Single Sentence Summaries of Shakespeare’s Plays

atkins bookshelf shakespeareIn the digital, short-attention-span era, Shakespeare definitely gets a bad rap. People have become too accustomed to 140-character lines, textese, and emojis. Who has time for fancy-schmancy sentences and verses in iambic pentameter? It is easier to dismiss the Bard altogether; people often complain: “I don’t like Shakespeare, it’s way over my head” or “Shakespeare is so boring.” Enter Reed Martin and Austin Richenor, members of the wickedly witty Reduced Shakespeare Company, who knock Shakespeare off his pedestal and put the fun back into the work of the Bard by reducing his plays into short, simple sentences for the attention-impaired. Martin and Richenor elaborate: [Shakespeare’s] plays are too long. Who has time to sit through four hour productions? Why doesn’t somebody cut out all the minor characters and unimportant subplots and get right to the sex and killing, which is what people really want to see.” And that’s exactly what Martin and Richenor did. Without further ado, here are some of the plays of Shakespeare summarized in a single sentence:

Antony and Cleopatra (tragedy, 1607): Love bites.

As You Like It (comedy, 1600): Desperate Housewives set in the forest of Arden.

Hamlet (tragedy, 1600): Hamlet avenges his father, and it only takes four hours.

King Lear (tragedy, 1605): Lear tries to control his daughters and ends up losing them all.

Macbeth (tragedy, 1606): Lady Macbeth encourages her husband to be more aggressive in pursing career options.

The Merchant of Venice (comedy, 1596): A Jew won’t let his daughter marry a gentile.

A Midsummer’s Night Dream (comedy, 1595): The course of true love never did run smooth.

Othello (tragedy, 1604): Othello foregoes marital counseling and takes matters into his own hands.

Romeo and Juliet (tragedy, 1594): A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life.

The Tempest (comedy/romance, 1611): Prospero discovers that not even stranding his daughter on an island will keep her from discovering boys.


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4 responses to “Single Sentence Summaries of Shakespeare’s Plays

  • Philosophical Epiphanies

    I started blogging this month, and it is a pleasure that I came across your blog.
    It has inspired me to start my third article.
    Thank you:)

  • Eagle-Eyed Editor

    As a long-time Shakespeare fan, this post had me giggling. Thanks for giving me a smile this morning!

    • Alexander Atkins

      Hi S. L.: First, thanks for your steady support of Bookshelf; much appreciated. You are welcome. One of the ways to make Shakespeare accessible is through humor. The actors who act and wrote Reduced Shakespeare are absolutely brilliant. Every page of the book will have you laughing out loud. I own about 500 books on Shakespeare, and this is one of my favorites because no one else dares approach the Bard with such wit and humor. Cheers. Alex

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