44 votes
Accepted

Did William Shakespeare hide things in his writings?

I think you're reading too much into this - Shakespeare was known to capitalize significant nouns fairly commonly in his writings (several examples can be seen here). Remember that when Shakespeare ...
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44 votes

How did Shakespeare get away with staging witchcraft in his plays such as Othello, Macbeth, or The Tempest?

The public saw the plays were fiction, perhaps even a warning against witchcraft, and the magic in them is divorced of religious overtones. It is noteworthy that the two Shakespeare plays which deal ...
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  • 14.6k
33 votes

Since when has Shakespeare's "Scottish play" been considered unlucky?

tl;dr The superstition that Macbeth is unlucky and must not be named is often supposed to date from the very first performance, or very shortly thereafter. However, a documented belief in this alleged ...
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  • 15.3k
30 votes
Accepted

Why does Shakespeare's Julius Caesar switch to Latin for the "Et tu, Brute" line?

It's not for the sake of veracity Whether the historical Caesar pronounced or not the said words is disputed. Of five Antique sources on Caesar's death: Nicolaus of Damascus, Plutarch and Appian do ...
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  • 1,828
27 votes
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Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

No. In fact, much of the content of Shakespeare's plays isn't even written in verse. There's plenty of prose in Shakespeare - indeed, at least one play (Merry Wives of Windsor) is written almost ...
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  • 63.5k
25 votes

What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo and Juliet?

You have to remember, the audience is well aware that a tragedy usually ends in the deaths of many of the main characters; therefore, I would argue that the enjoyment of the play is derived from an ...
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  • 359
24 votes

What is the source of "You can achieve a lot with hate, but even more with love" (Shakespeare?)

This is from Émile Montégut’s translation of Romeo and Juliet: Roméo. — Hélas! pourquoi faut-il que l’amour, dont la vue est toujours couverte d’un bandeau, puisse sans yeux trouver le chemin qui ...
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  • 40.1k
24 votes
Accepted

Why does the prophecy imply Macbeth has to murder the king?

You are quite right that the witches did not prophecy that Macbeth would murder Duncan, and so the option was available to him to “play it safe”: that is, to wait and see how the prophecy transpired, ...
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  • 40.1k
21 votes
Accepted

What reference is Shakespeare making in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

It's a Biblical reference. Noting that Macbeth is speaking of his own hands, and his own fears, How is ’t with me when every noise appals me? it is clear that this is an allusion to Matthew ...
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21 votes

How do these lines in Shakespeare's Sonnet 151 mean what they're supposed to?

Just glossing the last two lines. No want of conscience hold it that I call Her love, for whose dear love I rise and fall. The main difficulty is with “No want of conscience hold it”. This is an ...
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  • 40.1k
20 votes

What is the benefit in the Prologue "spoiling" the play in Romeo and Juliet?

If Shakespeare had depended on surprise for his plays to be enjoyable, you would never have heard of him. People would see the play once, get the full effect, and then there would be no point in going ...
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  • 4,898
19 votes
Accepted

Was Shakespeare a religious fanatic?

I don't believe it would be right to call him a religious fanatic. His plays contain both pro- and anti-Christian elements, all of which seem to be more about playing into the sense of the times than ...
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  • 4,898
19 votes
Accepted

The meaning of "The rest is silence" in "Hamlet"

There appear to be multiple ways of reading this sentence, depending on how you interpret the context of "rest" and "silence". Hamlet has been experiencing a great deal of upset and distress during ...
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  • 14.6k
19 votes

Why does the murderer call Macduff's son "egg"?

A. R. Braunmuller (Macbeth, New Cambridge Shakespeare, 1997) provides the following gloss: Contemptuous epithet for a young person (OED Egg sb 2b, citing only this line and another from 1835); (...) ...
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  • 38.5k
19 votes

"Sly frantic wretch, that holp'st to make me great" what is the meaning of "holp'st"?

“Holp” is the archaic past tense of “help”, which was formerly a strong verb (a verb that inflects by changing its vowel) like freeze/froze or ride/rode. The old form was obsolete in ordinary language ...
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  • 40.1k
18 votes

Did Shakespeare consider Julius Caesar a tyrant or a martyr?

It is left open by the playwright I am going to look at the three characters you have chosen, starting with Cassius. Cassius is not an honorable man no matter whether you think Caesar should have ...
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18 votes

Were all of Shakespeare's plays fully in iambic pentameter?

No. As the other answers say, there are large portions of Shakespeare's plays that are in prose and not iambic pentameter. However, even in the sections that are in iambic pentameter, Shakespeare didn'...
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  • 7,900
18 votes
Accepted

Did Lady Macbeth communicate signs of her instability prior to the blood scene?

Oh, yeah, she's clearly unstable from the moment we meet her. Even better, she chooses to be unstable. In her very first appearance, she calls on supernatural forces to remove all traces of compassion:...
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  • 4,898
18 votes

Why does Shakespeare sometimes use "do" with the verbs in his plays?

Rhythm The word ‘do’ fills what would otherwise be a gap in the rhythm. With ‘do’ you can scan the line as regular iambic pentameter: x / x / x / x / x / x As two ...
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  • 40.1k
18 votes
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How might Shakespeare have become familiar with Dante's work?

TLDR: Shakespeare was clearly familiar with a lot of Italian literature second-hand, and there is circumstantial evidence for first-hand. Shakespeare's Italian influence is a question that's aroused ...
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  • 14.6k
18 votes
Accepted

Why are there three different versions of the "solid/sullied/sallied flesh" line in Hamlet?

Since Hamlet was published in several editions during the Jacobethan era, it is worth looking at how these early editions rendered these lines, using the old-spelling editions published by Internet ...
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  • 38.5k
17 votes
Accepted

Why did Shakespeare write in iambic pentameter?

Shakespeare wrote iambic pentameter because that was the most common verse meter of the time. He didn't establish it. Edmund Spenser used it in The Faerie Queene: Lo I the man, whose Muse whilome ...
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  • 4,898
17 votes
Accepted

Is Macbeth or Lady Macbeth the real villain in Shakespeare's play?

Lady Macbeth is the villain. Macbeth is, in fact, a tragic hero. The first time I ever read Macbeth I was struck by the feeling of sympathy I had for the eponymous character at the end of the play. He ...
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  • 14.6k
15 votes

What reference is Shakespeare making in Act 2 Scene 2 of Macbeth?

Possibly the Bible? From Matthew 18:9: And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be ...
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15 votes
Accepted

What is the source of "You can achieve a lot with hate, but even more with love" (Shakespeare?)

Since you say the quote isn't exact, the best I can remember is the following from Romeo and Juliet (emphasis mine): Alas, that love, whose view is muffled still, Should, without eyes, see ...
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  • 894
14 votes

Did Shakespeare consider Julius Caesar a tyrant or a martyr?

As asked, the question is close to unanswerable. Specifically, your main question is: What is the evidence - either from the text of the play itself, or from surrounding evidence, if any - of ...
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  • 15.3k
14 votes

How did people know the meaning to Shakespeare's new words?

Actually, most of the new words appears to have based on existing words to some extent: either taking a noun and turning into a verb or vice versa (one example of this would be "to dawn"), or ...
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  • 3,253
14 votes

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

Kevin Spacey's Richard III has a hump because Shakespeare wrote the character that way. His physical deformities (which include but aren't limited to a hunched back) are a defining part of his ...
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  • 4,826
14 votes
Accepted

What does the Malvolio subplot add to Twelfth Night?

The subplot had several purposes; it is a contextual and dramatic device, adds comedy, is a metaphorical parallel of the main plot and is a satire on the Puritanical hold on contemporary society. To ...
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