Knowing which are the most famous plays can help you to have a guide for your next readings or an estimated list of those plays that you must know to nourish your encyclopedia and optimize all your audiovisual projects .
Art in all its forms, throughout history, has manifested themes inherent to the problems of human beings, their emotions and experiences. And the most famous plays are an example of this.
From Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, written in the 5th century B.C. to Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, published in the 20th century, theatrical narrative has been fundamental to make catharsis and evidence the very essence of man .
That is why, in order for you to get to know the authors of the most famous plays of recent times, we have prepared this complete analysis. From here, you will know who are the main writers of the most famous plays and which are the literary motifsthat have been decisive in the development of universal theater .
are you ready? let’s get started!
1. The importance of being called Ernesto
The first example of the most famous plays is Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, written in the early 19th century.
This play deals with moral conflicts and satirizes the mores of the Victorian England era. It is one of the most famous plays, featuring the charming protagonist Algergon Moncrieff and his responsible companion, John Worthing. The two men swap roles to avoid society, go to the country and return to London.
Playing these mysterious roles, they become entangled in a web of lies and only a miracle can save them. Full of humor and jokes, this famous play pokes fun at high society and all its standards.
2. Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare is the author of this classic play, one of the most famous plays in history. Much Ado About Nothing combines elements of humor; and at the same time, it addresses themes such as: reflection, politics and war, love and chivalry.
Set in Italy, the protagonists of this play are a pair of lovers, named Claudio and Hero, who act out a typical romance. In the acts of this famous play, another couple, formed by Benedict and Beatrice, accuse Hero of being unfaithful. Through a set of actions crossed by irony, themes such as love, heartbreak, deception and social appearances are dealt with.
In short, this English drama is one of the most famous plays that satirizes aristocratic behavior and criticizes the social standards of the 16th century.
3. Six Degrees of Separation
Written by American screenwriter and playwright John Guare, this is one of the most famous plays in history. It is a classic American theatrical drama, an explosive comedy that shows the hypocrisy and prejudices of the white middle class. Its debut was on Broadway in 1990; and after multiple awards and recognitions, it reached the big screen in 1994 .
It is one of the most famous plays because it is a sharp and serious exploration of society and its values. In it, an African-American man infiltrates an upper-class family; and from there, chaos begins.
The author of this play is George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright and journalist, considered a revolutionary in drama-comedies .
It is one of the most famous plays that revolves around Eliza Doolitle, who despises the beauty of the English language. This attracts the attention of Professor Higgins, who accuses Eliza about her conception of this language. Subsequently, he makes a bet with an old friend, Colonel Pickering; and claims that he can change her and pass her off as British royalty .
Then, the literary script of this play changes completely, when the professor begins to fall in love with Eliza. Undoubtedly, one of the most famous plays that today continues to be performed around the world.
Written by the British writer and playwright Michael Frayn, it is one of the most famous plays and is based on real events. Specifically, in a meeting that took place in 1941, between physicists Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. At that time, World War II was raging , and Niels and Werner were working on weapons projects, but for opposing sides .
Although it is not known for sure what they discussed in that meeting, the play imagines what they talked about. Both protagonists have a passion for science, but at the same time, they are in conflict, as they are developing weapons that could potentially annihilate the world.
In short, this is one of the most famous plays that makes explicit the importance of historical memory, ambition and regret.
6. Death of a Salesman
This is one of the most famous plays, set in the 1950s. Indeed, this drama by American screenwriter and playwright Arthur Miller, narrates the life of a salesman who has lost faith in the “American dream”. On his deathbed, the salesman comes to the conclusion that he has not been able to give his family the desired future .
Death of a Salesman can be considered one of the most famous plays, exposing the failures of the class system through the eyes of a simple salesman who is a victim of industrialism and desperately seeks to rid himself of the inferiority complex forced upon him by American society.
7. A Streetcar Named Desire
Conceived as one of the most famous plays, poet, playwright and novelist Tennessee Williams is ahead of his time in discussing issues such as: homosexuality, domestic violence and women’s monetary independence .
With the Kowalski couple as protagonists, this theatrical work pits them against another marriage; and tensions rise as they spend the summer together in a small house.
According to an Infobae analysis, it is one of the most famous plays that premiered in 1947 and was directed by Elia Kazan, American director and writer. In its first version, Marlon Brando played Stanley Kowalski; and Kim Hunter played his submissive wife Stella. Both performances were critically acclaimed, as a result of an excellent treatment of the script to captivate the audience.
“To make sense of the text, we have to read it many times. Read it from different places. First, read it to simply enjoy it. And then, to understand it. Read the text as if you were a detective to define very well the journey of your character according to the story. We are just another tool of the story and our characters are there to tell the story (…). When you understand why each word is there and what for, it will be much easier to memorize the text. Because you will not remember the words as such without meaning. You will remember texts that have a meaning and a basis in you”.
Source: Government of the City of Buenos Aires
8. who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?
This is a dark comedy, written by the American playwright Edward Albee. In simple words, it is one of the most famous plays, in which the story of Jorge and Marta is told.
This married couple in crisis prepares a dinner party to receive another married couple, which turns into a crazy night of fun and games. At the end of the day, a climactic revelation will surprise them.
With excellent dialogue and no social pretensions, this play is one of the most celebrated on Broadway.
9. Long Journey into the Night
In this play, American playwright Eugene O’Neill takes us back to his past. As soon as it starts, you can feel the authenticity of a man, who together with his two children, tries his best to keep his wife sober; after she went through a morphine addiction .
But in the plot of one of the most famous plays in history, everything begins to fall apart when she has a relapse and the three men begin to drown their sorrows in alcohol. This play is an example of a family drama based on real events.
10. Oedipus Rex
This Greek tragedy written by Sophocles in 429 BC can be considered as one of the most famous plays in history. Although we know that Oedipus murdered his family, this play examines the truth of the monarch and what motivated him to commit the tragedy .
And 2600 years later, it remains one of the most important book recommendations and one of the most relevant plays from a universal approach.
Hamlet is a famous dramatic work written by William Shakespeare between 1599 and 1601. It narrates the life of the Danish prince, who loses his sanity when he learns that his father was murdered by his uncle .
It is one of the most famous plays, in which themes such as: madness, incest, betrayal, death, life and revenge are exposed.
According to a Forbes analysis, Hamlet is considered one of the most famous plays that raises the issue of the essence of the human being. It is presented as a story where the inner ghosts of man and his tendency to inaction or procrastination predominate.
Indeed, in this famous play, Hamlet is convinced that his mother was married to the man who had murdered his father. After his existential conflicts, based on the famous phrase “To be or not to be, that is the question”, comes the suicide of Ophelia, his partner, and a series of events that led to the fall of the Danish court.
12. Romeo and Juliet
In this list of the most famous plays, we cannot fail to mention another of Shakespeare’s great creations: Romeo and Juliet .
Through the plot of this play, the love story of a man and a woman is told, which is crossed by the clashes of two families: the Montagues and the Capulets. A tragic ending makes it one of the most famous plays, which invites us to think about love, passions and conflicts.
13. Life is a dream
Moving a little further in this guide about the most famous plays, we must highlight La vida es sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. This dramatic work was published in the year 1635 and is one of the most important representatives of the Baroque literary movement.
Thus, in this example of a famous play, Prince Segismundo has been banished by his own father, as a result of a fatalistic prediction.
It is considered one of the most famous plays, because it covers literary topics related to life, death, destiny and human freedom.
14. The Phantom of the Opera
In this guide to the most famous plays, we present The Phantom of the Opera by French journalist and writer Gaston Leroux. This literary text was published in 1910 and has been adapted into a musical comedy.
The plot of this famous play tells the story of an evil being who seeks to appropriate Christine Daaé, a young singer of the Paris opera.
Through the scenes of this theatrical work, themes such as love, death, mystery and terror are addressed , all in a gothic dramatic style .
Among the most famous plays is Fuenteovejuna by the playwright and poet Lope de Vega, a representative drama of the Spanish Golden Age. From a historical perspective, the script of this play was written between 1612 and 1614, and later published in 1619 in Madrid.
Based on true events, this famous play tells the story of the uprising of the Andalusian town of Fuente Ovejuna against the tyranny of its lord during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs. During the course of the events of this drama, the figure of a collective main character, the people, who has assassinated the Comendador , is presented.
It is one of the famous plays in which motifs such as love, love relationships, the opposition between the court and the village, and social hierarchy are addressed.
16. La Celestina
Popularly known as La Celestina, the Tragicomedy of Calisto and Melibea, attributed to the Spanish writer Fernando Rojas, is considered one of the most famous plays of recent times.
Throughout the plot of this play, we learn the story of Calisto, son of a wealthy merchant, who falls in love with Melibea. To achieve his goal of making her fall in love, he resorts to an old procuress. For this reason, nowadays, a person who intervenes in the amorous union between people is known as a “matchmaker “.
From a plot point of view, in this famous play, Melibea falls in love with Calisto, while the procuress, tempted by greed, does not accept to share with her servants the money she has been paid for the amorous work. And as a result, she has a fateful end. Finally, tragedy will also run through the lives of Calisto and Melibea in a decisive way.
Through a hybrid genre between novel, drama and comedy, it has been positioned as one of the most famous plays, which addresses issues such as: life, death, ambition, magic, madness and the passage of time. Undoubtedly, a work of universal theater that you can not miss.
Well, as you have seen throughout this article, the most famous plays are many. You can already start reading these literary texts or witness the development of these plays live.
In short, the most famous plays transcend time and space; and the spectator is still the same human being, who can observe the treatment of different themes that cross the very essence of humanity .
And as Aristotle said in the Poetics in the 4th century B.C., through theater, it is possible to experience the phenomenon of catharsis. This was conceived by the Greek philosopher as the capacity of tragedy to purify or liberate the emotions of the spectator, all through the visualization of experiences projected on the actors of the play.
So, read, study and become a spectator of famous plays and take advantage of all the benefits associated with the dramatic art.
see you in the next article!