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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148 views

Why the name “The Winter's Tale” for Shakespeare's play?

The Shakespeare play The Winter's Tale does not actually take place entirely in winter (unlike, say, A Midsummer Night's Dream where almost all the action does indeed take place on midsummer night). ...
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692 views

Is Caliban of Shakespeare's “The Tempest” based on a real life character?

In the book Over the Edge of the World the author Laurence Bergreen has described Ferdinand Magellan's daring circumnavigation of the globe in the sixteenth century was a three-year odyssey filled ...
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241 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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68 views

What is “the waste” and why is it “no whit lesser than thy land” in “Richard II”?‎

What do these lines mean, in Shakespeare's Richard II (act II, scene 1)? A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown, Whose compass is no bigger than thy head; And yet, incaged in so small a verge, ...
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501 views

In the Sonnet 29 by Shakespeare, does the speaker pity himself over lack of skill as an artist or contentment?

Here is the "Sonnet 29" by Shakespeare. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, And look upon ...
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186 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 ...
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162 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 ...
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Why was Ophelia psychologically ill in the Shakespearean play Hamlet?

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet Ophelia became psychologically ill. Was it because of Hamlet's behavior or how society treated her or what's the real reason behind her sudden illness? Did ...
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201 views

Is there any significance in Shakespeare's use of the name “Laertes” (name of the father of Odysseus) in Hamlet?

Is there any significance in Shakespeare's use of "Laertes" (name of the father of Odysseus) in Hamlet? Do we associate the name with The Odyssey more strongly than Shakespeare, to whom it was just ...
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Romeo and Juliet: Why is honey loathsome in its deliciousness?

Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 6: ...The sweetest honey Is loathsome in its own deliciousness. And in the taste confounds the appetite Most interpretations online seem to suggest that honey is bad for ...
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169 views

Why did Hamlet tell Ophelia: “Get thee to a nunnery!”?

In Hamlet [III, 1], Hamlet tells Ophelia (lines 1814,27,34): Get thee to a nunnery! […] Go thy ways to a nunnery. […] Get thee to a nunnery. […] To a nunnery, go; and quickly too. […] To a nunnery, ...
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644 views

Why does Horatio answer “a piece of him” when asked if Horatio is there?

In Hamlet, Act 1: Scene 1, when Bernardo asks if Horatio is there, Horatio responds "A piece of him": MARCELLUS. Holla! Bernardo! BERNARDO. Say, What, is Horatio there? HORATIO. A piece of ...
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Inconsistencies in the character of Horatio in Hamlet

In the Shakespearean tragedy Hamlet, Horatio is a friend and "fellow student" of the eponymous prince. A meticulous reading of the text will reveal certain apparent inconsistencies in the depiction ...
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Is Othello being deceptive when he says, “This only is the witchcraft I have used” (Act 1.3.184)

When Othello is brought before an “ad hoc” court of law for surreptitiously marring Desdemona, Brabantio essentially accuses him of using “witchcraft” as a means of seducing his daughter suggesting, ...
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85 views

Any inspiration for the statue revival scene in Shakespeare's “The Winter's Tale”?

Shakespeare's "problem play" The Winter's Tale is largely inspired by Robert Greene's Pandosto written a few decades earlier. One of the major differences between Pandosto and The Winter's Tale is in ...
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273 views

How can a “desk” be considered a secret keeper?

I was reading Hamlet, Act II, scene 2, when I encountered the following lines: .....what might you, Or my dear majesty your queen here, think, If I had play'd the desk or table-book, Or given my ...
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616 views

When did Aristotle's Poetics first become available in England?

In a comment on a recent question about T. S. Eliot's essay on Hamlet, Peter Shor wrote, According to Aristotle, in great tragedy the hero must have a fatal flaw that leads to his downfall. What ...
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89 views

Why does Coriolanus describe the common people as many-headed?

Coriolanus describes the people and tribunes as many-headed in multiple instances. "[H]e himself stuck not to call us the many-headed / multitude" (2.3.16-17). Here the citizens discuss ...
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272 views

How does the quote from Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona connect with Hardy's Tess of the d'Urbervilles?

Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles begins with the epigraph ... Poor wounded name! My bosom as a bed Shall lodge thee.—W. Shakespeare. The source of this quote is one of Shakespeare'...
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If Hamlet, being a prince, outranked Horatio, why did he address him as “sir”?

Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2: HAMLET: So much for this, sir. Now shall you see the other. You do remember all the circumstance? HORATIO: Remember it, my lord! Horatio replies to Hamlet calling ...
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310 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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The Winter's Tale, Act 2 scene 3, lines 104-108. What do these lines mean?

Paulina, a wife of one of the aristocrats, speaks these lines to Leontes in The Winter's Tale: And thou, good goddess Nature, which hast made it So like to him that got it, if thou hast The ...
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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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When/where was “Mem and Zin” first compared to “Romeo and Juliet”?

Mem and Zin is a Kurdish classic love story written down in 1692 and is based on a true story, laid down from generation to generation through oral tradition. It appears to be often compared to ...
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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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How do scholars estimate the original number of copies of the Shakespeare First Folio of 1623?

The first collected edition of Shakespeare's plays was printed in 1623, several years after the author's death, and is known is the First Folio. (Later editions are known as the Second Folio, etc., ...
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429 views

What caused the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues?

As I understand it, the scholarship has so far not compellingly answered a significant question of the text of Romeo and Juliet; namely, why the Capulets and the Montagues are at war. I am convinced ...
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In Early Modern English, how did 'see' semantically shift to mean 'note/record'?

John McWhorter PhD Linguistics (Stanford). Words on the Move (2016). p. 86. Emboldening mine.   Commonly we are told that Shakespeare's language is "high," such that the challenge can be ...
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352 views

Was Shakespeare a member of the lower classes?

Am I correct to assume there is a feud between academics considering Shakespeare's social origins? I understand that he was probably born as a member of the working classes (or even the Elizabethan ...
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“Which dreams, indeed, are ambition” in Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2

I am reading Hamlet; Act 2 Scene 2 contains the following exchange: Hamlet: O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams. ...
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Are there collections of pre-20th-century Shakespeare criticism, esp. focusing on individual plays?

Are there any good, comprehensive primary source readers for criticism of Shakespeare and his individual plays, where the criticism is from before the 20th century? The introductions of most modern ...
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Why is Macbeth's “vaulting ambition” so important and famous?

What does 'vaulting' mean here? Macbeth uses the term in Act I, scene 7: I have no spur To prick the sides of my intent, but only Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself And falls on the other. ...
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What does “withal” mean in a line in Romeo and Juliet?

In Act 3, scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio speaks the following words: Good King of Cats, nothing but one of your nine lives, that I mean to make bold withal, and, as you shall use me hereafter, ...
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173 views

How many Elizabethan or Jacobean manuscripts of Shakespeare sonnets have come down to us?

When Thomas Thorpe published Shake-speares Sonnets [sic!] in 1609, the sonnets (or at least a subset of them) had already circulated in manuscript for some time. Francis Meres already mentioned these ...
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876 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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899 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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227 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 ...
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107 views

1 Henry IV Act 5, Scene 3: “God keep the lead out of me”

Henry IV Part 1, Act 5, Scene 3: Falstaff says ...God keep the lead out of me, I need no more weight than my own bowels. Is this referring to lead bullets? I was under the impression these ...
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295 views

What does Hippolyta mean by “More witnesseth than fancy’s images”?

What does Hippolyta mean in this speech from Act V Scene I of A Midsummer Night's Dream? But all the story of the night told over, And all their minds transfigured so together, More witnesseth ...
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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 ...
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205 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 ...
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What did Shakespeare mean in King Richard III when he said that ‘G’ Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be?

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, By drunken prophecies, libels and dreams, To set my brother Clarence and the King In deadly hate, the one against the other: And if King Edward be as true and ...
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Why does Richard step down in Shakespeare's Richard II

In Shakespeare's Richard II,‎ Henry Bolingbroke raises an army and comes to demand King Richard return his ancestral lands.‎ However,‎ he claims that if they are restored,‎ he will return to being a ...
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179 views

In the end, was no one loyal to Macbeth and willing to fight for him, and why?

At the end of Shakespeare's play Macbeth, when England invaded Scotland, was no one left to fight for Macbeth? I was wondering why? I also can't find good quotes to prove this point.
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Meaning of the words “Ambition should be made of sterner stuff” from Julius Caesar

What is the meaning of Antony's words "Ambition should be made of sterner stuff" in Act III of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar?
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Was it traditional to omit the prologue from Shakespeare's plays in the First Folio?

In an older question about the purpose of the prologue in Romeo and Juliet, Cory Howell asked in a now deleted answer: For what it's worth, the Prologue is not included in the First Folio version of ...
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Shakespeare's vasty deep: was “vasty” a recognised variant of “vast” at the time?

From Shakespeare's Henry IV Part 1, Act III Scene 1: GLENDOWER: I can call spirits from the vasty deep. HOTSPUR: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them? ...
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104 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 ...
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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 ...
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The Unity of Action in Shakespeare's “The Tempest”

Many critics claim that Shakespeare's play The Tempest follows all three classical unities. For example: The play observes the three Unities: the action is confined to parts of the same location, the ...