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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12
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3answers
8k views

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 ...
24
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7answers
34k views

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 ...
13
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1answer
5k views

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 ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Who introduced the sonnet to English literature? Wyatt or Shakespeare?

Who brought sonnet to English literature? Thomas Wyatt or William Shakespeare? Their contributions to English literature: Shakespeare wrote a book that contains 154 sonnets, but I couldn't find ...
11
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1answer
8k views

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 ...
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 ...
8
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3answers
6k views

Do a lot of Shakespeare characters break the fourth wall?

Ralph Crown mentions in this answer that a particular line in the play Hamlet could be interpreted as Hamlet breaking the fourth wall, and implies that this is common in Shakespeare plays: Another [...
3
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0answers
66 views

Portrayal of Henry Bolingbroke through different Shakespeare plays

King Henry IV of England, also known as Henry Bolingbroke, appears in three Shakespeare plays, with two of them being named after him. In Richard II, he can be seen as the main antagonist of the play, ...
12
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1answer
999 views

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 ...
11
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
6
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1answer
271 views

Is there any evidence that Lope de Vega influenced William Shakespeare?

During the Spanish Golden Age of the arts, one of the key figures in Spanish literature was Lope de Vega, a prolific author of plays, poetry, and novels. He was approximately contemporary with William ...
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0answers
107 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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2answers
668 views

Why did T.S. Eliot make a statement that 'Coriolanus' was Shakespeare's masterpiece and that 'Hamlet' was an artistic failure?

According to T.S. Eliot, Shakespeare actually failed as an artist in Hamlet. Those who have read the relevant critical essay by Eliot, could you kindly let me in on the title of that essay and explain ...
14
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3answers
10k views

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 ...
9
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
8
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0answers
389 views

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? ...
15
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4answers
22k views

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 ...
10
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1answer
1k views

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 ...
24
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1answer
3k views

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 ...
12
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1answer
2k views

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 ...
11
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
9
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4answers
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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 ...
9
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1answer
217 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 ...
8
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2answers
360 views

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 ...
6
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1answer
219 views

Is Harry Hotspur portrayed as a villain in Shakespeare's Henry IV, Part I?

Having studied Shakespeare's play Henry IV, Part I and seen a performance of it in Stratford, I'm still uncertain of how we're meant to view the character of Henry Percy (Harry Hotspur). Clearly he's ...
5
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1answer
1k views

Shakespeare making fun of Shakespeare: listing all of the self-deprecating meta-references in Shakespeare's plays [closed]

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 ...
5
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0answers
158 views

(How) have the interpretations of Macbeth's ending evolved over time?

I just attended a performance of Macbeth that ended on a much more ambivalent note than Shakespeare's original text. Instead of Malcolm and his posse picking up the shambles and Malcolm motivating his ...
3
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1answer
173 views

Why are Shakespearean sonnets called Shakespearean sonnets?

The term Shakespearean sonnet is frequently used for sonnets with a particular verse pattern and rhyme scheme, namely ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. But from what I can find with a little reading online, this ...
2
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1answer
262 views

Why is Richard portrayed without a hunchback in the 1955 Laurence Olivier adaptation of Richard III?

If we go by the text of Shakespeare's Richard III, Richard has a hunchback. In Act I, scene 3, line 246, Queen Margaret describes Richard as a "poisonous bunch-back'd toad." And in act IV, scene 4, ...
2
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2answers
1k views

Why did the Witches give the prophecy in the first place?

The 3 Witches prophecied to Macbeth that he would be king, thus setting the play into motion. Why did they do that? Did they realize that they were basically giving a self-fulfilling prophecy, and ...
25
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2answers
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 ...
8
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2answers
215 views

How is Hamlet different from a conventional Elizabethan revenge play?

It is well known that Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy established the genre of revenge tragedy in Elizabethan drama. The play contains many elements such as the appearance of a ghost, a play within ...
8
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3answers
2k views

“Too too sullied flesh” in Hamlet. Why twice?

Oh, that this too too sullied flesh would melt, Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew (Hamlet, Act I, Scene II) Why does "too" occur twice? It is one in a series of repetitions which occur ...
8
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2answers
8k views

How old is Romeo?

While answering a different question, I wanted to find out Romeo's age in the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet. It's well known that Juliet is 13, and generally assumed that Romeo is older (hence the ...
6
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1answer
117 views

Where did Edmond Malone place the Tempest in the chronology of Shakespeare's plays?

In an excellent answer to one of my previous questions, verbose writes: Since The Tempest is the first play printed in the First Folio, it was often assumed to be an early play. Scholars such as ...
5
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4answers
5k views

What kind of language features appear in Lady Macbeth's line “too full o' the milk of human kindness”?

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 ...
5
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1answer
254 views

When was Shakespeare's The Tempest first analysed from a “post-colonial” perspective?

A recent answer from verbose mentioned: Postcolonial approaches to The Tempest cast Prospero as colonizer, exercising imperial control over the original inhabitants of the island: Caliban and Ariel....
3
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2answers
86 views

Should Henry 6, Part 3 be read prior to reading Richard III?

For context, this reading is entirely devoted to pleasure. I am not analyzing (academically) nor performing the plays, and my desire to read the plays derive completely from my profound affection ...
3
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1answer
220 views

Dante's Inferno reference in Much Ado About Nothing

My professor asked me this for an assignment. It was to identify a Dante's Inferno reference in Much Ado About Nothing. I don't know what he meant by this. Where is this reference? Does not have to be ...
3
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1answer
59 views

What evidence is there that Shakespeare revised The Winter's Tale after 1611?

Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale was probably written in the years 1610-1611, making it one of the author's last plays. The play's text was first published in the "First Folio" of 1623, seven years ...
2
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0answers
40 views

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 ...
2
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0answers
31 views

Is there any evidence that William Shakespeare influenced Lope de Vega?

During the Spanish Golden Age of the arts, one of the key figures in Spanish literature was Lope de Vega, a prolific author of plays, poetry, and novels. He was approximately contemporary with William ...
2
votes
3answers
540 views

Why is Richard a hunchback in Kevin Spacey's portrayal of Richard III?

I'm watching Kevin Spacey's production of Shakespeare's Richard III. Here's a link to a youtube video with some highlights. One of the production decisions that I don't really understand is the ...