One of the things I've noticed through reading Shakespeare is that a lot of his plays include a meta-reference making fun of the play.

For example, in Twelfth Night Fabian says "If this were played upon a stage now, I could / condemn it as an improbable fiction."

And in A Midsummer-Night's Dream, Puck tells the audience that if they don't like the play, which he describes as "this weak and idle theme", they should pretend it was a dream.

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,

I'm hoping to get a list of every single meta-reference where Shakespeare makes fun of his own play. I've looked online, and I haven't been able to find such a list, so I'm hoping to use the collaborative power of the internet to make one.

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    Not sure what to make of this. I like the idea a lot but it doesn't seem a great fit for the SE format. Are there open questions on other SE sites compiling lists like this?
    – Matt Thrower
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:01
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    I've seen some like this on Math, Math Educators, and CS Educators. I think it's up to individual communities how to treat list questions.
    – Torisuda
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:04
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    @MattThrower I think this question could be answered with a community wiki answer, which would allow everyone to edit it, and which would encourage everyone to add their quotes in an answer that could be organize by play in alphabetical order.
    – user111
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:09
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    I remember a question on this iste that was asking for the list of all symbols/allusions/something like this in a particular work. Of course it was closed, even though the author had suggested having a CW answer everyone can contribute to. What makes this question different? You're not even asking for one work, you're asking for all of them. Jul 20, 2017 at 18:37
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    @Gallifreyan I don't think this question is too broad. There is a very specific criteria for answers to this question. This makes it unlike questions such as "list every instance of symbolism in ____". It would be helpful if you could include a link to the question that was closed. And I can think of plenty of "list" questions that have been upvoted and left open.
    – user111
    Jul 20, 2017 at 18:45

1 Answer 1


Rosalind, As You Like It, Act V Scene 4:

If it be true that good wine needs
no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no
epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes,
and good plays prove the better by the help of good
epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am
neither a good epilogue nor cannot insinuate with
you in the behalf of a good play!

Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V Scene 1:

Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;

(The "serpent's tongue" is a hissing sound, another form of audience disapproval.)

Prospero, The Tempest, Act IV Scene 1:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

(The "great globe" could be a reference to the Globe Theatre.)

King John

By heaven, these scroyles of Angiers flout you, kings;
And stand securely on their battlements,
As in a theatre, whence they gape and point
At your industrious scenes and acts of death.


O, there be players that I have seen play, and heard others praise, and that highly, not to speak it profanely, that, neither having the accent of Christians nor the gait of Christian, pagan, nor man, have so strutted and bellowed that I have thought some of nature's journeymen had made men and not made them well, they imitated humanity so abominably.

  • Thanks for getting this started! I'm planning on adding some more quotes; do you mind if I organize this answer by alphabetical order?
    – user111
    Jul 20, 2017 at 21:47
  • Re-organize away. Jul 21, 2017 at 15:57
  • I'd considered the Prospero quote; I wasn't quite sure if it matched your definition. You might also consider Bastard from King John: "By heaven, these scroyles of Angiers flout you, kings, And stand securely on their battlements, As in a theatre, whence they gape and point At your industrious scenes and acts of death." (In our deliberately farcical John, we broke character and said "hi mom!" at that point.) Jul 21, 2017 at 15:59