Questions tagged [william-shakespeare]

Questions about the workes of William Shakspeare, who writ many a famous plaie and poem. For questions about his plaies, may it please you to add a tag for the plaie (e.g. [hamlet]); for questions about his sonnets, may it please you to add the tag [poetry].

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What is the meaning of "Or feed upon such nice and waterish diet" and "Or breed itself so out of circumstances" in "Othello"?

In William Shakespeare's Othello, Act 3, Scene 3, Desdemona assures Cassio that Othello's anger at him is only dictated by wise policy and that Othello will restore him to his position in the future. ...
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1 answer
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Why could Banquo see the three witches?

If the three witches were a figment of Macbeth's own imagination, why was Banquo able to see them at the beginning of the play as well?
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5 votes
3 answers
820 views

How was the possessive used in Elizabethan literature?

I've been listening to a podcast called 'The History of English'. In the latest episode it touches on the use of the possessive. In Chaucerian English the possessive was written with an '-es-' suffix, ...
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What is it called when the true villain of the story is revealed later on?

In Star Wars, the audience is meant to believe Darth Vader is the villain of the story, but later on it becomes apparent that the Emperor is the true villain of the saga. What is this called? I really ...
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7 votes
2 answers
111 views

How were plays in Shakespeare's time advertised?

How were plays in Tudor or Jacobean England advertised (e.g. did they use posters, street-hawkers, etc.)? And how much information would these advertisements have contained? Would an advertisement ...
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6 votes
1 answer
231 views

Shakespearean Sonnets within his plays

The prologue to Romeo and Juliet is a sonnet. Are there other moments, sections within the plays that are sonnets? I'd like a list of Shakespearean sonnets which appear in his plays (not in the 154 ...
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"Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great" what is the meaning of "holp'st"?

The Twitter bot Willy Shakes tweeted these lines earlier today: Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great, In hope thyself should govern Rome and me. [Enter AEMILIUS] — Titus Andronicus I ...
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16 votes
3 answers
2k views

Why does the prophecy imply Macbeth has to murder the king?

I’m reading Macbeth for the first time. The witches prophecize that Macbeth will become king. He and Lady Macbeth immediately jump to the conclusion that this means he has to assassinate Duncan, the ...
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1 answer
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Who is 'he' in 'He has no children?'

In Act 4, scene 3, Macduff is talking with Malcolm. He has just heard the news that his wife and children have been murdered by Macbeth's forces. Then he says, He has no children. Who is "he&...
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5 votes
2 answers
847 views

What does "royalty in nature" in Macbeth mean?

In Macbeth (Act 3, Scene 1), Macbeth says about Banquo: in his royalty of nature Reigns that which would be feared. What does "royalty of nature" mean here? Surely, Banquo is no "king ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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When did Macbeth kill Duncan's chamberlains?

In Macbeth, at the end of Act 2, Scene 3 Macbeth reveals that he killed Duncan's servants: O, Yet I do repent me of fury That I did kill them However, doesn't this appear as a plot hole when we take ...
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Actual meaning of Shakespeare's sonnet 30

Sonnet 30 is commonly believed to be talking aboutt 'How Shakespeare's mood gets lifted when he thinks of his friend' (common believed to be fair youth). So while reading on the topic I came across an ...
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  • 31
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The meaning of "to his love and tendance / All sorts of hearts" in Timon of Athens

In Shakespeare's Timon of Athens, I found a difficult passage in 1.1.57-60: (Their services to Lord Timon): his large fortune, Upon his good and gracious nature hanging, Subdues and properties to his ...
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2 votes
2 answers
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Why does "less than" mean "not" in "A little more than kin, and less than kind"?

In Act 1, Scene 2, Line 65, Hamlet [Aside] "A little more than kin, and less than kind" does less than mean not? If so, what semantic notions underlie less than and not? How did less than ...
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What is the underlying reason for Macbeth to write the letter?

Macbeth wrote a letter to Lady Macbeth. Duncan suddenly wants to have a feast or celebration at Macbeth's castle, without prior notice as Lady Macbeth said. From this, we know that it's all within a ...
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What does Regan mean by "square of sense" in King Lear?

The exact meaning of the following phrase in bold is not clear to me. In the first scene of King Lear, Regan utters these words to her father with flattery. I'm not sure but I think I read somewhere ...
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5 votes
2 answers
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What does the word "seem" mean in these lines of Shakespeare?

In Shakespeare's Othello 3.1.26, the Clown answers Cassio: She is stirring, sir; if she will stir hither, I shall seem to notify unto her. where the verb "seem" makes me confused. The ...
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Which adaptation of Richard II the John of Gaunt's speech played in Tom Hiddleston's Jaguar Commercial at the beginning comes from?

Starring Tom Hiddleston, at the beginning of this Jaguar advertisement: Art Of Villainy With Tom Hiddleston - Jaguar Ad, a recording of John of Gaunt's speech (This royal throne of kings, this scepter’...
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8 votes
1 answer
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Shakespeare King Henry IV Part 1: What is the "money joke" in these lines?

In Act 2 Scene 4, Prince Hal takes interest in a noble man as a "joke about money". My text (Cambridge) explains that a noble was worth one third of £1 sterling and a royal worth half of £1. ...
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Are there collections of pre-20th-century Shakespeare criticism, esp. focusing on individual plays?

Are there any good, comprehensive primary source readers for criticism of Shakespeare and his individual plays, where the criticism is from before the 20th century? The introductions of most modern ...
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8 votes
0 answers
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What are the indications that in writing his plays Shakespeare sometimes thought of the special abilities of the actors?

Many of Shakespeare's plays were written to be performed by a specific group of actors, the Lord Chamberlain's Men (later called the King's Men), with the result that several famous roles in different ...
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3 answers
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Romeo and Juliet: Why is honey loathsome in its deliciousness?

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 6: ...The sweetest honey Is loathsome in its own deliciousness. And in the taste confounds the appetite Most interpretations online seem to suggest that honey is bad for ...
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Is this part of Mark Antony's speech to the conspirators in the play "Julius Caesar" meant to be honest?

In Act III, Scene I of the play Julius Caesar, when the conspirators are approached by Mark Antony after they have assassinated Caesar, they assure him that they do not wish to kill him and ask him to ...
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3 votes
2 answers
382 views

"Which dreams, indeed, are ambition" in Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2

I am reading Hamlet; Act 2 Scene 2 contains the following exchange: Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. ...
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Why does Hamlet say "Rest is silence"? [duplicate]

Why does the Shakespearean protagonist Hamlet say, "Rest is silence."? Does he say it because he lost his biological dad who had poison in his ear poured by his evil uncle, lost mom, ...
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4 votes
2 answers
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Why did Hamlet tell Ophelia: "Get thee to a nunnery!"?

In Hamlet [III, 1], Hamlet tells Ophelia (lines 1814,27,34): Get thee to a nunnery! […] Go thy ways to a nunnery. […] Get thee to a nunnery. […] To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. […] To a nunnery, ...
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9 votes
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"Marry, in her buttocks: I found it out by the bogs."

From The Comedy of Errors, Act III Scene II: DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: No longer from head to foot than from hip to hip: she is spherical, like a globe; I could find out countries in her. ANTIPHOLUS OF ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Julius Caesar: "If it be aught toward the general good, Set honor in one eye and death i’ th’ other..."

From Act I Scene II of the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare: BRUTUS I would not, Cassius, yet I love him well. But wherefore do you hold me here so long? What is it that you would impart to ...
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5 votes
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When/where was "Mem and Zin" first compared to "Romeo and Juliet"?

Mem and Zin is a Kurdish classic love story written down in 1692 and is based on a true story, laid down from generation to generation through oral tradition. It appears to be often compared to ...
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2 answers
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Do we have any solid evidence for how much material Middleton contributed to Macbeth?

In verbose's question How close to actual incantations are the witches' spells in Macbeth? he says It is worth mentioning that the latter [the witches' incantation from Act IV scene i] was possibly ...
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2 votes
0 answers
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Do contemporary neo-pagan practices such as Wicca regard the portrayal of witchcraft in Shakespeare and Middleton as reliable sources?

A recent question asks whether the portrayal of witchcraft in Macbeth can be related to actual practices of those professing to be witches during Shakespeare's day. This companion question asks about ...
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3 votes
0 answers
473 views

How close to actual incantations are the witches' spells in Macbeth?

Answers to a recent question about the superstition surrounding Macbeth linked to a Royal Shakespeare Company web page that claimed: According to folklore, Macbeth was cursed from the beginning. A ...
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27 votes
2 answers
4k views

Since when has Shakespeare's "Scottish play" been considered unlucky?

In theatrical superstition, Shakespeare's play Macbeth is considered to be unlucky, to the extent that even saying its name more than necessary may bring bad luck: hence the tradition of actors ...
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4 votes
3 answers
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What does “withal” mean in a line in Romeo and Juliet?

In Act 3, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio speaks the following words: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives, that I mean to make bold withal, and, as you shall use me hereafter, ...
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2 votes
3 answers
273 views

Where is dramatic irony present in Macbeth?

In a school book it is written Dramatic Irony or Irony of situation: It involves a situation in a play or story in which the audience knows the reality which the speaker or character is ignorant of. ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Meaning of "apparel oft proclaims the man" in Shakespeare’s "Hamlet"?

Here is a speech of Polonius from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, act 1, scene 3: Give every man thine ear; but very few thy voice: Take each man’s censure: but reserve thy judgement: Costly thy habits as thy ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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What did Eliot mean when he said “I would suggest that none of the plays of Shakespeare has a meaning”?

I was reading a grammar book in which the discussion was going on about whether to treat “none” as singular or plural, then the book gave this quote by T.S. Eliot: I would suggest that none of the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Meaning of “But mercy is above this sceptred sway” from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice

In Act IV, Scene I of The Merchant of Venice, Portia says to Shylock these lines (rendered in blank verses) The quality of mercy is not strained It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
265 views

Why was Miranda prohibited from telling her name to Ferdinand in "The Tempest"?

In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, when Ferdinand was carrying up the logs, Miranda came up to him and tried to help him. They talked a little and then the conversation went as follows: Ferdinand: ...
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2 votes
1 answer
81 views

What was the relation between Stephano and Trinculo?

The two funny characters, Stephano and Trinculo, in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, fight with each other when Ariel was speaking behind Trinculo when Caliban and Stephano were talking. I want to know ...
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11 votes
3 answers
2k views

How do these lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet 151 mean what they're supposed to?

How do these lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet 151 mean what they're supposed to? Here's the sonnet: Love is too young to know what conscience is, Yet who knows not conscience is born of love? Then, ...
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Why is there a courtroom scene?

The Merchant of Venice, Act 4 begins with a courtroom scene. During this scene, the contract between Antonio and Shylock is discussed. But why is there a courtroom scene at all? Was every contract ...
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2 votes
1 answer
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"How say you then? Would heart of man once think it?" Hamlet Act 1 Scene 5

After Hamlet returns from speaking with the Ghost, he initially resists questioning about it, then suggests he will reveal what it said if the others can keep a secret, How say you then? Would heart ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Historical King Ina and Shakespeare's King Lear in the writings of Thomas Hardy

In Thomas Hardy's short(ish) story "The Withered Arm", one of his descriptions of the Wessex countryside features the following cryptic allusion: It was a long walk; thick clouds made the ...
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1 vote
1 answer
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Was Shaw's "Arms and the Man" inspired by Shakespeare?

In Act III of the play Arms and the Man by George Bernard Shaw, Sergius says to Louka, If these hands ever touch you again, they shall touch my affianced bride. Those words reminded me of ...
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2 answers
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What does "nature" mean in "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin"?

When I first saw this quote on p. 139 in National Geographic's photo book Sublime Nature: Photographs That Awe and Inspire, I interpreted "nature" to mean flora and fauna. I interpreted ...
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7 votes
3 answers
995 views

In Macbeth, why is Fleance 'scaped?

I've always been curious about the precise phrasing of this line from Macbeth, spoken by the First Murderer: Most royal sir, Fleance is 'scaped. The meaning of this, and as far as I can tell the ...
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In what ways can Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre be classified as a typical romance play?

In what ways can Shakespeare's Pericles, Prince of Tyre be classified as a typical romance play?
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5 votes
1 answer
866 views

How many children had Lady Macbeth?

In Macbeth, when the eponymous hero is hesitating to kill Duncan, Lady Macbeth urges him forward to the murder. She memorably says:      I have given suck, and know How tender 'tis to love the babe ...
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6 votes
1 answer
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Who coined the term ‘Shakespearean sonnet’?

So far, we have had at least two questions about the early history of the English sonnet: Who introduced the sonnet to English literature? Wyatt or Shakespeare? Why are Shakespearean sonnets called ...
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