My favorite Shakespearean couples

A man plays a tuba in an alley next to a colorful mural of Shakespeare.
I don’t know why tuba playing and this Shakespeare mural go so well together, but it’s a great match. (Photo by Jessica Pamp on Unsplash)

I have been a Shakespeare nerd for many years. Ever since middle school, in fact, when I decided one day for basically no reason that I was about the Bard. I toted around an edition of the complete works my dad had used in college and thought it made me deep or something. But then we went to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream on a field trip and my Shakespeare appreciation got much less theoretical. I realized that the plays were actually good and not just something to pretend to be an intellectual about.

My exploration of my favorite Shakespearean couples is an exercise in dedicated intellectual rigor. (Much like my list of which Jane Austen heroes I would date.) Please know I take this very seriously.

Beatrice and Benedick

The Play: Much Ado About Nothing

I mean, how can you not love Beatrice and Benedick? There is so much to love! Here, I have bullets:

  • They are the best part of this play
  • Their repartee is genuinely hilarious
  • They would actually make a decent couple in real life
  • Hostilities turned to love is a great trope

Highly recommend you watch the movie version of this starring Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson. It is so delightful.

Antony and Cleopatra

The Play: Antony and Cleopatra

Can the Romans handle the drama of one of their own being in a relationship with an Egyptian? (Spoiler alert: No, they cannot.)

I like Antony and Cleopatra because they are a little older, have been together for awhile, and then decide to partially conquer the world together. Couple goals, honestly. Also, there’s a little tidbit in this play I have always loved about Antony dressing up in some of Cleopatra’s clothes. Like a fun, sexy couple’s game. The uptight Romans are horrified by this. They are fools. This is a great detail!

Antony sucks to his wife and the fact that she agrees to raise the children he had with his mistress makes Octavia a true queen.

Mercutio and Benvolio

The Play: Romeo and Juliet

Forget Romeo and Juliet. I have eyes only for Mercutio and Benvolio. This is not a relationship that is explicitly written into the play, although when viewed from a certain angle, I think it’s implied. Mercutio and Benvolio seem to end up on stage just the two of them talking quite a lot. Benvolio drags Mercutio offstage for his death scene (a tearful goodbye between lovers???) and after he announces Mercutio’s death, Benvolio disappears. I personally think Benvolio goes into hiding somewhere and writes lots of sad poetry.

I am telling you, there’s a great love story in Romeo and Juliet and it has nothing to do with the title characters.

Plus, Mercutio is funny and Romeo is boring. Case closed.

Sebastian and Antonio and Olivia (and Viola and Orsino)

The Play: Twelfth Night

A girl twin and a boy twin are separated. The girl twin cross dresses and gets mistaken for a boy! Everyone is falling in love with everyone else. It’s so confusing and fun!

Antonio is definitely in love with Sebastian. Viola is in love with Orsino and he seems to be digging her but thinks she’s a boy and so can’t admit he likes her until he finds out that she’s a she. Olivia falls in love with the boy version of Viola, but then marries Sebastian thinking he’s his sister. (Confused yet?)

Personally, I think the best case scenario for this whole thing is for all five of these characters to be in love with each other. Except for the twins. They should not be in love with each other. That would be weird.

Nick Bottom and Himself

The Play: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This dude is obsessed with himself to the point where the fairies give him a donkey head because he is such an ass (get it????). These shenanigans are hilarious and Bottom and the players are hands down the funniest part of this play.

There are so many couples in this play but the only guaranteed to make it is Bottom’s sweet sweet infatuation with himself.

Iago and Villainy

The Play: Othello

Iago is a top tier villain because he is so fun and everyone in this play is so easy to trick. Like, he gives a dude a handkerchief and Othello has a full on meltdown. And Iago just spends the whole play turning to the audience and being like, “I’m gonna go try to screw up this guy’s life now.”

Chef’s kiss, Iago. Please continue your nefarious ways.

Leontes and My Fist

The Play: A Winter’s Tale

Hoo boy, does Leontes suck. This man causes a lot of death and horror all because he randomly gets jealous of his wife talking to his friend? What is your deal, Leontes?

If I could punch him in the face, just once, I believe it would be destiny. True love.

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