Shakespeare is one of the greatest authors in history and up to his death he had written 37 plays and 154 sonnets. His plays explore a variety of genres including comedy, fantasy, revenge, tragedy, romance and farce. Most of his plays were published in the sixteenth and seventeen centuries and during that time his reference was mostly to the Greek mythology and the time was during the English Renaissance.
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Among his famous plays were, “The Merchant of Venice”, “The Midsummer Night’s dream”, “Hamlet” and “Romeo and Juliet” ( Thompson 2).These plays are a reflection of what goes on in the world of today and it would be appropriate to use these books to teach both the juniors and seniors in high school especially when looking at relationships among individuals.
In the ‘Midsummer Night‘s dreams’ we encounter a variety of characters who are surrounded by many instances that are as a result of accidents, mistakes and fantasies. The setting is in Athens and the forest. The events that take place in Athens are symbolic in the sense that they represent the sequence of events during the day whereas the events in the forest represent the dream like circumstances.
Therefore, the main theme in this book is love difficulties and the main characters involved in this love triangle are; Lysander who loves Hermia, Hermia who loves Lysander, Demetrius who loves Hermia and Helena who loves Demetrius. Egeus, Hermia’s father wants Hermia to marry Demetrius whom she does not love and in an attempt to escape from this catastrophe both Lysander and Hermia plan to elope to their aunt’s place where they would get married.
Helena being Hermia’s best friend, Hermia shares the secret with her. This is to the advantage of Helena because she uses this information to attempt to win back the love of Demetrius who had called off their engagement after falling in love with Hermia.
The two couples end up in the forest and that is when the dream like events starts to unfold. Oberon and Tatiana his queen are also in the forest and due to their conflict concerning an Indian boy whom Oberon wanted to make him his knight, Oberon tells Puck to spread some magical juice on Tatiana’s eyelids so that she would fall in love with the first person she sees when she wakes up in the morning.
Lysander is caught up in the crisis when Puck ends up spreading the juice on him instead of doing it on Demetrius as ordered by Oberon and when Lysander wakes up, she falls in love with Helena who is the first person she sees. This creates a conflict among the four individuals but by morning Puck corrects his mistake and each of the lovers end up with the right partner.
Tatiana also wakes up in the morning and after seeing Bottom, she falls in love with him (Shakespeare 142). Oberon finally obtains the Indian boy and for the other couples they get married in Athens thus a happy ending for all.
On the other hand, looking at the play “Hamlet”, we come across the major theme as being revenge which happens in a tragic manner. Hamlet the protagonist is set to avenge the death of his father which according to the ghost that appears before him, claims that Claudius, Hamlet’s brother is the one who killed him. Claudia inherited Gertrude Hamlet’s mother and also took over the throne after King Hamlet died.
Prince Hamlet is thus torn between believing the ghost or Claudius. He sets off to examine Claudius actions by bringing in a play performance that would demonstrate the killing of someone. When the play reaches the point of demonstrating the killing, Claudius walks out of the theatre, complete proof that he is guilty. Immediately, Claudius realizes Hamlet’s intention to seek revenge and he quickly organizes for him to go to England where he would be killed.
This plan works out so easily when Hamlet is accused of killing Polonius. The trip to England fails and Hamlet is forced to get back to Denmark “a rotten state” (Shakespeare 67) where Laertes the son to Polonius is awaiting to kill him because of his father’s and sister’s death.
The sword given to Laertes by Claudius is poisoned and it cuts both Hamlet and Laertes. Just before Laertes dies, he tells Hamlet, that Claudius is responsible for the Queens’ death. Hamlet gets angry and kills Claudius. He, himself dies and is carried away like a fallen soldier.
“The Merchant of Venice” is another of Shakespeare’s texts that also talks about relationships. In this text, people risk their lives for human relationships. Antonio, despite the fact that his ships were on hold, he accepts Shylock’s demand of having a pound of his flesh in exchange for unpaid loan just to bail out his friend, Bassanio who was to travel to Belmont to win over Portia, a wealthy heiress.
We also have Jessica who elopes with Lorenzo after Shylock’s refusal to accept their relationship. For Shylock, he values money than anything even his daughter (Shakespeare 15).In Belmont, Bassanio marries Portia and before the celebration ends, Bassanio receives a report that Antonio has lost his ships and forfeited his bond to Shylock.
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This forces Bassanio and his friend Gratiano to travel back to Venice and for Portia and Nerrisa, Gratiano’s wife; they also set off to Venice disguised as lawyers. Portia manage to win over Shylock and Antonio is saved from the tragedy and back in Belmont, Portia and Nerrisa reveal that they were the lawyers at Venice and after resolving their conflict over the rings, their two partners had given out to the lawyers, they reconcile with their husbands.
Thus, from these plays, it is evident that relationships among the young people are often faced with a lot of obstacles especially when the parents are against it, when they are fighting for their loved ones and when they want to keep their loved ones at all costs.
The good thing is, at the end of it all, love conquers all obstacles because even after Hermia’s father refused Lysander and Hermia to get married, they still did and for Demetrius and Helena having been in love before realize they were meant to be and that is why they end up together.
For Hamlet, because of the love of his father and mother, he kills his uncle (Kinney 38) and in the “Merchant of Venice”, Antonio, Bassanio, Portia and Jessica all sacrifice their selves for the sake of their loved ones. Thus, teaching high school students using these texts would help a lot in their valuing of relationships. In this case, among the three, “The Merchant of Venice” is the most appropriate due to the fact that it explores a variety of relationships (Smith 78).
Kinney, Arthur, F. Hamlet. Critical essays. Oxford, UK: Routledge, Inc. 2001. Print
Shakespeare William. Hamlet. London: Thomas Fisher. 1604. Print.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. London: Thomas Fisher. 1600. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Merchant of Venice. London: Thomas Heys.1600
Smith, Emma. The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2007. Print.
Thompson, Stephen, P. Readings on the Midsummer Night’s Dream. San Diego, CA: Green haven Press. 2000. Print.