Numbers 4, 3 and 2

Top 10 funniest characters in Shakespeare.

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03.06.2021

We asked an expert panel to name the ten greatest comic characters in Shakespeare. Today, we reveal numbers four, three and two.

Compiled by Andy McLean

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4. SIR JOHN FALSTAFF (Henry IV part I, Henry IV part II, The Merry Wives of Windsor)

He’s the life and soul of the party at The Boar’s Head Inn but Falstaff, like all Shakespeare’s greatest characters, is a deeply flawed human being. He frequently uses his charm and one-liners to deflect attention from his misdeeds and shortcomings. If he wasn’t so funny, he’d never get away with it all.

John Bell as Falstaff in Bell Shakespeare's 2013 production of Henry IV, directed by John Bell with Damien Ryan

When asked for his nomination, Pat Reid didn’t hesitate: “Shakespeare’s funniest character is Falstaff.” The Shakespeare Magazine editor points to: “the insanely irreverent rhetorical genius of [Falstaff’s] wordplay,” before adding that, “a huge swathe of modern-day comedy in the English language was engendered in his ample loins. If you love to laugh, there’s a little of Falstaff in you…”

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3. NURSE (Romeo And Juliet)

“The Nurse in Romeo and Juliet is completely inappropriate, hilariously unpredictable and so, so funny, despite never setting out to be,” according to actor and writer Kate Mulvany. “There is such a lived experience in her weary-boned humour which makes her immediately relatable and wonderfully recognisable. She overshares unashamedly – talks about everything from losing her virginity, to breastfeeding, to her teeth falling out… And ooh, she loves a good gossip.

“Although we only ever know her as ‘Nurse’, she feels so full and complete to me – I just want to bury myself in her embrace like Juliet does. I imagine her name to be Joan. Or Hilda. Or Glenys. And I reckon she smells of sweat and soap and fresh bread.”

Kelly Paterniti as Juliet and Michelle Doake as Nurse in Romeo and Juliet 2016, directed by Peter Evans

Author Jane Caro adds: “The Nurse is unintentionally funny, but she is also warm-hearted and loving; virtually the only older character in the play who is. It is an affectionate portrayal of an older woman who has survived personal tragedy (the loss of her own daughter) but remains open-hearted and – rather more often than she ought – open-mouthed.”

Listen to Kate Mulvany interviewed in Bell Shakespeare’s Speak The Speech podcast.

2. NICK BOTTOM (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

Where to start with Nick Bottom? There’s never a dull moment, that’s for sure. The dimwitted weaver begins ‘The Dream’ with delusions of acting prowess, then becomes part-man/part-donkey, before a fairy queen falls madly in love with him. As if all that weren’t enough, he steals this most wondrous of shows in the finale – a ‘play within a play’ that is guaranteed to bring the house down every time it is performed.

“That play within a play is so brilliant because it’s a parody,” says Bell Shakespeare’s Associate Director, James Evans. “Shakespeare was writing Romeo And Juliet at the same time as A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bottom is essentially playing a hammy Romeo in Shakespeare’s own comic version of R&J.”

Bottom will be bumbling his way across Australia in Bell Shakespeare’s national tour of A Midsummer Night’s Dream from July to November this year.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Stay tuned on social media in the coming days as we reveal who took the number one spot on our list of funniest characters in Shakespeare. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

READ MORE

Read about who made 10, 9 and 8 in our countdown of Shakespeare’s Funniest Characters

Read about who made 7, 6 and 5 in our countdown of Shakespeare’s Funniest Characters

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