Prominent and Obscure Shakespeare Plays Lifted from a comment on my Top Ten Shakespeare Plays story, Michael5000 did a far deeper look at the plays based on things like how well people can recall the name of the play, how well the books sell, and so on. I’m not going to steal his thunder, but I am going to zero in on a couple of fascinating things: * One of his lists echoes our own list almost identically, except for one glaring difference – Henry VI shows up on theirs.  Nobody in all of my voting has even mentioned Henry VI. * His most obscure, Two Noble Kinsmen, is hardly a surprise – until recently it wasn’t even considered part of the complete works!  I only learned about it in 2005, personally.  Never read it. * Measure for Measure shows up on his obscure list.  I’ve had several people put it on their top ten best list.  That sounds like a “hidden gem” of Shakespeare’s if I’ve ever heard one! * In the final analysis, Lear ranks surprisingly low.  That’s a good indicator of what he’s measuring (not that that’s a bad thing).  People are way, way more familiar with Romeo and Juliet.  People will go through their whole lives without knowing anything about Lear. Anyway, it’s a great bunch of data that folks can have a field day with.  Which play is the most quotable, and is that a good indicator of the play’s popularity?  What about how often the Oregon Shakespeare Festival has chosen to perform certain plays over others? Go check it out.

5 thoughts on “Prominent and Obscure Shakespeare Plays

  1. I wonder if one of the reasons for Henry VI's popularity in that on-line quiz could be typographical. I often type Henry VI instead of Henry IV (and vice, as they say, versa).


  2. A good way to approach Kinsmen is by picking up the Arkangel Complete Shakespeare recording on CD (you can get it from Amazon), and following along with the liner notes. It's a very strong production.

    The play itself…you may like it, you may not. Shakespeare basically wrote Acts I and V. The rest is Fletcherian tragicomedy–some of his best work, in my opinion, but The Tempest it's not.

    The play lurches from mood to mood and genre to genre in a way reminiscent of Tarrantino's Pulp Fiction. It can be a little unsettling if you're not prepared for it. I'm quite fond of the play, but no-one would put it on a top ten list.

  3. I kind of like TNK. I think I might even prefer it to The Tempest (mopre action). GIve it a try.

  4. For what it’s worth: at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario, where the wife and I go, these plays have been put on most often since 1953 (according to a chart on the official website):

    11 times – A Midsummer Night’s Dream

    10 times – As You Like It
    10 times – Macbeth
    10 times – Twelfth Night

    9 times – King Lear
    9 times – Much Ado About Nothing
    9 times – Romeo and Juliet
    9 times – The Taming of the Shrew
    9 times – Love’s Labour’s Lost

    8 times – Hamlet
    8 times – The Merchant of Venice

    Done the least have been Cymbeline, Troilus and Cressida, Timon of Athens, Henry IV (Part 2), and Henry VI (Parts 1, 2, and 3), each only three times. The Two Noble Kinsmen has only been done once (in 2002).

  5. Michael5000 says:

    Hey! That's ME!

    Thanks for looking at my admittedly silly little research project!

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