Before I started studying English lit at uni, I wasn’t big on reading plays. The only plays I’d ever read were Shakespeare, and although I love a bit of old Will, I hadn’t seen much variety. To me, they were just full of unnecessary murders and exaggerated love in ye olde English. But in this past year, my opinion on reading plays has changed drastically.
Studying English lit means that you have to read a lot, and sometimes you have to read things that you think you won’t particularly like. For me, reading plays was something that I was definitely not looking forward to, and when my lecturer gave me a list to get my head stuck into, I had to stifle a groan.
But these plays were different. They were modern, dramatic, and had characters that you could relate to. They talked about social issues and had character development, they had unexpected twists and turns and I couldn’t put them down. They were so easy to read that I sped through them, and they left me absolutely boggled. How could I have been so naive? How could I have ruled out all of this incredible writing?
The first play that changed my opinion was Danton’s Death. I have read this play a couple of times over, and its setting during the French Revolution is never the part that has stuck out to me the most. I never realised how philosophical a play could be without all of the filler descriptions that a novel has, and how emotions and ideas could be portrayed so fluently through speech. This was a game changer for me, and it gave me a completely different insight as to how characters could be developed.
I have read many plays since then, but there’s one in particular which really stands out to me. Fear and Misery of the Third Reich by Bertolt Brecht paints a picture of Nazi Germany through the eyes of many different characters, showing the suffering that average people went through. Brecht’s ability to somehow make you relate to a character in a situation so different to your own, and to feel sympathy for a character who is only fleeting, is incredible, and each character’s story from within the play sticks with me.
If you read one play in your whole life, make sure you pick up this one. Trust me, it will stay with you forever.