As everyone knows, William Shakespeare wrote a plethora of plays and poems, featuring a variety of characters, settings, and themes, from Titus Andronicus to The Tempest. He is even known to have produced more plays that are so far lost to modern scholars, such as Cardenio, named for a character in Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote. But imagine.
Imagine what Shakespeare could have done with other characters and periods and tales. The mind reels. At least, mine does. So, below is my almost-off-the-top-of-my-head wish list of the ten plays I wish Shakespeare had written:
- Noah and the Deluge
God, Noah, sons, wives. Animals. Flood. Destruction. Deliverance. Nakedness and drunkenness. What Shakespeare could have done with it all!
The he-man with a she-weakness. Riddles and betrayals and killing and revenge. Good stuff.
- The Rise and Fall of King David
Shepherd boy, giant slayer, court musician, warrior king, a story of shocking sin, regret, and repentance.
- Xerxes and Esther
A Persian king, a beautiful Jewish girl, a murderous villain, a gut-wrenching decision, and some delicious plot twists.
- The Trial of Socrates
Surely Shakespeare could have done for Socrates what he did for Troilus and Cressida and Timon of Athens. More, even.
- The Traitor (Judas Iscariot)
Imagine if Shakespeare’s talents had given a similar depth and complexity to Jesus’ betrayer as he did to Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. What a story that would have been.
- Nero, Emperor of Rome
Shakespeare and his audiences loved the Romans: Julius Caesar, Antony and Cleopatra, and so on. Nero’s story, especially if it had been written at the height of the bard’s powers, could have topped them all.
- William the Conqueror
Why wouldn’t we love the story of William I–a descendant of Rollo the viking and first king of Normandy, for crying out loud–and the Norman conquest of England in 1066, after which he struggled constantly to consolidate and hold both England and his continental lands? I ask you.
- Henry II
The first Plantagenet king. Married Eleanor of Aquitaine after her marriage to Louis VII of France had been annulled. It was he who supposedly uttered the fateful line about Thomas Becket, “Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?” What great material!
- Genghis Khan
So I know there is no “Mongol plays” category in Shakespeare’s works, but what if there had been? The guy was the founder of the Mongol Empire, which eventually became the largest contiguous empire in history. Maybe his story could have been told in parts, you know, like Henry IV. And Falstaff could have made an appearance.
I know, I know, there were good reasons Shakespeare never wrote some of the above (and I admit my personal interest in what the bard would have done with Bible stories), but wouldn’t it have been fun if he had? For us, if not for him. Or, at the very least, for me.
(photo of Bankside Theater via everystockphoto.com)