Welcome to our list of Shakespeare’s plays ranked from great to excellent! Now Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest playwright in history, and for good reason. His works continue to captivate and inspire audiences around the world, even hundreds of years after they were first written.
From the tragedy of “Hamlet” to the comedy of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare’s plays cover a wide range of themes and emotions, making them beloved by theater-goers and scholars alike. In this post, we will attempt to rank Shakespeare’s plays from worst to best, using various criteria to determine their worth.
Why Are Shakespeare’s Plays So Popular?
But before we dive into the rankings, it’s worth considering why Shakespeare’s plays and even his poems are so popular in the first place. Part of it has to do with their timeless themes, which touch on universal human experiences like love, jealousy, and ambition.
Shakespeare was also a master of language, using words and phrases in ways that were both beautiful and profound. And his plays have endured for so long because they continue to be performed and adapted in new and exciting ways, which ensures that they stay fresh and relevant for new generations of audiences.
So without further ado, here is our Top 10 list of Shakespeare’s plays ranked from great to excellent.
Shakespeare’s Plays Ranked – Top 10
10. Richard III
Kicking off the list at number 10 is Richard III, a historical tragedy that tells the story of the rise and fall of Richard III, a power-hungry and ruthless monarch.
One of the most notable aspects of Richard III is his villainous behavior. Richard is often portrayed as a cold and calculating antagonist who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
His manipulation of those around him is fascinating and disturbing, making him one of Shakespeare’s most complex and intriguing characters.
9. Julius Caesar
Coming in at number 9 is Julius Caesar, a historical tragedy that delves into the conspiracy and assassination of the titular character.
One of the most memorable aspects of the play is the famous line “Beware the Ides of March,” which serves as a foreboding warning of Caesar’s fate.
While the play is not always ranked as highly as some of Shakespeare’s other works, it is still a powerful and thought-provoking play that delves into complex issues of power, morality, and loyalty.
8. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
At number 8 in our list of Shakespeare’s plays ranked, we have A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a romantic comedy that follows the adventures of a group of young lovers as they navigate a magical forest.
One of the most notable aspects of the play is its masterful blending of several different plot lines. It features three distinct groups of characters whose stories interweave throughout the narrative: the young lovers, the fairy royalty, and the ragtag group of actors preparing a play for the Duke’s wedding. Each group has its own unique challenges and goals, but they are all united by the magical forces that are at work in the forest.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s blend of humor, romance, and magic make it a perfect entry point for those new to Shakespeare’s works and a perennial favorite for those already familiar with his canon.
Ranking at number 7 is Othello, a tragic tale of jealousy and deception that explores themes of racism and betrayal. The play is set in Venice and Cyprus. It follows Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army, as he navigates a web of deceit woven by his trusted advisor, Iago.
Iago manipulates Othello into believing that his wife, Desdemona, has been unfaithful to him with another soldier, Cassio. Othello’s jealousy and rage eventually lead him to kill Desdemona and then take his own life once he learns the truth.
Its themes of love, betrayal, and racism are still relevant in contemporary society, making it a timeless work of literature.
6. The Tempest
Coming in at number 6 is The Tempest, a romantic comedy that tells the story of a powerful sorcerer named Prospero and his quest for revenge. The play is often considered to be one of Shakespeare’s final masterpieces.
It tells the story of Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, who is stranded on an island with his daughter Miranda after being betrayed by his brother Antonio. Using his magical powers, Prospero manipulates events on the island to orchestrate a series of events that will ultimately lead to his return to Milan and the restoration of his power.
One of the most notable aspects of the play is its use of magic and the supernatural. Prospero’s abilities allow him to control the weather, summon spirits, and even cause illusions.
The Tempest also features several other supernatural elements, such as Ariel, a spirit who serves Prospero, and the monstrous Caliban, the island’s original inhabitant.
These elements add to the play’s sense of mystery and wonder and have made it a popular choice for adaptation in film, television, and other media.
5. Romeo and Juliet
At number 5 in our list of Shakespeare’s plays ranked, we have Romeo and Juliet, arguably one of his most well-known works. This tragic love story takes place in Verona, Italy, and follows the star-crossed lovers as they navigate the feuding families and societal expectations that seek to keep them apart.
One of the most memorable scenes in the play is the balcony scene, where Romeo professes his love for Juliet while she is on her balcony. This scene has been parodied and referenced countless times in popular culture. It’s a testament to the enduring popularity of the play.
Another notable aspect of Romeo and Juliet is the use of comic relief. Shakespeare uses characters such as Mercutio and the Nurse to lighten the mood and provide some fun in an otherwise tragic story.
Overall, Romeo and Juliet is a masterpiece of English literature. Its themes of love, hate, and the consequences of prejudice are universal and timeless, making it a must-read or a must-see for anyone interested in the power of storytelling.
Related Reading: Check out Casa Di Giulietta in Verona, which is home to one of the most gorgeous love-lock locations in the world.
4. The Merchant of Venice
Ranking at number 4 is The Merchant of Venice, a complex play that delves into themes of justice and prejudice. It tells the story of a merchant named Antonio who borrows money from a Jewish moneylender named Shylock to help his friend Bassanio woo a wealthy heiress named Portia. Antonio, unfortunately, defaults on the loan, and Shylock demands a pound of his flesh as collateral.
This remains a controversial play that has been the subject of much debate and interpretation over the years. It raises questions about morality, justice, and the treatment of marginalized groups in society, making it a timeless work of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.
Coming in at number 3 in our best Shakespeare plays ranked is Macbeth, a tragedy that explores the corrupting influence of power and the consequences of ambition. The play is widely considered one of Shakespeare’s darkest and most powerful tragedies.
Set in medieval Scotland, it tells the story of the ambitious and ruthless general Macbeth, who receives a prophecy from three witches that he will become king. Driven by his desire for power, Macbeth and his wife plot to murder the current king and take the throne for themselves. However, the guilt and paranoia that come with their crime lead to their eventual downfall.
Macbeth is a timeless masterpiece that continues to captivate and intrigue audiences to this day. Its exploration of human nature and the dangers of ambition and power remain as relevant now as they were over 400 years ago when the play was first performed.
2. King Lear
King Lear is one of Shakespeare’s most tragic plays and ranks high on our list at number two. The play tells the story of an aging king who divides his kingdom among his three daughters.
However, things take a dark turn when he disowns his youngest daughter, Cordelia, for not expressing her love for him in the same extravagant manner as her sisters.
King Lear’s actions have disastrous consequences, leading to a series of betrayals and tragedies that ultimately result in his own downfall.
One of the reasons why King Lear is so highly regarded is its exploration of complex themes such as family, power, and madness. The play delves into the complicated relationships between parents and children, the corrupting nature of power, and the devastating consequences of unchecked ambition.
At the same time, it also delves into the psychological complexities of its characters, particularly King Lear himself, who struggles with mental deterioration throughout the play.
King Lear’s timeless themes and powerful language make it a standout among Shakespeare’s plays and a worthy addition to any list of his best works.
Hamlet is often regarded as Shakespeare’s greatest play, and it’s no surprise why. This tragedy is a masterclass in character development, thematic complexity, and dramatic tension.
The titular character, Prince Hamlet, is one of the most complex and intriguing characters in all of literature. He’s haunted by the ghost of his father, who reveals that he was murdered by his own brother, Hamlet’s uncle, who is now king.
This revelation sends Hamlet on a journey of vengeance and self-discovery as he grapples with the moral and psychological implications of his quest for revenge.
One of the most fascinating aspects of Hamlet is the way it explores the nature of truth and reality. The play is full of characters who are either deceiving themselves or others, or who are being deceived.
Hamlet himself is often unsure whether what he’s experiencing is real or just a product of his own mind. The famous “To be or not to be” soliloquy is a prime example of this, as Hamlet ponders the nature of existence and the possibility of his own madness.
And that’s it – our top 10 list of Shakespeare’s plays ranked from great to excellent. Now when it comes to ranking Shakespeare’s plays, we’ve considered several factors. Some of the most important include popularity, critical acclaim, and historical significance.
Of course, rankings like these are inherently subjective, and different people may have different opinions about which plays are truly the best. However, we’ve done our best to provide a fair and well-reasoned ranking that considers all of these factors.
It’s also worth noting that even the lowest-ranked plays on this list are still considered classics in their own right and have been studied and performed for centuries.
The beauty of Shakespeare’s plays is that they continue to inspire and provoke thought, no matter how many years have passed since they were first written.