With the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death being marked on 23rd April, we asked 11 writers to tell us about their favourite Shakespeare play.
"One, for the intensity, the poetry, for one of his most fully realised female characters, but I like the idea – and it’s a good reminder, and I go back to it every now and then – on how to bring complexity to a villain.
"Because Macbeth is the villain of the story, which is interesting, and he’s a pretty brutal villain. He’s quite horrendous, which is why when anybody asks my why is my book so violent, I’m like, 'you’ve never been to a Shakespeare play have you?'
"So I like that one the most because through all of that brutality there’s actually a kind of tenderness to it. For one, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth’s love is real. It’s actually quite real and quite beautiful even though they destroy each other, so that would be probably my favourite, probably followed pretty closely by "Hamlet", again for the poetry of it. In some/many ways it’s the most beautiful play. Certainly, probably his bloodiest, I’m starting to be a violence guy so... But I also really love "As You Like It"."
-Marlon James, author of A Brief History of Seven Killings (Oneworld)
"The Sudanese school curriculum didn't include Shakespeare so I never did study him. My father, though, had gone to Victoria College, the elite British boarding school in Alexandria (fellow students were Omar Sharif, Edward Said and King Hussein of Jordon) and Shakespeare was very much part of the syllabus. My father's favorite play was "Macbeth". He was always quoting it and he once took me to see it performed in London. I loved the witches and Lady Macbeth but what made more of an impact on me was my father's lively enthusiasm and vivid memories of his schooldays."
-Leila Aboulela, author of The Kindness of Enemies (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
"I won't be the only person to choose "Hamlet". I have lost count of the number of times I have seen it, or read it or had long conversations with my husband about it. Every time I find something new in it, some new way of looking at the text. Even a not very good production can stimulate endless thoughts about the old and new philosophical world order and how Hamlet deteriorates to the level of his own enemy in the course of the play."
-Mary Hoffman, author and publisher at Greystones Press
"Paranormal activity, murder most foul, that mother-son relationship, intrigue, revenge, and a tortured protagonist, whose prevarication only makes things worse, drawing innocents into the firing line. "Hamlet" is a box of delights from which to draw inspiration for a crime novel."
-Lin Anderson, author of The Special Dead (Pan)
"The things you love with a passion at 17 stay with your forever, and for me, it was "Hamlet". He was me, but more so: confused and excitable, frustrated and self-questioning. And wittier than I could hope to be, endlessly spouting quotable lines. I’ve seen dozens of performances over the years, but Ben Wishaw is ‘my’ Hamlet: an alienated student, young, funny, idealistic – the eternally misunderstood teenager."
-Sophia Bennett, author of Love Song (Chicken House)
"My handful of favourites vary, but "Twelfth Night" is a constant. I could make a case for why it's so great - the mastery of tone, the effortless, revelatory insights, even some properly funny jokes - but actually, as so often, favourites are personal things, not analytical ones. I saw it, and fell in love with it, and that was that."
-Daniel Hahn, author and translator
""Twelfth Night" seems to have inspired every single Bollywood film about mistaken identity, siblings split apart and clowns. It feels like a direct ancestor of Amar Akbar Anthony. It's a marvel of comedic timing and the way it is able to ramp up the jokes and tension through increasing stakes is always a wonder to watch."
-Nikesh Shukla, author and editor of The Good Immigrant (Unbound)
"The Merchant of Venice"
"My favourite play is "The Merchant of Venice". It’s got the best and most sympathetic villain in Shylock and like lots of great Shakespeare, coined the great concept of someone wanting their pound of flesh. Excellent."
-Kit de Waal, author of My Name is Leon (Penguin)
"Shakespeare's "Othello" greatly influenced me because I read it as a teen and not only fell in love with the plot, but also absolutely believed in all the characters - especially backstabbing Iago."
-Malorie Blackman, author of Chasing the Stars (Doubleday Children’s)
"My choice would have to be "King Lear", partly because it’s such a clear-eyed, nuanced examination of the different ways the generations screw each other up, and specifically of the father/daughter relationship. It’s also a play that evolves beautifully over time; I read it with a kind of rage against Lear as a young woman - now, as a 30-something who’s cared for her own dying father, I come to it with a different perspective. Finally - and this is something I strive for in my own work - it’s a play that trusts a great deal to us, the readers and the actors, and gives us enough room to explore the morality of Lear’s behaviour towards his daughters, and theirs to him, and draw our own conclusions."
-Ruth Ware, author of In a Dark, Dark Wood (Harvill Secker)
"Much Ado About Nothing"
"I came to Shakespeare late, as it's not part of the curriculum in France, but I've always had a fondness for "Much Ado About Nothing", of which I first saw the lovely movie adaptation by Kenneth Branagh. It's strong comedy, but it's also a compelling reminder of the power of words to tear people apart or bring them together."
-Aliette de Bodard, author of The House of Shattered Wings (Gollancz)