I'm a huge Shakespeare fan, but before this summer, I'd only read about half of his plays. Since I had some free time on my hands due to the pandemic, I figured I'd take advantage of it and cross this goal off of my bucket list! It took me several months, but I worked my way through all thirty eight plays officially attributed to Shakespeare or co-authored by him!
I'm also a huge Taylor Swift fan, so as I was reading the plays, I couldn't help but be reminded of certain lyrics. When I'd be listening to her music, I would be reminded of a certain Shakespearean scene, moment, or character. So, I figured it might be fun to pair each play with a Taylor Swift song, and here are the results:
Note: For the purposes of this ranking, plays that are considered separate but tell the same story, such as Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II, will be listed together.
35. The Taming of the Shrew I need to preface this by saying that I absolutely love Ten Things I Hate About You, the film based on The Taming of the Shrew; however, I absolutely hated this play. The Bianca plotline is perfectly fine, but the relationship between Katherine (the titular shrew) and Petruchio is incredibly abusive: he basically says that she's his property, deprives her of food and sleep, and forces her to say things that are completely inaccurate. He essentially breaks her will and forces her into submission to the extent that, at the end of the play, when he and two of his friends decide to see whose wife is the most obedient, Katherine is the only woman who comes when her husband calls her. I feel like Katherine definitely had at least an inkling of what was to come when she first met Petruchio, so I'm pairing the play with "I Knew You Were Trouble" as lyrics like "Once upon a time/A few mistakes ago/I was in your sights/You got me alone," and "'Cause I knew you were trouble when you walked in/So shame on me now/Flew me to places I'd never been/'Til you put me down, oh" embody how Katherine remembers first meeting her future husband and how she recognized that things wouldn't end well.
34. The Two Gentlemen of Verona In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a pair of best friends become enemies when they fall for the same girl — after one of them already promises to marry a different girl. This same sleazeball attempts to assault the girl he and his former friend both like, but when the former friend stops him from doing so, he immediately backpedals and says that he can "have her" as a token of friendship. At this point, the two men become friends again and the sleazy guy marries the girl he was originally engaged to. The toxic masculinity in this play is off the charts, and the two main female characters are both portrayed as delicate, helpless, and without agency. Mostly because of the friends-to-enemies theme, I think the play goes nicely with "Bad Blood."
33. The Two Noble Kinsmen Even though The Two Noble Kinsmen isn't technically a wholly Shakespearean play since he co-wrote it with a man named John Fletcher, it was included on some lists of all of his plays, so I figured I may as well read it. I kind of regret doing so because it wasn't very enjoyable—no memorable characters, scenes, speeches, etc. and the plot is basically that two cousins like the same girl and fight for her while a different girl falls for one of the guys, but eventually marries a different guy. It's a pretty basic plot in comparison to some of the other storylines that Shakespeare crafted, so it deserves to be paired with one of TSwift's more simple songs, "Speak Now," whose lyrics reflect the simplicity of these love triangles.
32. Henry VI (Parts I-III) Is it bad that I can't even separate the plots of these three installments? Probably, but they were so difficult to get through that I had to place them near the very bottom of this list, although not dead last. The only notable bits are Joan of Arc's appearance in the first part, the Duchess' and Margaret's significant roles in the second part (with the latter perhaps paralleling Lady Macbeth on several occasions), and Margaret's continued presence as a strong character in the third part. Mostly because this saga, especially in comparison to Shakespeare's other History plays, is never-ending, I've paired it with "Peace," a song about how the narrator knows that they can never give their partner just that. The opening lines, "Our coming-of-age has come and gone/Suddenly this summer, it's clear/I never had the courage of my convictions/As long as danger is near/And it's just around the corner, darlin'/'Cause it lives in me/No, I could never give you peace," convey the constant turmoil that these characters find themselves in, and the repeated line "Would it be enough if I could never give you peace?" seems to raise the question of whether the power that these noble figures wield is worth it.
31. King John King John isn't a bad play, it's just completely and totally unmemorable. There's a lot of fighting and drama and political intrigue, which makes sense given that it's a Shakespearean History play, but it lacks any outstanding characters, speeches, or moments that could have given it a higher ranking. The play ends with the king's death and the nobles' promise that England, from that moment forward, will never be conquered by foreign powers unless it is destroyed internally, first. There's no Taylor Swift song about this set of circumstances, but I think that "Haunted" fits nicely with the idea of the English nobles being "haunted" by the political strife that nearly tore their country apart, especially in lines such as "You and I walk a fragile line/I have known it all this time/But I never thought I'd live to see it break" and "I thought I had you figured out/Something's gone terribly wrong, you're all I wanted."
30. The Comedy of Errors The "comedy" element of The Comedy of Errors largely comes from physical actions, since the plot revolves around a misunderstanding concerning two sets of identical twin brothers and, for this reason, I think that it would be much more enjoyable to see this one performed than it was to read it. Since Taylor Swift has yet to write a song about twins and the hilarious mix-ups that can occur when twins are involved, "It's Nice To Have a Friend" fits nicely, with its emphasis on the value of the same sort of genuine friendship that each set of brothers comes to have with one another.
29. Henry VIII As a play, Henry VIII isn't that interesting, engaging, nor intriguing, but it's also about the infamous English king who had six wives and founded the Anglican Church, so that's pretty cool. The play deals with the early years of Henry's reign, specifically his marriage to and divorce from his first wife and his marriage to his second wife. His first wife, Katherine, is afforded significant agency throughout the play, almost as much as the titular king, so I think that "Exile" works well to represent their relationship. Lines such as "And it took you five whole minutes/To pack us up and leave me with it/Holdin' all this love out here in the hall" and "You're not my homeland anymore/So what am I defending now?/You were my town, now I'm in exile, seein' you out" reflect both the abrupt end of their marriage and the political undertones of their union.
28. Pericles A heck of a lot happens in this Shakespearean Romance, but basically a prince and a princess fall in love and have a daughter, the princess is presumed dead, the daughter is left in the care of an evil couple who send her to a brothel where she makes everyone she encounters strive to be virtuous, and eventually, the family is happily reunited. IMO, the play isn't bad, exactly, there's just a lot going on and a lot of components that are present in the other Shakespearean Romances (The Tempest, The Winter's Tale, and Cymbeline) that those other plays manage a lot more elegantly (father-daughter relationships, shipwrecks, apparent death, international travel, magic, divine intervention, etc.) Out of these four plays, however, I think that Pericles makes the most use of the storm/shipwreck motif (even more so than The Tempest, ironically) so I think it works well with the absolute masterpiece that is "Clean," with lyrics such as "Rain came pouring down when I was drowning/That's when I could finally breathe/And by morning, gone was any trace of you, I think I am finally clean."
27. The Merry Wives of Windsor Fun fact: this play was willed into existence by the Queen of England, who loved the character of Falstaff from Henry IV and Henry V, was devastated by his death, and demanded that The Bard bring him back to life in his own adventure. The result? The Merry Wives of Windsor, a play that is funny, fluffy, and fantastical. There's little substance, and certainly no grand statements about morality or time. There is, however, a great deal of trickery that is dependent on movement and appearance, so I think that this play might be more enjoyable if it was performed live. The Merry Wives of Windsor was definitely one of the most difficult plays to match a song with, but since the two main female characters are thought to be cheating on their husbands for most of the action and a young woman outsmarts her parents' efforts to marry her to two different men, cunningly escaping with the guy she actually wants to marry, I feel like "You Belong With Me" fits. It's upbeat, hopeful, and, just like the play, slightly magical – plus, it is an absolute bop and I had to include it somewhere on this list.
26. The Merchant of Venice If not for the offensive representation of Jews in the character of Shylock, The Merchant of Venice would probably rank a bit higher; however, there's something disturbing to me about the most canonically Jewish character in all of Shakespeare not only being portrayed as a stereotypical greedy moneylender, but also as a stereotypical greedy moneylender who is charging a man a pound of human flesh for not being able to make a payment. That being said, I absolutely love Portia and the fact that she basically has a game rigged so that vain potential suitors will die pursuing her, and only a man with a good heart, like Bassanio, might have a chance with her. Plus, she disguises herself as a lawyer in order to save Antonio from Shylock! I had a bit of a hard time pairing this play with a TSwift song, but I think that "Ready for It…?" works, with lyrics like "Me, I was a robber first time that he saw me/Stealing hearts and running off and never saying sorry" and "Baby, let the games begin" describing Portia's unapologetic disposal of her suitors as well as her cunning in both the game she tricks them into playing and in disguising herself.
25. Troilus and Cressida Troilus and Cressida is pretty cool in the sense that it centers on some of the less-known figures of Greek tragedy, such as the titular characters, while at the same time incorporating some of its most famous figures. Shakespeare's take on the events of the Trojan war is interesting and memorable, but the ending is incredibly frustrating — Cressida betrays Troilus for Diomedes, but there's little mention of the aftermath of her betrayal, which surprised me considering that the pair is ~literally~ the name of the play. However, since Willy Shakes didn't care to give the heartbroken Troilus a speech about his feelings, I like to imagine that he copes by singing "Teardrops On My Guitar." If the "she's" and "he's" were switched, lyrics like "She better hold him tight,/Give him all her love,/Look in those beautiful eyes,/And know she's lucky 'cause,/He's the reason for the teardrops on my guitar,/The only thing that keeps me wishing on a wishing star,/He's the song in the car I keep singing, don't know why I do" would pretty much sum up how I'd imagine he feels.
24. Love's Labour's Lost This play is about four guys who decide to swear off women in favor of their studies for three years, which lasts for about ten seconds because a bunch of girls show up. Hijinks ensue, but the play ends with the women basically telling the guys "we've gotta go, see y'all next year!" which is pretty hilarious, but kind of a letdown. The closest song in the TSwift canon that conveys the sense of longing for their loves that these guys must feel at the close of the play is "Betty," with lyrics like "But if I just showed up at your party/Would you have me? Would you want me?" "Will you have me? Will you love me?/Will you kiss me on the porch/In front of all your stupid friends?/If you kiss me, will it be just like I dreamed it?" and "I know I miss you."
23. Richard III Richard III is one of the most bizarre, high-key sadistic figures in the Shakespearean canon — he seduces and marries the grieving widow of a man he killed, kills a heck ton of nobles, and then has his new wife executed so that he can marry another woman in an attempt to gain more power. Fortunately, he's eventually stopped, and a new king takes power and promises peace to England. Richard's shenanigans are pretty much the only interesting thing about this play, so #23 it is. He's just a really, really mean guy, so I feel like "Mean" works, if it's understood from the perspective of his enemies and victims.
22. All's Well That Ends Well Helena is one of Shakespeare's most cunning and well-developed characters, but I can't rank All's Well That Ends Well any higher because of her relationship with Bertram. When the king allows her to marry anyone she chooses and she picks Bertram, he's not thrilled because he doesn't love her, so he tries to have an affair with another woman, but Helena secretly switches places with her, which is NOT OKAY by today's standards. Bertram comes to love (or at least accept) Helena by the end of the play, but I don't. I feel like Helena wouldn't care about my opinion, though, so I'm pairing the play with "I Did Something Bad." Lines like "If a man talks shit, then I owe him nothing/I don't regret it one bit, 'cause he had it coming" and "They say I did something bad/Then why's it feel so good?/They say I did something bad/But why's it feel so good?/Most fun I ever had/And I'd do it over and over and over again if I could/It just felt so good, good" capture her "zero f's given" attitude about the situation.
21. Cymbeline Cymbeline is all over the place, but in the best possible way. For one, there's the Imogen/ Posthumus plotline, in which the lovers marry despite her father's (the king's) disapproval and their love is tested by the Iago-wannabe Iachimo. There's also the Queen/Cloten plotline, in which this evil stepmother-stepson duo attempt to force Imogen to marry Cloten. Finally, there's the bizarre Belarius-and-sons plotline, in which it's revealed that a man wronged by the king kidnapped the king's infant sons. As with the other Shakespearean Romances, everything is resolved in the end, with the villains getting their just desserts and the heroes being rewarded for their goodness. This play was kinda difficult to match with a TSwift song, but I feel like "Mine" works for Imogen and Posthumus' love story, especially the lines "You made a rebel of a careless man's careful daughter" and "Do you believe it?/We're gonna make it now/And I can see it."
20. Much Ado About Nothing More than anything else, Much Ado About Nothing is about two people who are CLEARLY perfect for one another and the extreme shenanigans that their friends partake in in order to get these two crazy kids together. Beatrice and Benedict share immaculate banter and are absolutely amazing together — plus, rumor has it that they inspired the characters of Elizabeth and Darcy in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice! There were honestly so many TSwift songs that could've worked to represent this couple, but I had to go with the song that I think most fully depicts the sort of everlasting love that these characters share — "Lover." Lyrics like "Have I known you twenty seconds or twenty years?" and "Can I go where you go?/Can we always be this close?" capture the transcendent nature of their bond, and the lines "Swear to be overdramatic and true to my lover/And you'll save all your dirtiest jokes for me" reflect how they can be their witty, joking selves with one another. Also, I have to mention that even though one line reads "All's well that ends well to end up with you," which is a reference to Shakespeare's play, as is evident in #22, that play and its characters are not worthy of this romantic masterpiece of a song.
19. Measure for Measure Measure for Measure is the story of Isabella, a young woman whose brother is wrongfully sentenced to death, and who is told by the temporary ruler of Vienna, Angelo, that she can only save her brother by having sex with him (Angelo, not her brother). She's saved by the interventions of the disguised Duke, who enlists Mariana, a woman who was supposed to marry Angelo but who he abandoned when she lost her dowry. My favorite moment in the play comes when Isabella speaks the truth about how Angelo attempted to take advantage of her, and she is believed. Despite this victory, both Isabella and Mariana lack agency, which reminds me of "The Man," especially the lyrics "When everyone believes ya/What's that like?" and, of course, "I'm so sick of running/As fast as I can/Wondering if I'd get there quicker/If I was a man."
18. Coriolanus Coriolanus at #18 just feels right to me — not the best, not the worst, exactly in the middle. It's a great story about the precariousness of politics, a theme that is incredibly relevant today, as well as loyalty and betrayal. The titular character, upon being forsaken by his people, joins forces with his sworn enemies to take revenge on his homeland, but he is betrayed by his newfound allies and eventually dies a hero to his people. Maybe it's mostly because he's a soldier, but I think that "The Archer" effectively captures the essence of the play. The opening lines "Combat, I'm ready for combat" reflect Coriolanus' military service as fundamental to his identity, and lyrics such as "I've been the archer/I've been the prey/Who could ever leave me, darling?/But who could stay?," "And all of my heroes die all alone," and "All the king's horses, all the king's men/Couldn't put me together again/'Cause all of my enemies started out friends/Help me hold onto you" demonstrate his sense of isolation and betrayal.
17. Richard II The first Shakespearean history play that I ever read, Richard II isn't the most enjoyable nor memorable tale, but Richard is fascinating as a character, especially in terms of his agency – is he simply a victim of circumstance, a foolish king who made bad decisions, or was his demise more calculated in order to give him some semblance of control over his fate? I lean more towards the latter, but I think it's a combination of both, especially considering his infamous "Hollow Crown" speech in which he essentially equates being king with a death sentence. For this reason, I'm pairing the play with "The Lucky One," a cautionary tale about fame in which the narrator, a rising star, speaks to a disillusioned former celebrity who opted for a life outside of the spotlight. Lyrics such as "And they tell you that you're lucky/But you're so confused/'Cause you don't feel pretty/You just feel used/And all the young things line up to take your place" and "Another name goes up in lights/You wonder if you'll make it out alive" convey the sense of being taken advantage of and discarded, powerless to control this sequence of events despite one's status, that Richard might feel.
16. Julius Caesar Julius Caesar reminds me a bit of Antony and Cleopatra, probably because they deal with events from the same time period in history. An intense play about friendship, betrayal, and political intrigue, Julius Caesar is also responsible for the line that inspired the title of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars: "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,/But in ourselves" as well as the iconic lines "Beware the ides of March" and "Et tu, Brute!" While it may not be an obvious choice, I think that "All Too Well" pairs with the play nicely. Although the song is about reminiscing about a lost love, some of the lyrics encapsulate the betrayal that Caesar must have felt when his friend Brutus ~literally~ stabbed him in the back: "And I know it's long gone and/There was nothing else I could do/And I forget about you long enough/To forget why I needed to," "Hey, you call me up again just to break me like a promise/So casually cruel in the name of being honest/I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here/'Cause I remember it all, all, all too well," and "'Cause there we are again, when I loved you so/Back before you lost the one real thing you've ever known/It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well."
15. Romeo and Juliet I sort of feel like I'm committing a major "no-no" by placing Romeo and Juliet so low on this list, but I've never been that fond of it, even though it was the first Shakespeare play I ever read – actually, maybe because I was forced to read it in my English class freshman year of high school, I just have bad memories associated with it. The lines themselves are absolutely beautiful and the story is timeless, regardless of whether you believe that it's a tale of "star-crossed lovers," a warning against the recklessness of young love, or both. I recognize that R & J has probably had more of a cultural impact than any of Shakespeare's other works, but I think that this popularity is also part of the reason why I'm not a huge fan – I feel like, culturally, the play is a bit overdone, inspiring everything from movies and musicals to YA literature and songs, like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" (c'mon, the characters in the song are ~literally~ Romeo and Juliet. This one was a no-brainer).
14. Titus Andronicus Titus Andronicus is one of Shakespeare's darkest works — which is saying something. Not only is there the typical Shakespearean political intrigue, family drama, betrayal, and murder, but one character is brutally assaulted with her hands and tongue cut off and another is fed a pie made from her murdered sons' remains. While incredibly disturbing, it's a fascinating tale about the lengths to which people will go to protect their families. While Taylor Swift has yet to write a song about cannibalism, I think that "Hoax" works pretty well, considering that it's about a love that, while it breaks the narrator's heart, they wouldn't have it any other way, just as the parents of the characters who die in the play, Titus and Tamora, must deal with the loss of their children. Lines such as "Your faithless love's the only hoax I believe in/Don't want no other shade of blue but you/No other sadness in the world would do," "My barren land/I am ash from your fire," and "My only one/My kingdom come undone/My broken drum/You have beaten my heart" clearly capture the desolation that comes with such an unimaginable loss.
13. A Midsummer Night's Dream A Midsummer Night's Dream is good, but it's not great. I absolutely love Hermia as a character, especially her line about refusing to marry a man to whom her "soul does not consent to give its sovereignty," but Helena annoys the heck out of me, from her plans to betray Hermia and Lysander to her complete and utter devotion to Demetrius, who is pretty much the worst, except that Oberon manages to somehow beat him for that title. Bottom is kind of annoying but also hilarious, and while the magical shenanigans that define the play are amusing, I think that Midsummer works a lot better as a staged production. It took me a bit to come up with a song for this one, but I think "Cruel Summer" fits nicely. The title's reference to summer makes it an obvious choice, but the passionate, reckless, and magical love expressed in lyrics like "Fever dream high/In the quiet of the night/You know that I caught it" and "It's cool/That's what I tell 'em, no rules/In breakable Heaven but/Ooh, whoa oh/It's a cruel summer/With you" mirrors that of the so-called "Athenian lovers."
12. Timon of Athens Severely underrated, Timon of Athens tells the story of a generous wealthy man who spends his money on his friends and extravagant celebrations, but whose fortunes change when he finds himself facing financial hardship and his friends deny him any help. Timon becomes incredibly disillusioned with those around him to the extent that he serves them a "feast" of stones and boiling water before retreating to a cave to die as he succumbs to insanity. It's a condemnation of materialism, false friends, and society as a whole, and for this reason it goes nicely with "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things." The opening lyrics, in particular, might convey Timon's bitterness as he reflects on the bright, happy, shiny times — "It was so nice throwing big parties/Jumping to the pool from the balcony/Everyone swimming in a champagne sea/And there are no rules when you show up here/Bass beat rattling the chandelier/Feeling so Gatsby for that whole year" — and the repeated lyrics "This is why we can't have nice things, darling/Because you break them/I had to take them away" capture his disgust with his so-called friends.
11. Hamlet I know that many Shakespearean scholars consider Hamlet to be to Shakespearean canon what Tom Brady used to be to the Patriots, but I just didn't completely vibe with it. However, I still appreciate that it's incredibly well-written, and young Hamlet's descent into madness is both entertaining and heartbreaking. He's an emo college kid, and it shows 100%, especially when he's being all snarky during the play he puts on to try to prove Claudius' guilt. Moments like these prove that "Look What You Made Me Do" perfectly captures the essence of the play. Just like Hamlet, the narrator is angry, wounded, out for blood, and perhaps a bit immature. I can practically hear Hammy saying "I don't like your little games/Don't like your tilted stage/The role you made me play/Of the fool, no, I don't like you/I don't like your perfect crime/How you laugh when you lie" to Uncle Claude, and the lyric "I don't like your kingdom keys/They once belonged to me" basically summarizes their relationship.
1o. Antony and Cleopatra I'm kind of surprised that Antony and Cleopatra made it this high onto the list, but I guess I just really like ill-fated, betrayal-laden romances? Cleopatra is a strong, independent, badass female character who refuses to be taken prisoner and instead ~literally~ takes her life into her own hands. For these reasons, "Getaway Car" is the PERFECT match for this play. Pretty much any of the lyrics, in which the narrator describes a love affair pretty much doomed from the start, could apply to Cleopatra and Antony's relationship, but "the ties were black, the lies were white," "he poisoned the well, I was lyin' to myself," and "We were jetset Bonnie and Clyde/Until I switched to the other side" are some of my favorites, especially since Cleopatra poisons herself at the end of the play.
9. Othello I know, I know – Othello is one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, why isn't it higher? Personally, I just don't entirely connect with the play nor do I consider it anywhere near as brilliant as the plays in my top 5. Nonetheless, I appreciate it for its commentary on race as well as its examination of how imagination can manipulate reality – with sometimes deadly consequences. Although it may not make all that much sense, I'm pairing Othello with "Mirrorball," specifically as a narration of the titular character's relationship with Desdemona. The lyrics "I'll show you every version of yourself tonight/I'll get you out on the floor /Shimmering beautiful/And when I break, it's in a million pieces" and "I can change everything about me to fit in/You are not like the regulars/The masquerade revelers/Drunk as they watch my shattered edges glisten" reflect the genuine love that Othello and Desdemona share regardless of society's (and her father's) objections on the basis of race, Othello's simultaneous isolation from society and attempts to fit into society, and foreshadow his (and Desdemona's) downfall.
8. Henry V Honestly, I'm not entirely confident in my placement of all of these plays, but I feel very strongly that Henry V deserves #8 — very good, but not the best (certainly a heck of a lot better than Netflix's adaptation, The King). I love the framing of the play, with the narrative device of the chorus appearing at the beginning of each act, as well as at the end of the play, to narrate events, and this figure's direct addresses to the audience. Falstaff & company make an appearance, and readers get to see Prince Hal come of age. The play is also a great war story, so I'm pairing it with Epiphany, which describes the devastating, haunting consequences of war.
7. The Winter's Tale IMO, The Winter's Tale is SO underrated. Hermione is both noble and badass, as well as the (most likely) namesake of Hermione Granger. Originally, I thought that it would fall lower on my ranking, but in comparison to some of Shakespeare's other plays, it's magical, fun, unique, and mysterious while at the same time exuding melancholy. For this reason, I'm pairing it with "Cardigan." The repeated lyric "When you are young they assume you know nothing" is reflective of the King's youthful jealousy that cost him his wife as well as the budding relationship between Perdita and Florizel. Lines such as "You drew stars around my scars/But now I'm bleeding" and "I knew I'd curse you for the longest time" convey the King's mourning for Hermione, and the song altogether recalls a lost, haunting love.
6. Henry IV (Parts I and II) Although they're technically two different plays, I've placed both installments of Henry IV together since they tell one story and since both were about equally enjoyable. Prince Hal, aka Harry, ranks as one of my favorite characters, mostly because of his calculated approach to power — ie, spending his youth hanging around with petty criminals before dramatically renouncing his ways and becoming king. I also love the father-son relationship between Hal and his father, the titular Henry IV, in Part II, as well as the antics of Falstaff & company throughout each installment. Hal's apparent renouncement of his friends as he becomes king is a heartbreaking, but very necessary turning point in his development as a character. Even though I'm ranking these two plays together, they still each get their own TSwift song: Part I is paired with "The Last Great American Dynasty" and Part II is paired with "Long Live." TLGAD tells the story of an unconventional woman who refused to abide by society's expectations and "had a marvelous time ruining everything," which basically sums up Hal in Part I. "Long Live," which never fails makes me nostalgic, is representative of Hal saying good-bye to his old life and friends, reflecting on the fun times as he prepares to take on the responsibilities of being king: "Long live the walls we crashed through/All the kingdom lights shined just for me and you."
5. As You Like It As You Like It remains a favorite for me because of the sweet, sisterly relationship between cousins Rosalind and Celia as well as the play's advocacy for a simple life, represented by the forest, as opposed to the stresses of the modern world, represented by the court. For these reasons, I'm pairing AYLI with "Seven," a song that conveys both of these themes: a deep friendship is apparent in the lines "Cross my heart won't tell no other/And though I can't recall your face/I've still got love for you" and a Romantic outlook on life is apparent in the lyrics "Please picture me in the trees/I hit my peak at seven/Feet in the swing over the creek/I was too scared to jump in/But I, I was high in the sky/With Pennsylvania under me/Are there still beautiful things?" Also, one part of the song goes "I think your house is haunted/Your dad is always mad and that must be why/And I think you should come live with me/And we can be pirates," which is PRETTY MUCH a summary of the scene in which Celia's father banishes Rosalind and the cousins decide to run away together.
4. Twelfth Night I can't quite explain why I love Twelfth Night so much, but it's a fun play with memorable characters, witty banter, AND it inspired She's the Man. I absolutely love the relationship between Viola and Orsino, and the disguised Viola's feelings for Orsino as he pursues Olivia PERFECTLY captures the vibe of "You Belong With Me," a song of perhaps even more cultural significance than She's the Man.
3. King Lear IMO, Lear is criminally underrated. While romantic relationships do play a role in the story, the major plotlines revolve around complicated familial relationships and the play as a whole demonstrates the damaging, tragic effects of such fraught relationships (I also played Goneril in a production of Lear one summer, so it's entirely possible that I'm biased in the play's favor). While I struggled to find some TSwift songs for some plays, I immediately knew that Lear HAD to be paired with "My Tears Ricochet." Lines such as "You wear the same jewels that I gave you/As you bury me," as well as "And if I'm dead to you, why are you at the wake?/Cursing my name, wishing I stayed" and the entire ending of the song, "And I can go anywhere I want/Anywhere I want, just not home/And you can aim for my heart, go for blood/But you would still miss me in your bones/And I still talk to you (When I'm screaming at the sky)/And when you can't sleep at night (You hear my stolen lullabies)/I didn't have it in myself to go with grace/And so the battleships will sink beneath the waves/You had to kill me, but it killed you just the same/Cursing my name, wishing I stayed/You turned into your worst fears/And you're tossing out blame, drunk on this pain/Crossing out the good years/And you're cursing my name, wishing I stayed/Look at how my tears ricochet" perfectly convey the pain of familial betrayal — as does the title itself, suggestive of the fact that when someone hurts a loved one, they suffer, as well.
2. The Tempest While not as perfectly crafted as Macbeth, The Tempest is fantastical and exquisite, and Prospero is one of my absolute favorite Shakespearean figures. And the ending! Prospero's impassioned plea to the audience, "As you from crimes would pardoned be,/Let your indulgence set me free" is chill-inducing. My favorite line in the entire play, however, comes from his speech in which he declares that he will give up magic: "I'll break my staff,/Bury it certain fathoms in the earth,/And deeper than did ever plummet sound/I'll drown my book." I've paired The Tempest with "Enchanted" for two reasons — besides the fact that it is an absolute bop — 1, the title itself and the imagery that it evokes fit nicely with the fantastical nature of the island and 2, the "magical" first encounter described in the song perfectly describes the love-at-first-sight romance of Ferdinand and Miranda.
1. Macbeth Maybe it's because I've read Macbeth three times now, maybe it's because I was in a production of it one summer (as witch #2, in case anyone was wondering), or maybe it's just because it's a masterpiece and rightly lauded as such, but "the Scottish play" is easily my favorite Shakespearean work. Fast-paced, dark, twisted, yet strikingly human, its portrayal of greed, power, madness, and the tragic results of human ambition is unparalleled. Macbeth's speech in Act V Scene 5 haunts me to this day: "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day/To the last syllable of recorded time;/And all our yesterdays have lighted fools/The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle,/Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player/That struts and frets his hour upon the stage/And then is heard no more. It is a tale/Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury/Signifying nothing." I was very tempted to pair Macbeth with "Look What You Made Me Do," given the cunning and angst that both exude, and if Folklore didn't exist I probably would've, but I just HAD to pair it with "Mad Woman," a dark, tormented song that, while most likely not about Lady Macbeth, nonetheless perfectly captures her descent into madness with lyrics such as "Every time you call me crazy, I get more crazy/What about that?/And when you say I seem angry, I get more angry/And there's nothing like a mad woman/What a shame she went mad/No one likes a mad woman/You made her like that" especially if you're like me and view Lady M's devious actions throughout the play as the result of a society in which women are oppressed — also, the song gets bonus points for mentioning witches!