Hamlet

William Shakespeare

Hamlet, William Shakespeare's longest and most famous tragedy, was written some time between 1599 and 1602. It is considered to be one of the greatest and most influential works of literature in history.

 

Prince Hamlet sets out to avenge his beloved father's death at the hand of his uncle Claudius, who has married the Queen and seized the crown. But Hamlet's spiral into grief and madness has permanent and immutable consequences for the Kingdom of Denmark.

Royal Exchange Theatre
(2014)
Production
BBC Studios
(2009)
Production
Production
(1980)
The Prince of Denmark: a story vaguely inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet
British Council
(2016)
Production
Hamlet - RSC 2016
RSC
(2016)
Production
Tara Arts
(2016)
Production
Stratford Festival
(2016)
Production
LA Theatre Works
(2011)
Audio Theatre

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1600

King Lear

William Shakespeare

King Lear, first performed in 1606, is considered by many to be William Shakespeare’s finest tragedy. It draws on many of the same sources as the history plays, but also contains elements of classic fairy tales.

 

Lear is dividing his kingdom between his three daughters based upon their flattery when telling of their love for him. Cordelia’s honesty leads him to banish her from his kingdom, and madness descends upon the ageing king.

King Lear at the Almeida with Jonathan Pryce
Digital Theatre
(2012)
Production
BBC Studios
(1998)
Production
James Earl Jones as King Lear
Broadway Digital Archive
(1974)
Production
British Council
(2016)
Production
Talawa
(2016)
Production
BBC Studios
(1982)
Production
King Lear - RSC 2016
RSC
(2016)
Production
Stratford Festival
(2015)
Production

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1606

Macbeth

William Shakespeare
Thought to have been first performed in 1606 as a response to the Gunpowder Plot against James I, and William Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, Macbeth is a story of power, ambition, witchcraft and murder.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Digital Theatre
(2011)
Production
BBC Studios
(1978)
Production
British Council
(2016)
Production
Tara Arts
(2015)
Production
LA Theatre Works
(2011)
Audio Theatre
1606

The Crucible

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is a partially fictionalised telling of the Salem witch trials of 1692/3. Accusations of witchcraft following a game played by the daughters of a Massachusetts village spiral out of control and many must choose between their reputations and their integrity.
Richard Armitage as John Proctor in The Crucible (© Jay Brooks)
Digital Theatre
(2014)
Production
LA Theatre Works
(1988)
Audio Theatre
1953

Antigone

Sophocles .
Antigone is the narrative conclusion of Sophocles' three Theban Plays, dealing with the the fates of Oedipus and his offspring. Denied the rite by the state to bury her battle-fallen brother, Antigone is compelled to defy her city and her king, in order to fulfil her duty to family and to the gods.
BBC Studios
(1986)
Production
Genevieve Bujold as Antigone
Digital Theatre
(1974)
Production
LA Theatre Works
(2005)
Audio Theatre

Antony and Cleopatra

William Shakespeare

Antony and Cleopatra is one of William Shakespeare’s longest plays, at over 3,500 lines. Shakespeare takes Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans as his source text, but diverges in giving Cleopatra equal billing.

 

Roman general Mark Antony is in love with Cleopatra, the Egyptian empress, much to the disapproval of Octavius Caesar. Against conflicting backdrops of luxury and fame, versus death and war, the couple’s epic romance threatens to burn both Rome and Egypt to the ground.

BBC Studios
(1981)
Production
Stratford Festival
(2015)
Production
RSC
(2017)
Production

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1607

Blood Wedding

Federico García Lorca
Often dubbed part of Lorca's Rural Trilogy, Blood Wedding is a deeply cynical and confrontational piece of theatre. The Mother, The Bride, The Beggar Woman, The Neighbour, The Maid and The Moon - the characters in Federico Garcia Lorca's story operate as the largely nameless vehicles driving forward the play's themes of fate, betrayal, choice and consequence, towards an inevitably tragic conclusion.
DramaWorks
(2016)
Practical Guide

Related materials

1933

Carmen

George Bizet
Carmen's controversial portrayal of realism and romanticism caused a stir in 19th-century France and has since established itself as an international opera house favourite.
The cast of the Gran Teatre del Liceu's Carmen © A. Bofill
Gran Teatre del Liceu
(2011)
Production

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1875

Coriolanus

William Shakespeare

Probably William Shakespeare’s last tragedy, Coiolanus shares its source material, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, with Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. In a notable diversion from Plutarch’s text, Shakespeare dramatically develops the characterisation of Volumnia.

 

After winning the love of the Roman citizens with a spectacular display of bravery in battle, Coriolanus turns tyrant and, unable to conceal his contempt for the masses, is banished, causing him to unite with a former foe in vengeance.

BBC Studios
(1984)
Production
RSC
(2017)
Production

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1608

Cymbeline

William Shakespeare
Set against the backdrop of a Britain struggling to resist an advancing Roman empire, and one of William Shakespeare’s most problematic plays, Cymbeline is the story of a king defied and defiant. Innogen has married the lowly Posthumus, against the command of the king, her father. After being tricked into believing his new wife has been unfaithful, Posthumus plots to kill Innogen, who escapes disguised as a page, leading to a series of revelations.
BBC Studios
(1983)
Production
Cymbeline - RSC 2016
RSC
(2016)
Production

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1610

Dido and Aeneas

Henry Purcell
Baroque composer Henry Purcell’s classical tale of love thwarted by evil powers.
Sarah Connolly and Lucas Meachem as the eponymous characters in Dido and Aeneas
Royal Opera House
(2009)
Production

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1680

Doctor Faustus

Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe's most renowned play, The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, was first published in England in 1604. It tells the German story of a curious and brilliant doctor, whose fascination with dark magic leads him to make a pact with the devil.
DramaWorks
(2016)
Practical Guide

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1604

Julius Caesar

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is believed to have been written in 1599. Despite the title, the play focuses more on Brutus and the conflicting demands on him of honour and friendship.

 

The skies over ancient Rome blaze with terrifying portents, and soothsayers warn Caesar of approaching doom. As conspiracy swirls through the city, Shakespeare explores the deep repercussions of political murder on the human heart.

BBC Studios
(1978)
Production
British Council
(2016)
Production
RSC
(2017)
Production
LA Theatre Works
(1994)
Audio Theatre

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1599

La bohème

Giacomo Puccini
When Rodolfo, a penniless poet, meets Mimì, a seamstress, they fall passionately in love. But their happiness is threatened when Rodolfo learns that Mimì is gravely ill.

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1895

La Traviata

Giuseppe Verdi
Alfredo and the courtesan Violetta fall passionately in love. But Violetta is seriously ill and Alfredo’s father disapproves of their relationship – can their love overcome such obstacles?

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1853