Review: William Shakespeare’s Plays – Histories

Shakespeare isn’t the easiest thing to read – and most people I know have given up on Shakespeare since we were required to read and study them in high school. In university, I actually had to take a Shakespeare course because I was an English major and it was finally in that course that I came to appreciate Shakespeare a little more. I’ve come to find that Shakespeare is comprehensible – and even enjoyable – if you’re willing to slow down and read carefully in order to understand the language.With that in mind, I decided to make it my personal goal to complete all of Shakespeare’s plays. This goal was first created five years ago, and I’m proud to say that I’ve now completed all the Shakespearean histories.

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There are ten of Shakespeare’s plays that are based on history. These include:

  1. King John
  2. Richard II
  3. Henry IV, Part 1
  4. Henry IV, Part 2
  5. Henry V
  6. Henry VI, Part 1
  7. Henry VI, Part 2
  8. Henry VI, Part 3
  9. Richard III
  10. Henry VIII

In the order that I enjoyed them, based on my ratings on Goodreads as it’s been awhile since my first Shakespearean history and the last one I finished. I have noticed that I enjoyed the plays that dealt more with the social dynamics of the times than the endless monologues of political dreams. But those were a little hard to avoid since these are historical plays. I found Richard III  to be my favourite, perhaps because of how many people died in it (sorry, spoiler alert). But it became almost humourous how all these characters would be sent to the Tower and still not suspect that they are being betrayed and sent to their deaths.

  1. Richard III, King John
  2. Henry VIII, Henry V, Henry VI Part 1, Richard II
  3. Henry IV Part 1, Henry IV Part 2, Henry VI Part 2, Henry VI Part 3

I’ve been trying to collect all The Pelican Shakespeare editions of the play. But if they’re not available, I had to go with different editions. The Pelican Shakespeare is still my favourite.

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The Pelican Shakespeare:

  • These paperbacks were easier to read – the size of the book was bigger and thus not as thick as mass paperbacks
  • Pretty book covers
  • I love that the annotations are at the bottom of the corresponding pages for quick and easy reference
  • Only thing that I was also like – having a brief overview of each scene

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Signet Classics Shakespeare

  • There are little degree signs to indicate footnotes
  • Not a fan of mass paperbacks for Shakespeare

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Folger Shakespeare Library

  • Brief overview of each scene so that you have an idea of what’s happening before you read it
  • Little illustrations to give a more insightful look into the times
  • Each page of the play was accompanied by a full page of annotations – but a lot of the times, the annotations spilled over into the next page. So it wasn’t very convenient or efficient to be flipping ahead to the next page to check for the annotations.
  • Not a fan of mass paperbacks for Shakespeare

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I’ve got three more of the tragedies to go before I’m done that genre of Shakespeare’s plays. And then I’ve got nine comedies remaining – I decided to save the comedies last because I tend to enjoy those more.

Which of Shakespeare’s histories have you read? Which ones did you enjoy? Or perhaps really didn’t enjoy? Comment below and let me know!

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