Henry VIII

Henry VIII by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The last play by Shakespeare, in association with John Fletcher, features the court drama of Henry VIII and the individuals that vied for power in Tudor government. The drama of the Buckingham’s fall, the divorce, Wolsey’s fall, and the veiled intrigue surrounding the Reformation are all there, but pains are kept to make Henry virtuous and imply the innocence of Anne Bullen so that her daughter the future Queen Elizabeth be seen in a positive light. Not long after the Tudor dynasty ended did that drama of the period be given over to popular entertainment.

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The Tempest

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The romantic tragicomedy is a playful delight that uses illusion and magic that begins, drives, and completes the three plots featured in this play. The interplay between all the characters whether involving magic or not is engaging and kept me looking forward to seeing what would happen next. Although the at the end Prospero says the whole timeframe occurs in three hours, even with the magic I thought it was more like a few days given Prospero’s desire to see Ferdinand earn Miranda’s hand. However, this is just a personal aside. This is one of the plays that I’ve read in my reading of Shakespeare that I’d really like to see on stage rather than an adaptation.

Cymbeline

Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Given that no “good” characters die during this play, upon finishing this play I decided that this fits the mold of a romance more than a tragedy. The titular character Cymbeline is at best a minor character compared to those who do most of the action throughout the play, although his decrees are what spurs the narrative of the play. The near tragedy of Imogen and Posthumus is the major arc throughout the play with Pisanio, the Queen, her son Cloten, and Iachimo figuring into the arc. The second and third arcs are is the conflict with Rome and the kidnapping of Cymbeline’s sons years before. Within Act V all three of these arcs interact with one another until resolved in the final scene. This play is one of those that I would enjoy see on stage or an adaptation of on screen.

The Winter’s Tale

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

As I finished the last two Acts of this play, I was wondering if this was two plays in one because it went from being a tragic psychological drama to a comedy. The huge shift between the two types essentially at the beginning of Act IV changed my perception of the play from being very good to just plain alright. I guess this is considered one of the ‘problem’ plays for a reason.

A Lover’s Complaint

A Lover’s Complaint by William Shakespeare
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Although in the same metre and structure as The Rape of Lucrece, this poem both shorter and more compact in it’s plot. A Lover’s Complaint is the story of a young woman who is wooed, seduced, and then abandoned by a lover while lamenting the fact that she’d fall for his charms again if given the chance. The short length of the poem while also having a compact plot makes this a better product by Shakespeare, though the quality is not with his other poetry.

Sonnets

Sonnets by William Shakespeare
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The 154 sonnets by Shakespeare are the height of his poetic effort. The use of language to keep the rhyming so crisp and at such a high level is masterful. To single out one poem as the best would be impossible given the complexity and subject matter that many of them have. But for me personally, the “Dark Lady” sequence was the best.

Coriolanus

Coriolanus by William Shakespeare
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The tragedy of Coriolanus was a play by Shakespeare that I had heard of and upon finishing it was surprised at how good it was. The titular character is a prideful Roman patrician showing only disdain towards the common folk, who likewise resent him even though he is a military hero. Coriolanus gains his ‘official nickname’ in a war against Corioli and his rival Tullus Aufidius. After his military success, Coriolanus stands up for election as consul and seemingly gets consent from both patrician and plebeians for the office only for the tribunes to conspire against him leading to his banishment. Coriolanus goes to Corioli to die at the hands of his rival, only to be embraced to lead a campaign against Rome. The only thing that stops Coriolanus is bowing to the pleadings of his mother, on his return to Corioli his pride leads to his murder by Aufidius and his conspirators.

Throughout the play, Coriolanus’ pride and resentment of the common people mirrored by the common people in their resentment of him is a strong theme throughout the play. In the end this prideful behavior is his undoing, but Coriolanus doesn’t explain his reasons for his disdain which is a plus as the audience knows from the beginning he likes to isolate himself from his fellow Romans. Coriolanus’ downfall is tied to his mother who encouraged him to stand for consul leading to his banishment and giving in to her to spare Roman leading to his death in Corioli, though his mother is spared this knowledge at the end of the play. Overall this tragedy stands up better than Hamlet with a titular character the audience understands from the beginning and remains himself throughout.