Spotted first on Facebook via Will Sutton’s “I Love Shakespeare” page, let’s talk about this list of Shakespeare’s 25 Greatest Characters.
What does that even mean? Most famous? Most beloved? Like many lists, I think it ends up meaning “author’s favorite” but I’m going to be generous and treat it as, “Characters only Shakespeare could have created.” Mercutio’s a great example. The Romeo and Juliet story existed before Shakespeare, but one of the reasons why we remember his version is because of character creations like Mercutio (who technically existed in the Brooke original, if I recall, but you know what I mean. Shakespeare gave him life.)
It’s a good list, and it’s probably not what you expect. Lear is on it … but Hamlet is not. Falstaff is … but no Portia. Meanwhile, the list includes Autolycus, Nurse, and Lance. Each entry comes with its reason for inclusion.
I wonder if we could make a claim to greatest play, then, by looking at which plays provide the most characters for this list? As You Like It, Henry IV and King Lear provide two characters, but Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet each bring three. (Othello has one, Julius Caesar one.)
Not appearing on the list at all?