William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was an English playwright, poet, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the 'Bard of Avon.' His extant works, including collaborations, consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, three long narrative poems, and a few other verses. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Books

This list of books are ONLY the books that have been ranked on the lists that are aggregated on this site. This is not a comprehensive list of all books by this author.

  1. 1. First Folio

    This collection is a compilation of 36 plays by a renowned English playwright, published seven years after his death. It includes comedies, histories, and tragedies, some of which had never been published before. Notable works in the compilation include "Macbeth," "Julius Caesar," "Twelfth Night," "The Tempest," and "As You Like It." The collection is considered one of the most influential books ever published in the English language, as it preserved many of the playwright's works that might have otherwise been lost.

  2. 2. Hamlet

    This classic play revolves around the young Prince of Denmark who is thrown into a state of emotional turmoil after his father's sudden death and his mother's quick remarriage to his uncle. The prince is visited by the ghost of his father who reveals that he was murdered by the uncle, prompting the prince to seek revenge. The narrative explores themes of madness, revenge, and moral corruption as the prince navigates the complex political and emotional landscape of the Danish court.

  3. 3. The Tempest

    "The Tempest" is a classic play about a sorcerer and rightful Duke of Milan who has been stranded on an island for 12 years with his daughter after being betrayed by his brother. Using his magical powers and the help of an airy spirit, he conjures a storm to shipwreck his brother and other enemies on the island. The narrative explores themes of revenge, power, magic, and forgiveness as the sorcerer manipulates events on the island to regain his dukedom and secure a good future for his daughter.

  4. 4. Macbeth

    This classic play follows the tragic tale of Macbeth, a Scottish general whose ambition is sparked by a prophecy from three witches that he will one day become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred on by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne. However, guilt and paranoia plague him, leading to a reign of terror and further bloodshed. His desperate attempts to cling onto power lead to his downfall, illustrating the destructive power of unchecked ambition.

  5. 5. King Lear

    This classic tragedy revolves around the aging King Lear, who decides to divide his kingdom among his three daughters based on their declarations of love for him. The two elder daughters, Goneril and Regan, flatter him with insincere praises, while the youngest, Cordelia, refuses to play the game and is disowned. As the king's sanity deteriorates, his kingdom falls into chaos under the rule of his deceitful elder daughters. The play explores themes of power, loyalty, madness, and justice, culminating in a tragic ending where almost all the main characters, including King Lear and Cordelia, die.

  6. 6. A Midsummer Night's Dream

    In this classic play, the Duke of Athens is preparing for his marriage when the lives of two young couples become complicated by the meddling of fairies. The fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania, are quarreling, causing chaos in both the fairy world and the world of mortals. Puck, a mischievous sprite and servant of Oberon, causes further confusion and comic misadventures by casting spells that lead to mistaken identities and misplaced affections. Eventually, all is resolved, and the play ends with three happily married couples.

  7. 7. Romeo and Juliet

    This classic play tells the tragic love story of two young individuals from feuding families in Verona, Italy. Despite their families' ongoing conflict, the pair secretly marry and vow to be together, no matter the cost. Their commitment leads to a series of unfortunate events, including misunderstandings, banishments, and ultimately, their untimely deaths. Their demise, however, reconciles their feuding families, leaving a poignant message about the destructive power of hate and the redemptive power of love.

  8. 8. Othello

    "Othello" is a tragic play about a Moorish general in the Venetian army who is manipulated by his ensign into believing that his wife is unfaithful. Consumed by jealousy, the general kills his wife, only to discover that she was innocent. Filled with remorse, he then takes his own life. The play explores themes of love, jealousy, betrayal, and racism.

  9. 9. Richard III

    "Richard III" is a historical play that follows the Machiavellian rise to power and subsequent short reign of its titular character. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, is depicted as a ruthless, power-hungry man who will stop at nothing to take the throne of England, resorting to manipulation, deceit, and even murder. However, his reign is plagued by guilt and insecurity, and his tyranny eventually leads to his downfall and death in battle. The play explores themes of power, corruption, morality, and the consequences of unchecked ambition.

  10. 10. The Sonnets

    "The Sonnets" is a collection of 154 poems that explore themes such as love, beauty, politics, and mortality. The sonnets are written in a specific form that the poet popularized, consisting of 14 lines with a specific rhyme scheme. The collection is divided into two sections: the first 126 sonnets are addressed to a young man, while the last 28 are addressed to a woman known as the 'dark lady'. This collection is widely considered one of the greatest achievements in English literature.

  11. 11. Twelfth Night: Or, What You Will

    Twelfth Night: Or, What You Will is a comedic play that revolves around mistaken identities and love triangles. The story follows the adventures of Viola, who, after being shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother Sebastian, disguises herself as a man named Cesario. As Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino and falls in love with him, even as he sends her to woo the Countess Olivia on his behalf. However, Olivia falls in love with Cesario, not knowing he is actually Viola in disguise. Further confusion ensues when Viola's presumed-dead brother Sebastian arrives, leading to mistaken identities, hilarious mix-ups, and ultimately, happy resolutions.

  12. 12. Julius Caesar

    This classic play dramatizes the political and personal machinations surrounding the assassination of a powerful leader. The narrative follows the conspirators' plot, their execution of the plan, and the resulting chaos and war. The themes of ambition, loyalty, and the struggle for power are explored through complex character interactions and memorable soliloquies. The play also examines the consequences of political violence and the unpredictable nature of history.

  13. 13. Henry IV, Part I

    This classic play revolves around the life of King Henry IV, his son Prince Hal, and their turbulent kingdom. The kingdom is in chaos due to rebellions, and the king is disappointed with his son's irresponsible behavior. The prince, however, spends his time in taverns with the amusing and deceitful Falstaff. As the rebellion against the king grows, Prince Hal shows his true potential and bravery by not only saving his father in battle but also killing the leader of the rebellion, proving himself to be a worthy heir to the throne.

  14. 14. The Merchant of Venice

    This classic play follows the story of a merchant in Venice who is in dire financial straits and borrows money from a Jewish moneylender, promising a pound of his own flesh as collateral. When he is unable to repay the debt, the moneylender demands his due, leading to a court case and moral dilemma about mercy and justice. Meanwhile, the moneylender's daughter elopes with a Christian, further complicating the relationships between characters. The narrative explores themes of prejudice, love, and the law.

  15. 15. Henry V

    The play follows the young King Henry V as he ascends to the throne following his father's death. Despite his wild and reckless past, Henry proves himself to be a capable leader and an inspiring orator. He leads his outnumbered English army to victory against the French at the Battle of Agincourt during the Hundred Years' War. The play explores themes of leadership, power, war, and nationalism, and is known for its powerful speeches and dramatic battle scenes.

  16. 16. The Winter's Tale

    "The Winter's Tale" is a tragicomedy that tells the story of Leontes, a king who unjustly accuses his wife Hermione of infidelity with his best friend. Consumed by his jealousy, he orders her imprisonment, causing their son's death and supposedly leading to Hermione's death as well. After 16 years, Leontes is reunited with his daughter, believed to have died at birth but actually raised by a shepherd. The story concludes with a statue of Hermione coming to life, revealing that she had been alive all along, living in hiding. The play explores themes of jealousy, loss, redemption, and the healing power of time.

  17. 17. As You Like it

    This classic play is a pastoral comedy set in the Forest of Arden, where the banished Duke Senior and his followers live in exile. The plot revolves around various forms of love and mistaken identities. The main character, Rosalind, is the Duke's daughter who disguises herself as a young man named Ganymede to escape her uncle's court. She falls in love with Orlando, who is also in exile, and through a series of comedic and romantic events, they end up together. The play is famous for its exploration of love, freedom, and life in nature.

  18. 18. The Taming of the Shrew

    This classic play is a comedic tale of love, deception, and transformation. It focuses on the courtship of Petruchio, a gentleman of Verona, and Katherina, the headstrong, obdurate shrew. Initially, Katherina is an unwilling participant in the relationship, but Petruchio breaks down her resistance with various psychological torments. The play ends with the tamed Katherina the most obedient wife among three couples, raising questions about the roles of men and women.

  19. 19. Much Ado about Nothing

    This classic play revolves around two pairs of lovers in the city of Messina. The first pair, Hero and Claudio, are young and innocent, while the second pair, Beatrice and Benedick, are older and more cynical about love. Throughout the plot, the couples face various challenges including deception, public humiliation, and the faked death of Hero. However, with the help of their friends and family, they overcome these obstacles and the story concludes with a joyful double wedding.

  20. 20. Love’s Labour’s Lost

    In this comedic play, the King of Navarre and his three noble friends take an oath to devote themselves to three years of study, swearing off the company of women. However, their resolve is quickly tested when the Princess of France and her three ladies arrive on a diplomatic mission. The men fall comically in love with the women, leading to a series of witty exchanges and playful deceptions. As the men vie for the women's affections, they grapple with the tension between lofty ideals and earthly desires. The play culminates in an unexpected turn that defers the promise of resolution, leaving the characters to contemplate the more serious sides of life and love.

  21. 21. Henry Iv Parts One

    This historical play explores the complexities of honor, power, and family through the turbulent reign of an English king. The narrative follows the monarch as he faces rebellions led by the formidable Hotspur and the Welsh leader Glendower, while also dealing with the antics of his wayward son, Prince Hal. The young prince spends his time in taverns with the corpulent and witty Sir John Falstaff, shirking his royal duties. However, as the kingdom's stability is increasingly threatened, Prince Hal must reconcile his roguish behavior with his responsibilities as heir to the throne, leading to a climactic confrontation on the battlefield where he must prove his worth as a future king.

  22. 22. Henry Iv Parts Two

    The play continues the story of a monarch struggling to maintain his grip on the throne amidst rebellion and internal strife. As the king's health wanes, his son and heir, Prince Hal, must navigate the treacherous political landscape, shedding his wayward past and proving himself a worthy successor. The narrative juxtaposes the prince's maturation with the comic exploits of Sir John Falstaff, Hal's boisterous and disreputable companion. Themes of honor, power, and the burdens of leadership are explored as the characters confront their destinies and the looming inevitability of change.

  23. 23. Coriolanus

    The play is a tragic drama set in ancient Rome that follows the life of the titular military leader, known for his valor and exceptional combat skills. However, his inability to navigate the complex web of Roman politics and his contempt for the common people lead to his downfall. After being banished from Rome due to his arrogance and the machinations of political adversaries, he seeks revenge by allying himself with a former enemy. His tragic flaw, excessive pride, and the manipulation by those around him ultimately result in a climactic and fatal confrontation that seals his fate.