2018 by way of 1600

After my most recent post (regarding Shakespeare’s continued relevance), I thought it would be fun to share a few of Shakespeare’s plays that feel especially relevant today. The ones that feel like they were written for 2018 more than 1600 or 1610 or 1593, etc. The list I’ve come up with are plays (in no particular order) that I would like to revisit this year. Plays that I think speak to the fears, hopes, and demons that we are coming to terms with in 2018.

  • Measure for Measure. This was by no means my favorite reading experience as I worked my way through all of Shakespeare’s plays, but when I read it, I remember sitting on my bed with my mouth open thinking, This feels like a representation of conversations I see online over and over again about rape culture, sexism, and harassment. And that was before the #metoo movement went viral, before accusations or harassment became routine, before celebrities wore black on the red carpet in solidarity against every day harassment, and before the “Silence Breakers” deservedly received the honor of Time’s Person of the Year. Its relevance has only increased in the last several months as all of these things have taken place. I would love to say that Measure for Measure feels ahead of its time, but I honestly can’t. It’s not exactly what I would call a post-modern victory for my boy Will (a.k.a. Shakespeare), but it raises the issues and asks the questions that so many people have not dared to – even now. It doesn’t solve any problems, but it rivals any article or nonfiction book in relevance.
  • Richard III. When I look at the role that facts, reality, truth, and lies play in today’s news, I can’t help but think of Richard III. I’m not making any direct comparison by any means (poor Richard doesn’t deserve that), but it doesn’t take much to see all the confusion, lies, and manipulation in this play and think about all the conversations we’re having today about “fake” news, “alternative facts,” and deceitful public figures.
  • Appearance versus reality is another highly Shakespearean theme that feels especially relevant when you consider all the conversations about social media, and the “lives” that we present online versus our own realities. This theme is a very common one in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, but I chose two plays to represent this theme: Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These two plays address the question very differently, but it is central to both and feels highly relevant in a world where we are so attuned to questions regarding appearance versus reality.

I could go on, but these are the plays that I feel can function as anthems of our 2017/2018 world.

Do you have a different play in mind? What older works not authored by Shakespeare do you feel are especially relevant in our world?