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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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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29 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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26 votes
7 answers
48k 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 ...
SleepingGod's user avatar
24 votes
4 answers
4k views

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 ...
Featherball's user avatar
24 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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1 answer
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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23 votes
1 answer
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 ...
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22 votes
2 answers
3k views

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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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22 votes
1 answer
735 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, ...
Plumbing for Ankit's user avatar
21 votes
1 answer
1k 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 ...
darthspongebob's user avatar
20 votes
6 answers
42k 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 ...
ΥΣΕΡ26328's user avatar
19 votes
1 answer
1k views

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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16 votes
3 answers
3k 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 ...
GMoss's user avatar
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16 votes
2 answers
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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 ...
Mithical's user avatar
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1 answer
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Is there really a bawdy pun at the conclusion of Romeo and Juliet?

Romeo and Juliet is listed as one of Shakespeare's tragedies and, personally, I found it one of the more affecting ones. With that in mind I was gobsmacked to learn that there's apparently a dirty ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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3 answers
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Why does Portia say this to Bassanio in Act III Scene 2 of 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 ...
dumbPotato21's user avatar
15 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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14 votes
3 answers
13k 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 ...
Mikey's user avatar
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14 votes
2 answers
3k views

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 ...
Yulia V's user avatar
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1 answer
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Would "most unkindest" have been considered poor grammar in Shakespeare's time?

One of the famous lines from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, describing Brutus's stab to Caesar, is: This was the most unkindest cut of all Nowadays, it would be considered incorrect grammar to combine ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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14 votes
3 answers
2k views

Meaning of "none so poor to do him reverence" in Shakespeare's "Julius Cæsar"

I am wondering about the meaning of the word "poor" in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2: Antony But yesterday the word of Caesar might Have stood against the world; now lies he ...
Smerdjakov's user avatar
14 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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13 votes
5 answers
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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,...
Mr Pie's user avatar
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13 votes
4 answers
3k views

Why would Henry want to close the breach?

Henry exhorts his men to attack the city of Harfleur (Henry V - Act 3, Scene 1) Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more; Or close the wall up with our English dead. In peace there's ...
Valorum's user avatar
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13 votes
2 answers
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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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13 votes
2 answers
8k views

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 ...
Beastly Gerbil's user avatar
13 votes
2 answers
12k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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13 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Method Actor's user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
2k views

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 ...
Peter Shor's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
SleepingGod's user avatar
12 votes
3 answers
6k views

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 ...
user avatar
12 votes
2 answers
2k views

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 ...
Beatsme's user avatar
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12 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Tsundoku's user avatar
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11 votes
3 answers
3k 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, ...
seawitch's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
2k views

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 ...
Sid's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
2k 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 ...
Boilingblacksea's user avatar
11 votes
2 answers
1k views

The meaning of "Lovers' Food"

This question is regarding a dialogue of Hermia in Scene 1 of Act 1 of 'The Midsummer Night's Dream' by William Shakespeare where she mentions, "From lovers' food till morrow deep midnight." Please ...
Aaron John Sabu's user avatar
11 votes
1 answer
2k views

What does the clown mean by saying that brothels in the cities "shall stand for seed" in the second scene of "Measure for Measure"?

In act I, scene 2, of Measure for Measure, the clown uses the word seed: Clow. All howses in the Suburbs of Vienna must bee pluck'd downe. Bawd. And what shall become of those in the Citie? Clow. ...
John Smith's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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11 votes
1 answer
315 views

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 ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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11 votes
2 answers
3k 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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes
3 answers
3k views

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,...
Josef K's user avatar
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10 votes
3 answers
1k 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 ...
Matt Thrower's user avatar
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10 votes
4 answers
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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 ...
CopperKettle's user avatar
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10 votes
4 answers
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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 [...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
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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 ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes
2 answers
453 views

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 ...
EJoshuaS - Stand with Ukraine's user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
2k views

Literary background of being poisoned via the ear?

Shakespeare's Hamlet famously features a character being killed by having poison poured into his ear. This unusual method of murder has been much referenced in other works since Shakespeare, but where ...
Rand al'Thor's user avatar
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10 votes
1 answer
730 views

Can I trust that Shakespeare's sonnets will always be published with the same numbering system?

Can I trust that Shakespeare's sonnets will always be published using the same numbering system? Will Sonnet 30 always be published as Sonnet 30; sonnet 29 always as 29? Was the current order and ...
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