Shakespeare's greatest play?


As he begins rehearsals for Henry IV Parts I and II, which will open in the spring to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday, RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran says they are two of Shakespeare's greatest plays. Do you agree?

Vote now in our poll, which will close on Wednesday 8 January when we will release the results. #shakespearesgreatest

Gregory Doran says of the plays:

'The Royal Shakespeare Company are celebrating Shakespeare's 450th birthday with, arguably, his two greatest plays: Henry IV Parts I and II.

'These plays have been 'special occasion' plays throughout history. With their mixture of comedy, history and pathos, their panoramic view of England, and their depiction of a whole society from city, court and country, from kings and princes to paupers, publicans and prostitutes, they have always had a very broad appeal.

'They have often been chosen to open new theatres. When the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIII, flew into Stratford-upon-Avon in 1932 to open Elisabeth Scott's new Art Deco Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Henry IV Parts I and II were the plays presented and they were performed again when the RSC opened the Barbican in 1982.

'Indeed when the theatres reopened in 1660, at the Restoration of Charles II, Thomas Killigrew chose this great pair of plays to mark the occasion. They were the first Shakespeare plays to be performed in Australia, in 1800, at the theatre in Sydney, presented by an ex-convict called Robert Sidaway.

'They were chosen as part of a larger cycle in Stratford for the Festival of Britain in 1951 with Richard Burton as Prince Hal and Michael Redgrave as Hotspur.

'On Shakespeare centenaries they have always been a popular choice. In London, in 1864, for the tercentenary of his birth, Samuel Phelps staged them at Sadler's Wells, and played Falstaff himself. They were also part of the cycle mounted by the RSC for the quarter-centenary in 1964 with Ian Holm as Prince Hal and Hugh Griffiths as Falstaff.

'That's why I have chosen them to celebrate Shakespeare's 450th birthday.'

Guardian theatre critic, Michael Billington, is just one of many who suggest these are Shakespeare's greatest.

Which plays would you nominate and why?

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Teaching Shakespeare