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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5
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1answer
295 views

Did Shakespeare err in using Ephesus as a port setting?

Shakespeare's play The Comedy of Errors is set in the town of Ephesus, which is apparently a seaport with ships within walking distance of where the action takes place: DROMIO OF SYRACUSE: Master,...
9
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1answer
3k views

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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1answer
309 views

Watchman characters in Much Ado About Nothing

Are the "first watchman" and "watchman" in Much Ado About Nothing actually the same character, or are they different? As Shakespeare doesn't pay much attention to minor characters, I couldn't figure ...
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1answer
75 views

Looking for an essay comparing Beethoven to Hamlet

I read an essay in school--I think a survey course on British literature--that compared the music of Beethoven to the soliloquies of Hamlet; the essay said that Beethoven's music is "spoken" privately,...
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3answers
10k views

What's the meaning of the text in the scroll that the Prince of Arragon finds in the silver casket in Act 2, Scene 9 of The Merchant of Venice?

This is the exact text (The Merchant of Venice, Act 2 Scene 9): Arragon: The fire seven times tried this, Seven times tried that judgment is, That did never choose amiss. Some there be that shadows ...
5
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1answer
183 views

In the 1983 adaptation of The Merchant of Venice, why doesn't Portia know Jessica's name?

The 1983 National Theater production of The Merchant of Venice has an interesting take on a moment in act 3 scene 4. According to Shakespeare's script, Portia is giving Lorenzo instructions, and in ...
7
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1answer
1k views

Why does Anne call Richard a Hedgehog in Act I, Scene II of Richard III?

This is probably an easy question, but why does Anne call Richard a Hedgehog in Act I, Scene II of Richard III: Dost grant me, hedgehog? then, God grant me too Thou mayst be damned for that ...
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 ...
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3answers
4k 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 ...
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
236 views

Tudor or Jacobean plays that are sequels to a Shakespeare play?

William Shakespeare wrote around 40 plays (depending on how the Shakespeare canon is defined). Except for some of his history plays (Henry IV, Henry VI) and possibly The Merry Wives of Windsor (not a ...
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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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1answer
2k views

How do Hamlet's thoughts and doubts about the afterlife affect him?

In Hamlet, there are many references to the afterlife, god, and what the consequences of his actions are. My question is this: Did Hamlet's pre-conceptions about the afterlife ultimately affect his ...
8
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1answer
1k views

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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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, ...
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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 ...
8
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3answers
878 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 ...
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2answers
3k views

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 ...
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2answers
260 views

Why didn't Hamlet's modifications to the theater troupe's play “tip off” anyone else?

When a theater troupe visits Hamlet's castle, he makes some... rather pointed changes to their show, which now includes a murder much like the one his uncle performed. Why didn't anyone else (...
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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3answers
276 views

What does Holofernes deer epitaph from Love's Labour's Lost mean?

I find it a bit hard to understand this epitaph of the deer in Act 4, scene 2 in Love's Labour's Lost: The preyful princess pierced and prick'd a pretty pleasing pricket; Some say a sore; but not a ...
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1answer
866 views

Benvolio and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet

What do the characters of Benvolio and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet symbolize, if anything? Mercutio's character mainly provides jokes, and then, in his hot-headedness, is slain by Tybalt. Benvolio ...
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1answer
853 views

Analysing a quote from Much Ado About Nothing

I have analyzed a quote from the play Much Ado About Nothing with the question, "How is reputation shown in the play?" Leonato is a king and does not want his reputation to be ruined due to the awful ...
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0answers
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Shakespeare and Iambic pentameter [duplicate]

My question is, 'Is Iambic pentameter just an illusion?' When I learned Shakespeare in school, my teacher emphasized on the thing called 'iambic pentameter'. That goes like 'du Dum du Dum......' But ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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3answers
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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 [...
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4answers
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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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2answers
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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2answers
6k 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 ...
8
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1answer
554 views

Was Shakespeare inspired by Olaus Magnus when writing Macbeth?

One important plot point in Macbeth is that the King feels invincible due to the prophecy that Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be until Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill Shall come ...
6
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1answer
4k views

Does Portia subconsciously influence Bassanio's choice of casket?

When Bassanio is about to make his choice of the three caskets at Belmont - a choice upon which rests his chances of marriage to Portia - she calls for music and singing while he ponders. Music, ...
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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 ...
10
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2answers
343 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 ...
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 ...
24
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2answers
5k views

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 ...
19
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1answer
663 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 ...
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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 ...
21
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1answer
547 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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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 ...
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2answers
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 ...
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2answers
2k views

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 ...
18
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1answer
991 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....
9
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1answer
232 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 ...
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 ...
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4answers
3k 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 ...
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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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