10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read: Literature allows us as readers to go back in time and gain knowledge about the history of time and the people who lived before us. Throughout the ages, literature provided us with tragedy, comedy, and reading for aesthetic pleasure. However, certain books just became popular among readers for the power of vocabulary, an exhibition of the historical context, or for a certain character. Here in this article, we are going to read about 10 such plays. Keep reading!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read - Hamlet by William Shakespeare
10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read – Hamlet by William Shakespeare

The ghost of the king of Denmark tells Hamlet, his son to avenge his murder by killing Hamlet’s uncle, the new king. Hamlet contemplates life and death and seeks revenge. His uncle on the other hand devises plots to murder Hamlet out of fear for his life. William Shakespeare has written about the core elements such as love, grief, family, and betrayal that truly drive humans. This play will remain like several other Shakespeare plays will remain forever relevant. Hamlet shows how humans can do wrong but believe that they are doing it for the right reasons.

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe
Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is about Faust, the doctor-turned-necromancer. He makes a pact with the devil (Mephistopheles) and sold his soul to obtain power and knowledge. The message that this play provides is that the cost of sin is always above its benefits. And, the salvation of the soul is more significant than the ability to fly. This non-Shakespearean Elizabethan tragedy influenced Renaissance dramas.

Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht

10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read - Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht
10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read – Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht

The play follows the fortunes of Anna Fierling (Mother Courage), a wily canteen woman with the Swedish Army. Over the course of the play, Anna loses all her children – Schweizerkas, Eilif, and Kattrin. She lost her children to the very war she thought to make a profit and her living. It is an anti-war play written in the form of resistance against the rise of Nazism and fascism. This play also contains the popular ‘alienation effect’ of Bertolt Brecht.

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Death of a Salesman is the story of modern man. It focuses on the theme of the American dream. Willy Loman fails to overcome the obstacles of his dreams and expectations. The play addresses Willy’s loss of identity and his ability to accept the change within society and himself. Through Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller demonstrates how a person’s self-perpetual denial can impact people around him and include them. Willy Loman’s tragic end is due to his failure to understand the American dream.

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne

10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read - Look Back in Anger by John Osborne
10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read – Look Back in Anger by John Osborne

The play begins in the attic flat apartment of Jimmy and Alison Potter. It is set in a small town in England during the mid-1950s. Jimmy and Alison share their apartment with Cliff Lewis. Cliff is a young working-class man and best friend of Jimmy. Both of them come from a working-class background but Jimmy has had more education. Alison comes from a prominent family and at the beginning of the play, it Is evident that Jimmy resents this fact. Jimmy believes that lower-class people who have suffered have an insight into the world that people from the higher class lack.

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Waiting for Godot deals with the absurdity of existence. The play focuses on how our life is just the same with a few minor changes. Vladimir and Estragon, the two main characters of the play are trying to meet every day. But, the beauty is Godot never arrives. As a reader, we are allowed to draw several conclusions about who Godot is. However, as the play is based on the philosophy of existentialism, Godot is human satisfaction. And, humans are never satisfied.

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read - She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith
10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read – She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith

Oliver Goldsmith’s most popular work is one of the most endearing comedies of the 18th century. It takes a comedic and racial look at the attitude and marital expectations of the upper-class society of England. The play concentrates on the desire of a healthy landowner named Hardcastle for his daughter Kate to get married to a well-educated man named Charles Marlow. As the title of the play suggests, it means taking a position that is beneath others to ultimately reach the goal you have set for yourself.

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

A Doll’s House focuses on Nora. At the beginning of the play, Nora believes that she is married to a perfect man. However, as the play progresses she realizes that her husband just sees her as her wife and not as a separate individual who has their needs and wants. Nora does illegal things and lies for the sake of her husband. But, when Nora requests her husband to help her out of a disturbing situation, he refuses. He made her realize that she is just a stupid woman who loves to spend money and who has managed to ruin his reputation. This play was very significant for modern theater as it exhibits the real-life situation of a middle-class family and gender roles.

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read - The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
10 Plays of English Literature Everyone Should Read – The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

The play is focused on two characters, Jack ad Algernon and both of them are living dual lives and pretending to be someone they are not.  This play reveals several features of Victorian society. It is referred to as a comedy of manners as it in an ironical context describes the conduct of Victorian high-class society. The two female characters Cecily and Gwendolen are in love with this one mythical suitor. Jack and Algernon are pretending to be this one man – Ernest. The primary themes of this play are class, society, and hypocrisy.

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw

“I sold flowers. I didn’t sell myself. Now you’ve made a lady of me I’m not fit to sell anything else.” The Pygmalion effect is a psychological phenomenon that defines how having expectations can alter behavior. This is exactly what this popular play by Shaw is about. Shaw depicts the transformation of a flower girl into a high-society lady. She transformed with the assistance of two linguists. They took this challenge as a challenge, but what to do after the transformation? She only knows how to sell flowers.

Also Read: Top 10 Plays Written by William Shakespeare