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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Why would Hamlet fear suicide if he knew of life after death?

Prince Hamlet describes his fear of death in poetic phrases. To be or not to be, that is the question: ...               To die, to sleep; To sleep, perchance to dream—aye, there's the rub: For in ...
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Where and how did James Joyce condemn Hamlet as a failure?

Earlier this year, someone asked Why did T.S. Eliot make a statement that 'Coriolanus' was Shakespeare's masterpiece and that 'Hamlet' was an artistic failure? If the Wikipedia article about William ...
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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 ...
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Why does Macbeth say ‘throw physic to the dogs’?

In Act V, Scene III of Macbeth: Macbeth: Canst not thou not minister to a mind diseased Pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow Raze out the written troubles of the brain And with some sweet oblivious ...
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Comparing frequency of word use across Shakespeare's plays

There are numerous concordances that list all of the words, and their frequency of use within each of Shakespeare's plays. However, I am interested in the presence and frequency of use of words across ...
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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 ...
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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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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 ...
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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 ...
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325 views

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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Can three unstressed syllables constitute a substitute foot in Shakespeare?

While trying to ascertain the accentuation of certain names in Shakespeare, by analyzing lines of verse where they occur, I encountered a couple of lines that I was tempted to scan with a substitute ...
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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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Which of these sources is right about “The Tempest”?

This is part of a quote by Ferdinand in the beginning of scene 1 of act 3 of "The Tempest": But these sweet thoughts do even refresh my labours, Most busy, least when I do it. According to ...
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Meaning of “Chaos” spoken by Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III)?

In Shakespeare's King Henry 6 part 3, we are truly introduced to that devilishly delightful Richard for the first time by means of his first and longest soliloquy wherein he introduces to the audience ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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Meaning of “glimpses of the moon” in “Hamlet”

I read this in Hamlet act I scene IV:                                 What may this mean, That thou, dead corpse, again in complete steel Revisit'st thus the glimpses of the moon... I'm unable ...
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How can we reconcile the bareness of Shakespearean stages with the complex stage directions of The Tempest?

I learned recently that in Shakespeare's day, stage dressing was often minimal. This makes sense given that there was a wide variety of theatre styles, the stages were often uncovered and surrounded ...
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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 ...
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Why is “…Then fall, Caesar” always left out when talking about Caesar's last words?

From this link, DECIUS BRUTUS: Great Caesar, CAESAR: Doth not Brutus bootless kneel? CASCAL: Speak, hands for me! CASCA first, then the other Conspirators and BRUTUS stab CAESAR ...
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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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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 ...
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In The Winters Tale what does “Nine changes of the Watery-Star” mean? Does it mean nine nights or nine months?

I have a question about the opening lines of the second scene in The Winter's Tale. From Act 1, scene 2: Pol. Nine Changes of the Watry-Starre hath been The Sheppards Note since we have left ...
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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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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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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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Who was the first scholar who used the term Henriad to refer to a subset of Shakespeare's history plays?

A recent chatroom discussion about how to tag the question Portrayal of Henry Bolingbroke through different Shakespeare plays led to the question what "Henriad" actually means. According to ...
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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 ...
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Context of “swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow”?

I go, I go; look how I go, Swifter than arrow from the Tartar's bow. -- Puck, Act III Scene II, A Midsummer Night's Dream This is a well-known line from a Shakespeare play, but did Shakespeare ...
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What texts are the sources for the difference between “sometime were” and “some time are” in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?

The Pelican Julius Caesar has I.2.140 as men at sometime were masters of their fates (even noting the archaic meaning of "sometime" as at one time) while the Arden Julius Caesar has it as men ...
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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 (...
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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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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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What effect did the knocking at the gate in “Macbeth” have on Thomas De Quincey?

In Thomas De Quincey's 1823 essay "On the Knocking at the Gate in Macbeth", he describes the effect of the knocking at the gate (Macbeth, Act II, Scene 3) on him when he was a boy: "it [...
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What does Hamlet mean when he calls Claudius a “villain”?

In Shakespeare's tragedy Hamlet, prince Hamlet repeatedly calls Claudius a "villain". Here is a quote from Act 2 Scene 2 : Bloody, bawdy villain! Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, ...
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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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In Margeret Atwood's “Hag-Seed,” where is Caliban?

Margeret Atwood's Hag-Seed is a metafictional retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Many elements of The Tempest are clearly recognizable (e.g. Felix is very obviously Prospero), while others have ...
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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 ...
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Why didn't it occur to Othello that Iago might be upset about being passed over for the promotion?

The entire storyline of Othello is precipitated by Iago's resentment over being passed over for a promotion in favor of Cassio. That being said, why doesn't it seem to occur to Othello that Iago might ...
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“What a piece of work is man” - echo in The Lord of the Rings?

In The Fellowship of the Ring, after Gandalf tells Frodo the story of the One Ring and challenges him to destroy it, Frodo looks at the ring and we read this description: how rich and beautiful was ...
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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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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 ...
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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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What does this passage from Othello mean?

... my invention Comes from my pate as birdlime does from frize, It plucks out brains and all. But my muse labours, And thus she is deliver'd: If she be fair and wise, fairness, and wit, The one's for ...
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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....
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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,...
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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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315 views

Any textual evidence from Shakespeare's Macbeth regarding Macbeth's oath to kill the king?

In act 1, scene 7, Lady Macbeth encourages Macbeth to keep his promise and kill king Duncan, but is there any textual evidence from the play regarding his earlier oath to kill the king? Here, for ...
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Did King Richard III prove a villain because nature chose him to be a disabled person?

In the play King Richard III by Shakespeare did King Richard III become a villain because of nature selected him to be a disabled person (if we look at the villainous plot of the villain from his ...