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Don't forget to join my baseball pool! Link on the right.


Anonymous said...

umm...shakespeare...did 'Julius Caesar' as a part of our school syllabus and i quite liked that...its cool,innit?!