Questions tagged [william-shakespeare]

Questions about the works of William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), the legendary playwright and poet known as "The Bard", or his life as a writer and theatre shareholder. For questions about his plays, add a tag for the play (e.g. [hamlet]); for questions about his sonnets, add the tag [poetry].

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34
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1answer
3k views

Did Shakespeare write his own stage directions?

It's well known that Shakespeare had no part in publishing the text of his own plays - indeed, many of them were only published posthumously. I've read that a significant proportion of his plays came ...
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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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What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo and Juliet?

In the Act 1 Prologue to the play Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where ...
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Did Shakespeare consider Julius Caesar a tyrant or a martyr?

I've seen the Shakespeare play Julius Caesar interpreted in two different ways (by people with different social and political views, naturally): either Caesar as a power-mad tyrant who got his ...
24
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1answer
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Why does Shakespeare's Julius Caesar switch to Latin for the "Et tu, Brute" line?

Like all of Shakespeare's plays, his Julius Caesar is of course written and performed almost entirely in English. But there is one line of this particular play - perhaps the most famous - which is ...
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4answers
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What reference is Shakespeare making in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

In Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth there is this line. What hands are here? Ha! They pluck out mine eyes. Someone two days ago told me this is a reference to a different piece of literature. I didn't ...
22
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1answer
6k views

How did Shakespeare get away with staging witchcraft in his plays such as Othello, Macbeth, or The Tempest?

The themes of witchcraft and magic loom large over Shakespeare’s later plays. While there is no overt use of magic and spells in Othello, per se, as compared to the witches in Macbeth conjuring on ...
21
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1answer
563 views

How does Shakespeare's iambic pentameter work with Original Pronunciation?

In school, students are often taught about iambic pentameter via Shakespearian examples. These, however, were based on the Received Pronunciation (RP) reading of Shakespeare's works. In reality, ...
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1answer
702 views

How did people know the meaning to Shakespeare's new words?

I don't pretend to know much about the history of literature, but I was always told that Shakespeare invented an awful lot of words, 1700 is usually the number given. How did anyone know what they ...
18
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Did Lady Macbeth communicate signs of her instability prior to the blood scene?

I'm looking back on Macbeth, and I'm wondering something that's piqued my interest again. There's a very well-known scene in Macbeth: the blood-spot scene, the hand-washing scene, and other such names....
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The meaning of "The rest is silence" in "Hamlet"

Hamlet's very last words are The rest is silence. What do they actually mean? This being Shakespeare, I reckon the significance of these words cannot be only the banal comparison between death and ...
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Why does the murderer call Macduff's son "egg"?

When Macduff's son defends his father's honor when the murderers sent by Macbeth call Macduff a traitor in Macbeth, they wind up stabbing the son: Enter Murderers. FIRST MURDERER: Where is your ...
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Why does Portia say this in The Merchant of Venice?

In Act III Scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare, Portia : One half of me is yours, the other half yours. Mine own, I would say; but if mine then yours. Roughly translated it ...
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Is there any evidence for a gay relationship in The Merchant of Venice?

A couple of years ago, I went to a stage performance of Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, in which Antonio and Bassanio were portrayed as being in a gay relationship together since before the ...
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Did William Shakespeare hide things in his writings?

I was reading Shakespeare's third sonnet, and I noticed something funny. I am going to put in bold all the capital letters in the sonnet itself. Sonnet III When fortie Winters shall beseige thy brow,...
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3answers
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Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

Were the plays within The Complete Works of Shakespeare entirely in iambic pentameter? I seem to recall singing bits (when there were lyrics) from Twelfth Night and definitely from Much Ado About ...
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What is the source of "You can achieve a lot with hate, but even more with love" (Shakespeare?)

I have seen a postcard with a quote "You can achieve a lot with hate, but even more with love", signed "Shakespeare", in a French bookshop. The quote is not exact, because I have translated it back ...
13
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1answer
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Is Macbeth or Lady Macbeth the real villain in Shakespeare's play?

In Shakespeare's play Macbeth, it is Macbeth himself, the eponymous antihero, who meets the witches upon the heath and first conceives the idea to murder his king. It is he who kills Duncan, seizes ...
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What does a dog barking at a crow signify?

In Much ado about nothing by William Shakespeare, Act 1 Scene 1, Beatrice declares to Benedick 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swears he loves me.' I understand that Beatrice ...
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1answer
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How might Shakespeare have become familiar with Dante's work?

A recent question on our site asked whether Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing contained a reference to Dante's Divine Comedy. In his answer, Matt Thrower mentions Beatrice, the name of both a ...
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1answer
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Why are there three different versions of the "solid/sullied/sallied flesh" line in Hamlet?

While looking up about the passage asked about in this previous question, I noticed that there are different versions of the same line in Hamlet, Act I Scene II, line 333: O that this too too solid ...
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What's the meaning of "give someone the lie" in Macbeth?

As I have noticed there are multiple interpretations of the following lines from William Shakespeare 's Macbeth. For example, "drink gave thee the lie" has been interpreted as diversely as "deceived ...
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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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Was Shakespeare a religious fanatic?

In the play The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is pretty much disdained and humiliated only because he was a Jew. His thirst for revenge against Antonio is fuelled by the fact that Antonio constantly ...
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1answer
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Why did Shakespeare write in iambic pentameter?

Shakespeare is incredibly famous for writing a lot in iambic pentameter. But why did he choose to write in this specific style of having ten beats and 5 stressed syllables per line? Considering it ...
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Do Guildenstern and Rosencrantz deserve to die?

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet (which you can read online), Hamlet is on a voyage with his two friends, Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, to give a letter to a foreign ruler. However, Hamlet discovers that ...
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Origin of symbolic interpretation of Prospero's breaking of his staff?

At the end of The Tempest, which is generally believed to be the last plays that Shakesepare wrote alone, Prospero breaks his staff and drowns his book. This has often been read as Shakespeare telling ...
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What's the symbolism of the flowers in The Winter's Tale?

In Act IV, Scene IV of The Winter's Tale, Perdita is "mistress o' the feast", playing hostess at the sheep-shearing feast, when King Polixenes and Camillo arrive in disguise. Perdita gives them both ...
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4answers
884 views

Meaning of "And do not drop in for an after-loss" in Shakespeare's sonnet 90

Sonnet 90 by Shakespeare: Then hate me when thou wilt; if ever, now; Now, while the world is bent my deeds to cross, Join with the spite of fortune, make me bow, And do not drop in for an ...
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1answer
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Why does Shakespeare sometimes use "do" with the verbs in his plays?

Sometimes Shakespeare uses "do" with a verb even though it isn't necessary. For example, in Macbeth, Act One, Scene 2, line 10, the captain states, "As two spent swimmers that do cling together". Why ...
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Why do the witches in Macbeth rarely speak in iambic pentameter?

Shakespeare is pretty well known for writing in iambic pentameter. One important exception to this are the witches in Macbeth, who speak in everything from trochaic meter: Double, double toil and ...
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Was the sealed letter ordering Hamlet's death a Biblical reference?

Is the sealed letter that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern carry that orders Hamlet's execution a deliberate reference to the Biblical King David having Uriah the Hittite carry a letter to Joab ordering ...
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What does the line “Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” mean, from Hamlet?

“Excellent, i' faith, of the chameleon's dish. I eat the air, promise-crammed. You cannot feed capons so.” Hamlet, act 3, scene 2 What does this sentence mean? What are the chameleon, air and ...
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What does Lady Macbeth mean by "what thou art promised"?

In Macbeth Act I Scene 5, Lady Macbeth says the following: Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be What thou art promised: yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o' the milk of human ...
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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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What does the Malvolio subplot add to Twelfth Night?

Most of Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night is about the group of main characters Viola, Sebastian, Orsino, and Olivia, and the affections requited and unrequited between them. But there's also a ...
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Is Hamlet correct when he says "it is an honest ghost"?

The Ghost in Hamlet claims to be Hamlet's father's spirit released from Purgatory. Is it possible that the Ghost is lying? Has it been sent from Hell to stir up mischief in Elsinore? (The play does ...
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1answer
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How many of Shakespeare's words in his plays were new?

William Shakespeare is famous for using many words in his plays which were new introductions to the English language. According to Shakespeare Online: The English language owes a great debt to ...
9
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1answer
226 views

Why was it necessary to have the page dress up as a woman?

In the beginning of The Taming of the Shrew, the Lord has his page dress up as a woman: Sirrah, you go get Bartholomew, my page, And dress him in all suits like a lady. That done, escort him to ...
9
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1answer
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Did Shakespeare's audience believe Measure for Measure to be realistic?

In the play Measure for Measure Vincentio, the Duke of Vienna, leaves his city in the charge of a judge while he goes on a "diplomatic mission". It transpires that he has not, in fact, left the city ...
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Does Othello have impostor syndrome, or any other problem because his background is different?

Is there any implication in Shakespeare's text that Othello had impostor syndrome, or any feeling of inadequacy (in love, or another aspect of interpersonal relationships) because his background is ...
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1answer
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Is the fight between Mercutio and Tybalt a joke, or is it serious?

I'm watching two adaptations of Romeo and Juliet that take two different approaches to the play: Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo + Juliet and Zeffirelli's 1968 film Romeo and Juliet. There are some ...
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2answers
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Why does Macbeth move to and fortify Dunsinane?

The witches tell Macbeth that he will be defeated only if Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane. This should give Macbeth a very good reason to avoid Dunsinsane, so that his enemies never focus on it. If I ...
9
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1answer
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Is there any evidence that Shakespeare ever used a Spanish source for any of his works?

Scholarly editions of Shakespeare's works always discuss real or potential sources for the plots and other aspects of a play or poem. Shakespeare invented very few plots and used sources such as ...
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0answers
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Was Edmund in the Narnia series loosely inspired by Edmund in King Lear?

In King Lear, Edmund, resentful of his inferior status to his older brother, betrays his family and frames his brother as a traitor. This strikes me as not being at all unlike what Edmund does in The ...
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Why is 'Hamlet' considered one of the very best plays ever?

When an intellectual work (philosophy book, literary book, painting etc) is studied there are (at least) two principal questions to be addressed: What is this work about? Why is this work important? ...
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How did Theseus woo Hippolyta by doing her injuries?

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus tells Hippolyta: THESEUS: Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword And won thy love doing thee injuries, But I will wed thee in another key, With pomp, with triumph,...
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2answers
189 views

Identify a possible quote by Shakespeare

To those familiar with Shakespeare, do you know where this phrase comes from? Robust grass endures mighty winds; loyal ministers emerge through ordeal
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892 views

Why doesn't Hamlet like improvisation?

In Shakespeare's play Hamlet, Hamlet has a famous monologue about how to properly perform a play. During one portion of the monologue, he has some harsh words for people who improvise: O, reform it ...
8
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Are there earlier incidences than Merchant of Venice of an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other?

In act 2, scene 2 of The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo is conflicted regarding whether to run from Shylock, or continue working for him. Shakespeare expresses this internal conflict by ...

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