Where to Start? Our Listening Suggestions
Our Shakespeare Unlimited podcast includes a wealth of past episodes—and we recommend every one of them—but that also means there are many topics to explore.
If you have a particular play in mind, here are some episodes you might enjoy, ranging from a legendary actor's thoughts on how to play Hamlet, to a recent novel inspired by Pericles, to an inside look at stage combat in Romeo and Juliet. Look here, too, for the popular culture, music, movies, and even Broadway musicals the plays have inspired.
Select a play below to get started, or just scroll down through the list to see our suggestions for many different plays—and Shakespeare's poems, too.
COMEDIES: All's Well That Ends Well | As You Like It |The Comedy of Errors | Cymbeline | Love's Labor's Lost | Measure for Measure | The Merchant of Venice | The Merry Wives of Windsor | A Midsummer Night's Dream | Much Ado About Nothing | Pericles | The Taming of the Shrew | The Tempest | Twelfth Night | The Two Gentlemen of Verona | The Two Noble Kinsmen | The Winter's Tale
Elizabethan Medicine. A conversation with former Folger Director Gail Kern Paster and scholar Barbara Traister puts into context many of the medical ideas in Shakespeare's plays, including how Helena, heroine of All's Well That Ends Well and daughter of a doctor, seeks to heal a king.
Mona Awad on All's Well. The author of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl and Bunny tells us about her new novel, which combines All's Well That Ends Well with Macbeth to tell the darkly funny story of a university theater professor with chronic hip and back pain and a mutinous cast.
The Year of Lear. An interview with James Shapiro about 1606, which he describes in his book The Year of Lear, includes all three plays Shakespeare wrote that year, including Antony and Cleopatra.
Harriet Walter. In a wide-ranging discussion of her Shakespearean acting career, including some leading male roles, Walter also recalls playing Cleopatra, which she considers "the greatest part for a woman."
Shakespeare Outdoors. As You Like It, largely set in a forest, has been a popular choice for outdoor productions of Shakespeare—a long-standing tradition with a surprising history.
Pronouncing English as Shakespeare Did. Linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, discuss how English was pronounced in Shakespeare's day, including a wealth of examples from As You Like It.
Shakespeare and Folktales. Several examples from The Comedy of Errors are among those showing how folktales play a role in Shakespeare's works.
Q Brothers – Othello: The Remix This podcast on the Q Brothers and their hip-hop Shakespeare adaptations includes a look back at their breakthrough show The Bomb-itty of Errors, based on The Comedy of Errors.
Great Shakespeare Actors. This conversation with scholar Stanley Wells about his book Great Shakespeare Actors: Burbage to Branagh begins with a surprising aspect of Laurence Olivier's performances: his use of silences and pauses, including a poignant one in Coriolanus. Listen for more intriguing insights about great performances of the past.
Rarely Performed Shakespeare. One of the two rarely seen plays discussed in this episode is Cymbeline, produced by Fiasco Theater in 2011 and then in 2014 at the Folger; co-director Noah Brody talks about the challenges of staging it today and scholar Richard Schoch describes how Cymbeline waxed and waned in popularity in centuries past.
The Globe to Globe Hamlet Tour. Artistic director Dominic Dromgoole and executive producer Tom Bird discuss how Shakespeare's Globe staged Hamlet in 197 countries on a two-year tour, ending in 2016 on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
Derek Jacobi: Playing Hamlet. In one of two parts of an extended Shakespeare Unlimited interview, renowned British actor Derek Jacobi recalls playing Hamlet throughout his career and his insights into the role.
The ABCs of Performing Hamlet. A conversation with Jonathan Croall about his book Performing Hamlet: Actors in the Modern Age profiles performances of Hamlet by, among others, Richard Burton, Derek Jacobi, Maxine Peake, Jude Law, and Simon Russell Beale.
Hamlet 360: Virtual Reality Shakespeare. In a bit of an audio tour de force, this episode offer a hands-on description of Hamlet 360: Thy Father's Spirit, a virtual reality adaptation of Shakespeare's play that showcases the unique advantages of this new format for the plays.
Shakespeare in Sign Language. Walking through a Gallaudet University exhibition, First Folio: Eyes on Shakespeare, professor and curator Jilly Bradbury discusses how to perform Shakespeare without spoken words and the role of American Sign Language (ASL).
Shakespeare in California. In discussing Shakespeare in the American West, the conversation explores Hamlet's "To be or not to be" speech in the Western movie My Darling Clementine, ultimately recited by Victor Mature as Doc Holliday.
Shakespeare and YA Novels. Molly Booth discusses her time-travel YA (young adult) novel Saving Hamlet, with a heroine who slips back to the original production of Hamlet in Shakespeare's time.
Adapting Shakespeare. A conversation with playwrights on adapting Shakespeare includes Alexandra Petri and her play Tell My Story – Hamlet in the world of online fan fiction.
Lisa Klein on Ophelia. Lisa Klein, whose YA novel Ophelia was made into a 2019 movie with Daisy Ridley in the title role, talks about her reinvention of Shakespeare's character Ophelia, her relationship with Hamlet, and accounts of her death.
Orson Welles and Shakespeare. This look at Orson Welles's Shakespeare films and other projects includes Welles as Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight, a monumental film that incorporates portions of Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2, and other plays.
Antony Sher. In an interview on several of his Shakespearean roles, Antony Sher discusses playing Falstaff in 2014 and his book about it, Year of the Fat Knight.
Phyllida Lloyd and All-Female Shakespeare. We talk with Phyllida Lloyd about the influential trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions she directed at the Donmar Warehouse in London, including Henry IV with Harriet Walter as Prince Hal.
Michael Kahn. In a wide-ranging interview on directing Shakespeare, Michael Kahn discusses his 1969 production of Henry V during the Vietnam War era.
Shakespeare and Marlowe: Attributing 'Henry VI' Authorship. Folger director Michael Witmore and scholar Eric Rasmussen, editor of the Henry VI plays for the Arden Shakespeare, discuss the New Oxford Shakespeare decision to credit three different plays—Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3—to both Shakespeare and fellow playwright Christopher Marlowe, including the digital humanities (DH) research behind that choice.
Stephen Greenblatt on Shakespeare's Tyrants. In a conversation about his book Tyrant, Greenblatt discusses Shakespeare's character Jack Cade in Henry VI, Part 2.
Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter on the George North Manuscript. In an interview with Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter, this episode explores how a more than 400-year-old manuscript may have influenced several of Shakespeare's plays, including the Jack Cade section of Henry VI, Part 2.
When Romeo Was a Woman. We talk with scholar and author Lisa Merrell about the widely admired 19th-century American actress Charlotte Cushman, who was as well known for playing male Shakespearean roles as female ones. In her later years, like many performers, she took on older roles; for Henry VIII, she played Cardinal Wolsey and Katherine on different nights.
Paterson Joseph: Julius Caesar and Me. We speak with acclaimed British actor Paterson Joseph about his memoir Julius Caesar and Me, stemming from an all-black Royal Shakespeare Company production of Julius Caesar, set in Africa, in which he played the title role.
Phyllida Lloyd and All-Female Shakespeare. We talk with Phyllida Lloyd, who recently directed three all-female Shakespeare productions at the Donmar Warehouse in London, including Julius Caesar with Harriet Walter as Brutus.
Harriet Walter. Harriet Walter discusses her many Shakespearean roles, including the Lloyd-directed all-female Shakespeare trilogy; she played starring roles in each play, including Brutus in Julius Caesar.
The History of Shakespeare in American Schools. A conversation with Professor Joseph Haughey of Northwest Missouri State University explores how Shakespeare entered the world of American education, including Mark Antony's famed speech, "Friends, Romans, countrymen," in popular primers.
James Shapiro on Shakespeare in a Divided America. An interview with author James Shapiro includes the controversy over a production of Julius Caesar in New York.
Rarely Performed Shakespeare. In this exploration of two rarely performed plays, Stephanie Coltrin, who directed King John for Shakespeare by the Sea in San Pedro in 2013, is joined by scholar Richard Schoch, who describes King John's past popularity.
Antony Sher. Actor Antony Sher discusses a variety of his past Shakespearean roles, including playing King Lear in 2016 and his book on the subject, Year of the Mad King.
Glenda Jackson. After 23 years as a member of Parliament, famed actress Glenda Jackson returned to the stage to take on King Lear and other roles; she talks with us about playing a king, opportunities for women in the arts, and the intricacies of performing King Lear.
How 'King Lear' Inspired 'Empire'. We talk with Ilene Chaiken, showrunner and executive producer for the Fox TV series Empire, about how King Lear—and other Shakespeare plays—inspired the plots and characters of the show, in which a hip-hop music executive sets his three children against each other.
The Year of Lear. A conversation with James Shapiro about 1606, which he describes in The Year of Lear, includes all three plays Shakespeare wrote that year, among them, of course, King Lear.
Edward St. Aubyn on Dunbar. Well-known British novelist Edward St. Aubyn discusses his book about a media mogul inspired by King Lear, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels.
Peter Brook. Legendary director Peter Brook explores many of his past Shakespeare productions in this fascinating conversation. His long career at what was later renamed the Royal Shakespeare Company began in 1946, when he directed Love's Labor's Lost at the age of 20.
The Year of Lear. A conversation with James Shapiro about 1606, which he describes in The Year of Lear, explores all three plays Shakespeare wrote that year, including Macbeth.
Astor Place Riot. Almost 30 people died when troops fired on a New York riot in 1849 – a riot inflamed, astonishingly, by varying interpretations of Macbeth by British and American actors in two rival productions. Learn how that could happen, and what really lay behind it.
Shakespeare and Opera. We talk with music librarian Colleen Fay about Shakespeare and opera, including Giuseppe Verdi's opera Macbeth.
Shakespeare in Black and White. This episode includes the landmark Depression-era all-black Macbeth, a 1936 production funded by the Federal Theater Project and directed by Orson Welles at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem.
Orson Welles and Shakespeare. Our conversation with scholar and author Michael Anderegg on Orson Welles and Shakespeare includes Welles's classic 1948 film Macbeth.
Adapting Shakespeare. A discussion with playwrights about adapting Shakespeare includes Chris Stezin and his high-stakes business play Mac, Beth.
Barry Edelstein: Thinking Shakespeare. One of several acting exercises focuses on a line from Measure for Measure, contrasting with a line in Hamlet.
Emma Smith: This is Shakespeare. In a conversation about her book This is Shakespeare, Oxford professor Emma Smith discusses several plays, including Measure for Measure.
Shakespeare Uncovered. A look at producing the Shakespeare TV series Shakespeare Uncovered includes The Merchant of Venice episode with F. Murray Abraham.
Shakespeare and Religion. A wide-ranging discussion with David Scott Kastan, author of Will To Believe: Shakespeare and Religion, includes a look at how Elizabethan audiences imagined Jews when it was illegal for Jews to live in England.
Steven Berkoff: Shakespeare's Heroes and Villains. In a movie inspired by his one-man show, Shakespeare's Villains, actor Steven Berkoff explores multiple villains, including Shylock.
Shakespeare and Folktales. Several elements of The Merchant of Venice are included in this episode on how folktales shape and are referred to in Shakespeare's plays.
Orson Welles and Shakespeare. An interview about Orson Welles's Shakespeare films and other projects includes Welles as Falstaff in Chimes at Midnight, a monumental film that incorporates portions of several history plays and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
Peter Brook. In this episode, director Peter Brook talks with us about his landmark, ground-breaking 1970 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Shakespeare and Opera. We talk with music librarian Colleen Fay about Shakespeare and opera, including Benjamin Britten's English-language opera, A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Shakespeare in California. A conversation about Shakespeare in the American West includes the Warner Bros. Hollywood classic A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935).
Bernard Cornwell: Fools and Mortals. A historical novel featuring Shakespeare's younger brother Richard centers on the staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Still Dreaming: Shakespeare with Seniors. A documentary follows the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with residents from the Lillian Booth Actors Home, an assisted living facility outside New York City that includes retired Broadway professionals.
Casey Wilder Mott and Fran Kranz on Their LA Midsummer. Director Mott and co-producer and actor Fran Kranz discuss a version of A Midsummer Night's Dream set in the modern film industry.
Tang Xianzu and Shakespeare in China. A discussion of Shakespeare in China includes a production of Much Ado About Nothing that was produced before and recreated after the Cultural Revolution.
Kenny Leon on Much Ado About Nothing. We talk with Kenny Leon, founding artistic director of True Colors Theatre Company, about his Shakespeare in the Park production of Much Ado About Nothing, set in a wealthy black suburb of Atlanta and starring Orange is the New Black actress Danielle Brooks.
Shakespeare Uncovered. A discussion of the TV series Shakespeare Uncovered includes the Much Ado About Nothing episode, presented by actress Helen Hunt.
Shakespeare and Opera. We talk with music librarian Colleen Fay about Shakespeare and opera, including Rossini's opera Otello.
Iqbal Khan. A discussion with director Iqbal Khan includes his famous Royal Shakespeare Company production of Othello with Iago cast as a black actor.
Shakespeare in Black and White. This episode includes a seminal moment in American theater: Paul Robeson as Othello on Broadway in the mid-1940s.
Othello and Blackface. A conversation with scholars Ayanna Thompson and Ian Smith includes Smith's influential analysis of the vital handkerchief in Othello and the role of dyed cloth to simulate blackness in Elizabethan times.
American Moor. A one-man show by Keith Hamilton Cobb explores acting Othello—and the frustration of taking directions from an unseen white director on how to act black.
Q Brothers: Othello: The Remix. An interview with the Q Brothers on their hip-hop Shakespeare adaptations includes their production Othello: The Remix.
Understanding Peter Sellars. Scholar Ayanna Thompson and director Peter Sellars discuss several of his complex Shakespeare productions, including a 2009 production of Othello with a largely black cast, responding to Barack Obama becoming president and supposed claims of a post-racial society.
Tracy Chevalier: New Boy. Chevalier talks about her novel New Boy, based loosely on Othello, in which a young African student enrolls in a largely white school outside Washington, DC, in the early 1970s, part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series of novels.
How Pericles Inspired Mark Haddon's Novel The Porpoise. Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, discusses his novel The Porpoise, a reinterpretation of Shakespeare's play Pericles.
Shakespeare and Girlhood. Among other subjects, scholar and author Deanne Williams discusses Richard II's Queen Isabella, who in real life was a young girl, and how that might inform the character in the play.
Shakespeare in Solitary. An interview with Laura Bate about teaching Shakespeare in prison and her book Shakespeare Saved My Life includes her use of Richard II as an imprisoned figure in Shakespeare's plays.
Antony Sher. In a conversation about several of his past Shakespearean roles, actor Antony Sher discusses his seminal early performance as Richard III in 1984 and his published acting diary about the performance, Year of the King.
Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter on the George North Manuscript. In a discussion with Dennis McCarthy and June Schlueter, this episode explores how a centuries-old manuscript may have influenced several of Shakespeare's plays, including Richard III.
In Search of the Real Richard III. The discovery of the body of Richard III under a British parking lot made us wonder what Richard III was like—and whether Shakespeare's fictional Richard III resembled him. Join us for a conversation with a historian and a Shakespearean as we look for the real Richard III.
Richard III in Prison. Frannie Shepherd-Bates, founder of the Detroit Public Theatre's Shakespeare in Prison program, discusses SIP's newest project: a planned critical edition of Richard III that pairs Shakespeare's text with ideas and perspectives from incarcerated women who went through the program.
When Romeo Was a Woman. Learn about an acclaimed 19th-century American actress, Charlotte Cushman, who often played masculine parts and was especially known for her role as Romeo with her sister as Juliet.
Romeo and Juliet through the Ages. Varying versions of Romeo and Juliet and changing approaches to the parts help trace the story of Shakespeare over the centuries.
Juliet's Answer. In a memoir, author Glenn Dixon describes joining the Juliet Club in Verona, Italy, which answers questions sent to Shakespeare's fictional heroine from people facing the perennial issues of love.
Leonard Bernstein and West Side Story. Celebrating the 100-year anniversary of West Side Story, this episode explores how Romeo and Juliet inspired the musical and the story behind its creation.
Olivia Hussey: The Girl on the Balcony. Fifty years after Francisco Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet (1968) debuted, actress Olivia Hussey recalls getting the part of Juliet and filming the role that made her famous.
Simon Mayo: Mad Blood Stirring. Simon Mayo talks with us about his novel Mad Blood Stirring, based in part on the little-known fact that American sailors from the War of 1812 were imprisoned in Dartmoor Prison in England. Housed in racially segregated groups, a largely black cast of POWs staged plays that included Romeo and Juliet.
Elizabethan Street Fighting. A conversation about real-life street violence in Elizabethan times and stage combat in the plays highlights fencing and other fighting in Romeo and Juliet.
Shakespeare in Hong Kong. Two films with different takes on Romeo and Juliet are part of an overview of Shakespeare in Hong Kong.
Shakespeare and YA Novels. Ryan North discusses his YA novel inspired by Romeo and Juliet, which lets readers select what happens next.
The Gender Politics of Kiss Me, Kate. An interview explores how Kiss Me, Kate, based on The Taming of the Shrew, was reimagined for a recent production, with Will Chase, who plays Fred Graham, the Petruchio figure, and Amanda Green, the Tony-nominated lyricist and composer who wrote additional material.
Shakespeare and Folktales. Numerous examples from The Taming of the Shrew are included in this podcast on how folktales shape and are referred to in Shakespeare's plays.
Emma Smith: This is Shakespeare. In a conversation about her book This is Shakespeare, Oxford professor Emma Smith discusses several plays, including The Taming of the Shrew.
The Royal Shakespeare Company's Digital Tempest. We learn how the Royal Shakespeare Company used live digital effects to portray Ariel in a 2016 production of The Tempest, working with the performance capture company The Imaginarium, in a discussion with Gregory Doran, the RSC's artistic director, and Ben Lumsden, Imaginarium's head of studio.
Shakespeare and Magic. A conversation on magic and Shakespeare between scholar and editor Barbara Mowat and Teller of Penn & Teller explores a 2015 Chicago staging of The Tempest, which he co-directed, that uses stage magic.
Shakespeare in the Caribbean. Caliban and The Tempest are recurring elements in this discussion with scholars about the long history of Shakespeare in the Caribbean.
Phyllida Lloyd and All-Female Shakespeare. We talk with Phyllida Lloyd about the influential trilogy of all-female Shakespeare productions that she directed at the Donmar Warehouse in London, including The Tempest.
Harriet Walter. Harriet Walter talks about the Shakespeare roles she has played, including the Lloyd-directed all-female Shakespeare trilogy; she played starring roles in each play, including Prospero in The Tempest.
Emma Smith: This is Shakespeare. In a conversation about her book This is Shakespeare, Oxford professor Emma Smith discusses several plays, including The Tempest.
Michael Kahn. In an interview on his extensive directing career, Kahn discusses a production of Timon of Athens during the 1990s and an audience member's response.
African Americans and Shakespeare. This wide-ranging episode includes the story of the extraordinary 19th-century African American star Ira Aldridge, who performed in England and Europe; he revived Titus Andronicus for the first time in 250 years to play Aaron the Moor, presented as a hero instead of a villain.
Creating Shakespeare's First Folio. The First Folio of Shakespeare includes one play, Troilus and Cressida, that was added so late to the book that it isn't even included in the Table of Contents. Learn more about the behind-the-scenes story of this famous book in a conversation with scholar Emma Smith, author of The Making of the First Folio.
Music in Shakespeare. In an interview with musicologist Ross W. Duffin about the songs in Shakespeare's plays, we learn about his research and discoveries about the song "Come Away, Come Away Death," from Twelfth Night.
Emma Smith: This is Shakespeare. In a conversation about her book This is Shakespeare, Oxford professor Emma Smith discusses several plays, including Twelfth Night.
Myths About Shakespeare. In a conversation that explores famous myths about Shakespeare and the larger ideas they suggest, this episode notes that Shakespeare's comedies frequently suggest that marriage means the end of male friendships—including in the two plays with two male characters in the title, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Two Noble Kinsmen, from near the beginning and the end of his career.
Shakespeare and Marlowe: Attributing 'Henry VI' Authorship. As Folger director Michael Witmore and scholar and editor Eric Rasmussen consider how Shakespeare and Marlowe may have contributed to the Henry VI plays, they also discuss The Two Noble Kinsmen, on which Shakespeare collaborated with John Fletcher.
Adapting Shakespeare. A conversation with playwrights on adapting Shakespeare includes Craig Wright and his play Melissa Arctic, based on The Winter's Tale but set in rural Minnesota.
Books and Reading in Shakespeare's England. The first known purchaser of any printed book by William Shakespeare was an Elizabethan bureaucrat, Richard Stonley, who bought Shakespeare's long racy poem Venus and Adonis. In this conversation, learn more about him and about the books that Shakespeare himself may have owned.
The Early Years of Shakespeare's Sonnets (16th and 17th centuries). In a conversation with Jane Kingsley-Smith, author of The Afterlife of Shakespeare's Sonnets, we discuss how Shakespeare's Sonnets have been interpreted over time and used or misused as clues to Shakespeare's own story.
The Long Life of Shakespeare's Sonnets (18th century – today). Jane Kingsley-Smith returns to share more stories about Shakespeare's Sonnets' tortuous history, from 18th-century editors, who didn't like them very much, to Oscar Wilde, who employed them in his own legal defense.