A world of Shakespeare: a ghostly tale, a donkey's head, and starcross'd lovers

Daisy BlacklockYouGovLabs writer
July 19, 2012, 2:20 PM GMT+0

The World Shakespeare Festival kicked off on April 23 – the playwright’s birth/death date – with a programme to celebrate how the ‘world’s playwright’ shaped English literature, language, art and culture, and how his writing, imagery and allegory thrives still.

Half the world’s children studies Shakespeare at some point, according to the WSF; and the acting classes' enthusiasm for taking up the mantle of Hamlet, Lear, Richard III, Romeo, Juliet and co, as a veritable rite of passage, seems only to have strengthened with age.

To the Shakespeare enthusiasts among you on the panel, we asked you to tell us which your favourite play by Will Shakespeare is, and what is it about it that steals your imagination.

When YouGov asked the Great British public the same question, we discovered that the nation's top 3 Shakespeare scripts were Romeo and Juliet (24%), Macbeth (19%), and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (18%).

The Shakespeare-buffs in Labs shuffled this order round however, with Macbeth their favourite, followed by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet in third. But what reasons did they give?

MediaLabbers’ top 3 Shakespeare plays:

  • MACBETH (The Scottish play)

Aside from those who chose it because it was the one they were most familiar with, others selected Macbeth as the Shakespeare play they most liked, for its exhibition of human frailties and relationships, and the balance (or imbalance, depending on which way you look at it) of power. People spoke of the play as unsettling, thrilling and gripping. Complete with ghosts, murder, insanity and betrayal, what is there not to be drawn in by it, they queried?

“First time I had any access to Shakespeare and it opened my eyes to the beauty of his writing” Fairy, Lancashire

“It is set in Scotland and I am Scottish but the main reason is the play is an examination of ambition opportunity morality and personal relationships and could be set almost anywhere and at any time and still have real relevance to an audience” Anon

“Murder, treachery, ghosts – what more could you want?” Anon

  • A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (The one with the donkey)

Others favourited A Midsummer Night’s Dream for its humour (preferring Shakespeare’s comedies to his tragic works), creativity, magic, and its reminiscence of fairytale. They enjoyed the language, and the technical efficacy of interweaving narratives. A handful of people had a personal attachment to it:

“The characters and the imagination – great to build a set around” Dave C, Hampshire

“It's his most whimsical work. It's really dreamy and funny. Completely contemporary, yet hundreds of years old. It never ages” Jenna, London

“I prefer his comedies to his histories or tragedies. Of all the comedies, this is the most ethereal and rewarding. It is a mixture of magic, comedy, love story and farce. A wonderful story” Phil C, Dundee

  • ROMEO AND JULIET (Starcross’d lovers)

And in third, the immovable, archetypal romantic tragedy, and one of the best ever written, said participants:

“Because everyone likes a good romance. It's one of his most iconic, famous. Almost everyone knows the story, so many plays, shows musicals reviews and theatre productions and ballets have been performing this play for centuries” Anon

“I think the premise of the whole play is a great dramatic story full of innocence of young love as well as tragedy. I like the Prokofiev Ballet of the work too” A. Duncan, Isle of Lewis

“Romantic” Anon

If you had to pick one Shakespeare play, which would you say you like most?