What Ten Classic Plays Should I Read And Why?


4 Answers

Mark Westbrook Profile
Mark Westbrook answered
Amongst the pantheon and canon of great classic plays, it is almost impossible to pick out only ten. The second problem of course is how to define classic, it's different of course from the phrase 'classical' which is a more defined period of time or era.

If I were going to have to choose ten, they would be as follows:

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
The greatest play ever written, complex plot, complex character, beautiful verse and imagery, most written about fictional character ever.

Antigone by Sophocles
A fantastic classical play, part of his trilogy, the great moral and ethical debate rests on Antigone.

The Caretaker by Harold Pinter
An icon of the British theatre, influence to many, clearly influenced by Beckett, a comedy of menace.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
The greatest American play ever written, dissects with care the American dream.

Glengarry Glen Ross by David Mamet
Pulitzer Prize Winning play by the master of dialogue.

The Seagull by Anton Chekhov
The play that changed the Russian theatre and perhaps the history of modern playwrighting.

Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht
A masterpiece of Epic Theatre, Brecht's theories rolled into a single piece of theatre.

Blasted by Sarah Kane
Blasted by the critics, Kane's very challenging play does all that should not be done on the stage with vicious contempt.

Angels in America by Tony Kushner
A huge six hour epic that charts the journey of hope in Eighties America, set against the Aids epidemic

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne
First of the Angry Young Men, a play that broke the polite drawing room play and brought kitchen sink drama into world drama.
Michael Lai Profile
Michael Lai answered
My addition to the list would be:

A man for all seasons by Robert Bolt

The merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

The crucible by Arthur Miller

Twelve angry men

Whose life is it anyway

These deal with various common theme that we face in life, and is a good mix of variety in terms of settings, characters, plots and time periods
Bil Nutt Profile
Bil Nutt answered
"Classic" is tricky because it's hard to define a cut-off time. (A couple of epicteus's choices are ones I'd include in "contemporary plays.") It also depends on personal taste.

For my money, though, here's what I'd go with:

OEDIPUS - an integral myth that has seeped into our consciousness because of Freud's work

HAMLET (and after that, read or see ROSENCRANZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD) - another play that is regular referenced in other works of art, besides being one of the greatest works by the greatest writer in the English language. R&G ARE DEAD is an intriguing riff on the themes and characters of HAMLET.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (or MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING) - Shakespearean comedy at its best, combining physical humor and verbal wordplay.

THE CHERRY ORCHARD - Chekhov was the master of understated wit and the way people relate (or don't relate) to each other.

A DOLL'S HOUSE - What _is_ a woman's place, and what does she owe the man in her life? Still thought-provoking.

HEDDA GABLER - another probling play about a desperate woman.

TARTUFFE - very smart, very funny, and very timely in its exploration of religious hypocrisy

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (and after that, read or see TRAVESTIES) - one epigram after another, adding up to one of the funniest plays of all time. TRAVESTIES puts EARNEST into the blender with ULYSSES, James Joyce and Tolstoy.

WAITING FOR GODOT - an existential landmark and another play that is sometimes referenced in other works. (I prefer R& G ARE DEAD, but that's me.)

DEATH OF A SALESMAN - an American tragedy. How do you define a man? Is it by what he does or what he is? Willy Loman is an American archetype.

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (or CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF) - Tennessee Williams could be overdone, but few writers could set up sexual tension and explore how men and women relate to each other.

SIX CHARACTERS IN SEARCH OF AN AUTHOR - This is a meditation on the relationship between fiction and reality, which is a theme that runs through a lot of modern fiction.

More than 10, of course, but what can you do?

Hope this helps!
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
1 - Harold Pinter "The Caretaker"
2 - Samuel Beckett "Endgame" or "Waiting for Godot"
3 - Philip Ridley "The Pitchfork Disney"
4 - Sarah Kane "Blasted" or "Crave"
5 - Mark Ravenhill "The Cut"
6 - Anthony Neilson "Penetrator"
7 - Patrick Marber "Closer"
8 - April de Angelis "Playhouse Creatures"
9 - Martin Mcdonagh "The Pillowman" (This is excellent, also watch the film "In Bruges" with Colin Farrell in)
10 - Michael Henry Brown "Generations of the Dead in the Abyss of Coney Island Madness" (Only if you can handle racial issues)
P.s I wouldn't bother with Arthur Miller unless you were American or studying it for school. It's too out dated now. The above are more modern classics and interesting (theatre has moved on from Shakespeare and Ibsen and rightly so....) apart from (depending on how you look at it) Pinter, Beckett and I suppose Angelis

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