To celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, we asked our authors to share a little bit about their favourite Shakespearean heroes. Read on for film recommendations, beloved quotes and more!
I know it’s a bit of a cliché but I’ve always had a soft spot for Romeo. So young, so reckless, so passionate, so impulsive and, as played by a 21-year-old Leonardo Di Caprio in Baz Lurhmann’s spellbinding film adaptation Romeo + Juliet, completely gorgeous. It’s just a massive shame he ends up killing himself for no reason!
I love Shakespeare. I even took a class in college focusing only on Shakespeare’s works. I know the tragedies and histories get the most attention but my favourites are the comedies. At the top of that list is Taming of the Shrew. It has all the elements of a good romance. Alpha male Petruccio and strong-willed Katherina who is his equal marry, but all isn’t smooth sailing until they realise their love for each other. Awe.
When I think of Shakespeare heroes, I admit I generally admire the women more than the men. But there is one character I ADORE and particularly in a movie version: Kenneth Branagh as Benedick alongside Emma Thompson in Much Ado About Nothing. Benedick is a bit of the ridiculous, and at the beginning swears he will never marry or fall in love. And it seems as if he and Beatrice (Thompson) are like oil and water. But really… I like to think they are very much like a Mills and Boon couple. A strong hero or heroine needs an equally strong partner. Someone who can go toe to toe with them, someone who commands mutual respect and affection. That makes the most satisfying couples! Benedick gets my vote, if only for my favourite line by Branagh: ‘Love, me? WHY?’
I have to admit I like Petruchio in Taming of the Shrew, which I consider to be a dark rom-com of the highest order. I think it’s because seeing Richard Burton portray him on film left a big impression on me. Dare I admit I thought he was sexy?
For my favourite Shakespeare hero, it is a toss up between Benedick (Much Ado About Nothing) because I love and adore the byplay between him and Beatrice – a true enemies to lovers story – and Petruchio (Taming of the Shrew) who can be troublesome but I like to think his treatment of Katrina at the end was because he wanted her to win the bet (i.e. there is more than one knowing nod to the audience) and it is a play within a play after all (the prologue is rarely performed but I was able to see its entirety a few years ago).
Othello because of his obsession. Because of the dangers of his past. Because he said this: ‘For she had eyes and chose me.’ Now if only I was a romance writer so Iago can get him some karma, the hero realises the error of his thoughts, and there was a HEA….
I don’t know if he’s my favourite or not, as in ‘best of all time’ but I do like Mercutio quite a bit. He’s fiery, decisive and stubbornly loyal. I think there’s a little bit of him in most of my heroes.
In this day and age it may not be all that PC to love Petruchio from Taming of the Shrew, but I always had a soft spot for him, not because he ‘tamed’ Katherine…more…I think he saw that she was intelligent and wild (in the best possible way) and he was the perfect match to her fierce passions and uncompromising way of seeing the world. Sometimes our heroines need someone to push back…and Petruchio did that. So did he tame the shrew? Or bring out the best in her? In my version it is definitely the latter!
Full of crackling tension and fiery banter, Benedick is my favourite hero. (Swiftly followed by the Bear from The Winter’s Tale of course!). Too wise to woo peaceably, his romance with Beatrice delights and gives us the original passionate kiss with – ‘Peace! I will stop your mouth.’
Apart from the fact that he was much too easily influenced by outsiders – and, you know, that he ended up going mad and killing the love of his life and himself – I do love Othello. His devotion and love before the horror was beautiful. (Although, reading this back, I wonder whether I should re-evaluate this preference…)
Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in Midsummer Night’s Dream. I love the comedy of her angry husband putting a spell on her to make her fall in love with Bottom when he’s wearing the ass’s head. The play sparkles with magic, wit and humour. And there’s a happy ending too!
My favourite Shakespearean hero has to be Prince Hal from Henry IV part 1 & 2 – he’s dashing, irreverent and has a wry sense of humour (as all good heroes should.) He has the weight of the ‘hollow crown’ on his young head whilst his father, the King, berates him for his wild ways, believing that his wastrel son will be nothing but a sad disappointment. Bruised and upset by his father’s lack of faith, Hal finds a surrogate father figure in the hilarious, Sir John Falstaff, instead.
From these two outstanding plays, which read like a coming of age story, it seems totally unlikely that the rebellious Hal, would ever surmount to become the legendary, heroic- Henry V, who would go onto deliver the famous lines of; ‘Once more unto the breach dear friends , once more….’ As well as ‘We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…’
If still in doubt then you only have to look at the way Hal/ now Henry V wooed Katherine of France –
‘…I know no ways to mince it in love, but directly to say, “I love you.” Then if you urge me farther than to say, “Do you, in faith?” I wear out my suit. Give me your answer, i’ faith, do; and so clap hands and a bargain. How say you, lady?’ The whole scene is gorgeous with Henry trying to convince Kate to marry him.
Another suggestion is Rosalind from As You Like It (although I appreciate she is not a hero) because she dresses as a boy to win the heart of Orlando, and to achieve her goals…. A bit like my heroine Eleanor of Tallany in my debut out on July 1st.