Banksy for the Wimp: Shakespeare Edition – List of Plays

All is Well that Ends Well

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A woman is in love with a man who is indifferent to her. She goes so far as to risk her life to force him into marriage. But immediately after the ceremony he leaves her to fight in a war declaring that he will only ever be truly her husband after she bears his child and wears his ring. Through applying tactics that aren’t unlike those in war she manages to fulfill his challenge without him realizing it. When he learns what she has done he is finally so impressed that he swears his love to her for eternity.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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The King and Queen of the fairies are estranged because she dares to be disobedient. When they camp in a forest outside Athens because the Queen is set to attend a wedding there, the King decides that it is time to punish her. He employs the help of a mischievous elf who applies a potion on the Queen’s eyes that upon waking will make her fall deeply in love with the first living thing she sees. Thus the King intends to shame her by falling into love with an animal of the forest. While at it the elf applies the same potion to the eyes of the male members of a love quadruple and changes the head of an actor very much in love with himself into that of a donkey without him realizing it. He becomes the Queen’s love interest. That ensures that there is a lot of confusion before everyone including the audience is made believe that all the chaos they experiences was just a dream.

Antony and Cleopatra

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He is one of three rulers of the Roman Empire. She is the Queen of Egypt. Together they are deeply in love. But he needs to return to Rome to help fight the enemies of the state. That he marries another for politics enrages her, but their love survives. He returns to her when the dishonor of his co-rulers becomes too much to bear for him. Twice he goes to war for her against his former partners. Twice he loses, not least because she abandons his fleet mid-battle and he follows her leaving his soldiers to die. He dies in her arms after believing in her fake suicide and wanting to follow her. She chooses death over humiliation and slavery deliriously dreaming of their reunification in the afterlife.

As You Like It

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The old Duke is usurped by his younger brother and takes refuge in the forest. His daughter is allowed to remain at the court as she is the only friend of the younger brother’s daughter. But she too is banished after her love had to flee the faulty prosecutions brought upon him by his older brother. The cousins disguise as a poor lady and a young man and flee to look for the old Duke, who’s camp the love interest has already joined. Accompanied by the court jester they find a house in the forest to settle in. After the disguise leads to a lot of tangled feelings involving shepherds of both genders, which all need to be sorted out and turned into the right direction, a lion plays a role, and faulty brothers repent, there are four weddings and two new additions to religious life to be celebrated.

Coriolanus

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There is no love shared between a Roman general and the plebian. While the mob holds the general responsible for grain being withheld from them, the general believes them not worthy of any grain at all due to their lack of military service. After another war and a victory not least thanks to the general’s courage, the general’s mother pushes him to run for consul. When what seems a sure victory is undermined by two Roman tributes starting another riot the general speaks in rage against the concept of popular rule. Exiled he offers himself up to the same commander, who he defeated in the previous war so that his death would shame Rome. Yet the commander allows him to attack Rome with his support again. Dissuaded by his mother and wife from destroying his hometown he concludes a peace treaty between the two parties and is subsequently killed by the commander for what he regards as betrayal.

Cymberline

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The only daughter of a king elopes with a courtier. Since her brothers were stolen as infants her husband would be heir to the throne. The king does not approve of his daughter’s choice and banishes her husband. At one point of time her husband then thinks to have proof that she has been unfaithful to him and sets a plot in motion that is meant to kill her. Her stepmother as well, who wants to see her son of an earlier marriage on the throne, decides to find a way to kill husband and stepdaughter. All these conspiracies manage is to bring the lost sons, their sister, and her husband together into a battle of the kingdom with an invading army and thus gather them ultimately in one room around the king. Many of them are in disguise and under assumed identities which they dispose of one by one as the different plots and intentions are uncovered in time to safe many lives.

Hamlet

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The Danish King died. His brother swiftly marries the widowed Queen. The Prince is still deeply in mourning when the ghost of his father reveals to him that he was murdered by his brother and demands revenge. The Prince initially doubts the ghost and the legitimation of its story. But when during a staged play that reenacts how the ghost claims the murder happened his uncle hastily leaves the room, the Prince thinks his guilt confirmed. The uncle, now afraid of the Prince tries to have him murdered. Yet, his plan leads ultimately to the death of the whole royal family. The crown goes to the invading Norwegian forces without any fight.

Henry VIII

 

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The king’s closest advisor, a cardinal, is constantly scheming even against the queen. But when he is caught in double play with the Pope against the king in his fight for a divorce, he falls from his favor. The king needs the divorce to marry another. When it is not granted to him he cuts his ties to the Pope, starts his own church and marries the woman in his favor at this time. She gives birth to a future queen who is christened under the eye of an enthusiastic crowd.

Julius Caesar

 

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While struggling between the conflicting demands of friendship, honor and patriotism the best friend of the Roman Emperor is cajoled into joining a conspiracy that leads to the assassination of the Emperor in the Senate. The conspirators insist that what they had done they did for the common good. But one manipulative speech playing with the feelings of the gathered city turns the public opinion against them and the mob drives the conspirators out of town. It comes to battle which sees the defeat of the conspirators and their deaths, mostly by their own hand.

King John 

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The king’s claim to the throne is contested by his nephew who has the support of the French King. The Pope as well, enraged by the appointment of an unapproved cardinal, revokes his support and excommunicates the king. When many noblemen switch sides too it seems that the only remaining ally to the king is an illegitimate nephew who he knighted once. But the tides change again after the king can regain the support of the Pope and the true intentions of the French for the nobles are revealed. While the old king dies of poisoning his noble men gather around him and swear allegiance to his son, their new king.

King Lear

 

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A weary king declares that he will divide his lands between his three daughters, handing the largest share to the one who loves him most. In the process of determination the only daughter who truly loves him, his youngest, is inherited because her words are blunt. Her honesty however wins her the heart of the French King. The dishonesty of the other two sisters becomes obvious in their subsequent treatment of their father who is driven ever deeper into madness by the insight into his mistakes. The sisters’ evil schemes against each other mixed with that of the illegitimate son of an earl do not lead to the fall of the kingdom; not even when the youngest sister brings a French army to campaign to restore her father’s reign. But they lead to the death of the whole family.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

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A king and his entire court swear off women for three years in order to devote themselves to studying and fasting. They are tempted and finally agree to break their oaths of chastity when a princess and her ladies visit and make their camp outside the king’s court. Yet then the princess’ father dies and she and the ladies go into mourning. Now they demand the men’s chastity for a year and a day to prove that their love is lasting.

Macbeth

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Three witches augur in the presence of two Scottish generals that one of them will be king one day while the other will be the father of a line of kings. The general to be king is driven by his ambitions and is egged on by his wife who questions his manhood afterwards. He overcomes his own doubts and a number of supernatural portents and stabs the King in his sleep. The murder is framed on servants who are believed to have acted on behalf of the rightful heirs when those flee the country in fear. As predicted the general assumes the throne. To remain in power he is forced to commit and order more and more murders. Guilt and paranoia grow with each one and drive him and his wife into madness. The wife commits suicide. The general is killed in the following civil war, thus allowing the second part of the prophecy about the other general to come true in the long run.

Measure for Measure

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A duke pretends to leave his town. In disguise as a friar he stays to spy on the pretentious judge he left in charge. The judge promptly sentences a man to death for fornication who merely missed to observe all technicalities of marriage. When the sister of the convict, a novice nun the judge fancies, pleads for mercy for her brother, the judge offers a deal – mercy for her virginity. She is appalled and refuses, but approached by a friar she takes part in setting up a trap for the judge in order to expose him as the liar he is. When the trap snaps shut the convict is released and the Duke proposes to his sister.

Much Ado About Nothing

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Two cousins, both very different in their ways yet still good friends, are in love with soldiers of the army of a Spanish prince, who happens to be a good friend of their father/ uncle. While one couple is set to be married the week after the army, the other couple needs to be tricked into confessing their love for each other, which they usually disguise as bickering. Before the happy ending with a double marriage can be celebrated however, the evil scheme of the Prince’s illegitimate brother has to be unearthed that aims to destroy one of the future brides’ reputation and thus the happiness of all.

Othello

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A Moorish general elopes with the white daughter of a senator. It does not just make the senator believe that witchcraft had been used on his daughter, a wealthy gentleman envies the general his new wife. He gets in league with a disgruntled member of the general’s regiment. Together they set a plot in motion that relies heavily on jealousy and is meant to end the general’s marriage while also bringing the general’s young lieutenant to fall. Ultimately however, the events lead to the death of the conspirators as well as that of the newlywed couple.

Richard II

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The king is asked to judge in the dispute between two noblemen, one of them his cousin. He first agrees to a duel between the two. He then interrupts it at the very beginning to sentence both men to banishment. When the father of one of the banished men dies the king seizes his possessions. The nobility, weary with their king, sees that as just another act of wasting the kingdom’s wealth. In secret they support the banished and dispossessed cousin of the king in his attempt to claim the throne. He carries through with his intentions when the king is away on war in Ireland. Upon returning the king is incarcerated. He is later murdered by an ambitious nobleman misinterpreting the new king’s wishes. The new king means to cleanse himself of his part in the murder by going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

Richard III

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A deformed nobleman and brother of the dying king sets out to clear his way to the throne not even shying away from murder if necessary. The last obstacle are the two young princes who’s intelligence and charisma scares the uncle. He manages to declare them bastards and thus unfit for succession. Finally he has reached the throne. Just to be sure he has the brothers killed but makes the mistake to withhold from his co-conspirators what he had promised them. He becomes paranoid and loses what popularity he had, facing rebellion upon rebellion. In his final battle he is unhorsed. Calling out for a new one he is killed by his successor.

Romeo and Juliet

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Two teenage heirs from feuding families meet at a ball and fall in love. Despite all the hate between their kin and servants they decide to marry secretly. Shortly after their vows are spoken he is exiled and she is to be married to another by her father. The only way to cross her father’s plans seems to be to fake her own death. But her husband doesn’t get the memo in time. Upon finding her lifeless body he commits suicide at her side, what prompts her suicide when she wakes. It is their death that reconciles their families.

The Comedy of Errors

 

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Identical twins are born to a merchant and his wife. He purchases them a set of twin baby boys as slaves, who were born the same day. Soon after the family travels by ship. In a tempest the infants and their parents are separated. One boy of each set is left with one parent and they grow up in different towns. One day one son and his slave visit the town where the others are at home. They encounter the family and friends of the others and are promptly mistaken. It starts a series of wild mishaps that lead to arrest and false accusation. The mess is cleaned up when finally all twins and their parents are reunited.

The Merchant of Venice

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A merchant agrees to be a loan’s guarantor so that his friend can woo and wed the beautiful and wealthy heiress he loves. While the friend’s plan is set into motion and ultimately succeeds, the merchant is struck by bad fortune and can’t satisfy the bond the day it is due. The money lender had given out the bond only reluctantly because of the merchant’s open anti-Semitism. The final contract allowed him then to cut out a pound of flesh of the merchant if the merchant should not be able to pay his debt. Now the money lender is dead set on carrying through with the mutilation. He refuses any other offer or plea of mercy. He is however outwitted by the newly wed heiress disguised as a lawyer, not least because she argues against his citizen rights because of his Jewish faith. In the end it is the money lender that needs to be pardoned, yet he is let off only under the condition that he converts.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

 

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A fat, flat broke knight plans to obtain financial advantage by courting two wealthy married women. No matter what one of their husbands thinks the two chosen women have no intention to give in to the fat knight’s lazy attempts. However, they do believe that the knight deserves to be taught a lesson. In the course of their pranks the knight ends up in the river with dirty laundry all over him and he is beaten to a pulp while wearing a woman’s clothes. During the last prank the daughter of one of the couples avoids her parents additional schemes and marries to the man she loves – an occasion they all celebrate together in the end.

The Taming of the Shrew 

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A play is performed before a drunkard in order to make him believe that he is a lord. The play is about how a man applies reverse psychology to turn a shrew into the most obedient wife, who would take everything for granted just because he says so, while others compete for her younger, seemingly more desirable sister. It ends in weddings, merriment and a monologue explaining why wives should always obey their husbands no matter what – a drunkard’s dream.

The Tempest

 

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The rightful Duke of Milan has been usurped by his brother. He has been stranded on an island with his daughter and his most prized books for 12 years when he uses his learnt magic to raise a tempest. In the tempest the ship of his brother passing the island runs aground. The survivors, including the former co-conspirator and current King of Naples and his son, are separated. They arrive at the island in groups. After much scheming and more fruitless conspiring they all meet up in the rightful Duke’s cell. They spend a last night on the island full of forgiveness before they together set sail for Naples to celebrate the daughter’s marriage with the Prince.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

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Two friends from Verona travel to Milan, one of them leaving his fiancée behind. Upon arrival both fall instantly in love with the Duke’s daughter. While she returns the love of the unbound friend – the unfaithfulness of the other is unacceptable for her – her father has other plans for her. Since the unfaithful friend tells him of the couple’s plan to elope, he locks her in a tower and banishes her love from town. She runs away and falls promptly into the hands of outlaws. Her love has become their leader, but she doesn’t know that yet. She is rescued by the unfaithful and betraying friend, who is accompanied by his new page, his betrothed unrecognizable to him in boy’s attire. When he threatens to rape the Duke’s daughter the new leader of the outlaws steps in and the page’s identity is revealed. It leads to shame, repentance and forgiveness. The Duke’s acceptance and pardon follows swiftly.

The Winter’s Tale

 

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The King of Sicila has gotten it into his head that his wife had been unfaithful to him and now bore the child of his childhood friend, the visiting King of Bohemia. His rush and rageful acts destroy is marriage and his friendship. His newborn daughter is abandoned on his command. His wife and older son die. And an oracle foretells that he will not have another heir until his daughter is found again. The girl meanwhile grows up with shepherd in Bohemia, where she attracts the interest of the Prince in disguise as a shepherd himself. The secret engagement of the two is busted by the Bohemian King and the couple flees to Sicila. There the shepherd girl is recognized as the lost princess. All parties come together and forgive each other. Even the Queen is restored to life. But the death of her son stays a tradgedy.

Timon of Athens

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A wealthy and generous man believes in the value of friendship. In its name he doesn’t tire to give whatever is needed until all his wealth is gone. When he asks those he always considered his best friends for help in return he is repeatedly turned down. It turns the man bitter and he curses the city’s walls upon leaving. When he finds a treasure in the cave he dwells in, he gives most to subsidize an assault on the city and to whores so they would spread diseases in its walls. He dies a misanthrope acknowledging that he ever had only true one friend but lamenting that it was a servant.

Titus Andronicus

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A Roman commander, who refuses to climb on the Emperor’s throne, and a queen, he brings home as prisoner of war of a victorious ten year campaign, rush down a spiral of revenge. Long term schemes, mutilations, rape and murder add up to a merry battue that leaves the commander, the queen and almost all their loved ones dead in its wake.

Troilus and Cressida

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A Trojan couple in love is separated when the woman is sent to the Greek camp in exchange for a prisoner of war. The man sneaks into the camp, finds her flirting with the enemy, and decides to act upon his jealousy. Meanwhile the Greek and Trojan leaders try to get their heroes back in line. In the end one hero has the other killed by his men as revenge for the death of his best friend/ lover.

Twelfth Night

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After the recent death of her father and brother a woman swears off men for the next seven years. But the Duke has it in his mind that he is in love with her. He employs the services of a young man to profess his feelings to her. The young man however, is really a young woman in disguise, who recently lost contact to her twin brother in a ship wreck. She is in love with the Duke. Upon seeing the young man the woman immediately forgets her oath and falls in love with him. By chance she runs into the twin brother and they end up marrying each other. Newly wed the couple meets the Duke and his young man, who now confesses to being a woman. The Duke marries the twin sister. Throughout all of this several other people from the woman’s household drink a lot and conspire against her pompous steward, who disagrees with their lifestyle, using his secret love for his employer against him.

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