Entertainment/William Shakespeare

From Quiz Revision Notes

William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616) was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnet (died, aged 11) and Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, later known as the King's Men

The Lord Chamberlain's Men was a playing company for whom Shakespeare wrote for most of his career. Richard Burbage played most of the lead roles, including Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth, while Shakespeare himself performed some secondary roles. Formed at the end of a period of flux in the theatrical world of London, it had become, by 1603, one of the two leading companies of the city and was subsequently patronized by James I

Chandos portrait is the most famous of the portraits that may depict William Shakespeare. The portrait was given to the National Portrait Gallery on its foundation in 1856 and it is listed as the first work in its collection


All’s Well That Ends Well

Helena, orphaned daughter of a doctor, is under the protection of the widowed Countess of Rossillion. In love with Bertram, the countess' son, Helena follows him to court, where she cures the sick French king of an apparently fatal illness. In return, she is given the hand of any man in the realm; she chooses Bertram. Her new husband is appalled at the match, however, and shortly after their marriage flees France

Based on a tale from Boccaccio's The Decameron


King of France

Duke of Florence

Bertram, Count of Rousillon

Countess of Rousillon, Mother to Bertram

Lavatch, a Clown in her household

Helena, a Gentlewoman protected by the Countess

As You Like It

Duke Ferdinand has been forced into exile from the court by the usurping Duke Frederick. He takes refuge in the Forest of Arden with a band of faithful lords. Rosalind, his daughter, is kept uneasily at court as a companion to her cousin Celia, Frederick's daughter. Orlando de Boys, the youngest son of the late Sir Rowland de Boys, has been kept in poverty by his brother Oliver since his father's death. Orlando decides to wrestle for his fortune at Frederick's court, where he sees Rosalind and they fall in love


Duke Frederick, Duke Senior's younger brother and his usurper, also Celia's father

Rosalind, Duke Senior's daughter

Celia, Duke Frederick's daughter and Rosalind's cousin

Touchstone, a court fool

Oliver de Boys, the eldest son and heir of the deceased Sir Rowland de Boys

Orlando de Boys, the youngest son

Jacques, a melancholy lord

Phoebe, a shepherdess

Audrey, a country girl

Hymen, God of marriage


“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages” – first part of the ‘seven ages of man’ monologue by Jacques

The Comedy of Errors

The Comedy of Errors tells the story of two sets of identical twins that were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus (married to Adriana) and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus

Shortest Shakespeare play


Antipholus of Ephesus and Antipholus of Syracuse. Twin brothers, sons of Egeon and Emilia

Dromio of Ephesus and Dromio of Syracuse. Twin brothers. Bondmen, each serving his respective Antipholus

Solinus, Duke of Ephesus

Egeon, a merchant of Syracuse

Love’s Labour’s Lost

The play follows the King of Navarre and his three companions as they attempt to forswear the company of women for three years of study and fasting, and their subsequent infatuation with the Princess of Aquitaine and her ladies


Ferdinand, King of Navarre

Lord Biron, attending on the king

Lord Longueville, attending on the king

Lord Dumaine, attending on the King

Princess of France, later Queen of France

Lady Rosaline, attending on the Princess

Lady Maria attending on the Princess

Lady Katharine, attending on the Princess

Boyet, attending on the Princess

Costard, a clown

Dull, a constable

Measure for Measure

Only Shakespeare play set in Vienna. The action centres around the dilemma of Isabella, a novice nun, whose brother is to be executed unless she succumbs to the attentions of Angelo


Vincentio, the Duke, who also appears disguised as Friar Lodowick

Angelo, the Deputy, who rules in the Duke's absence

Claudio, a young gentleman

Isabella, sister to Claudio

Mariana, betrothed to Angelo

Juliet, beloved of Claudio, pregnant with his child

Mistress Overdone, the manager of a thriving Viennese brothel

Elbow, a simple constable

The Merchant of Venice

The Jewish moneylender Shylock demands a pound of flesh from the merchant Antonio if he fails to pay his debts on time. Set in 16th century Venice

Shylock cannot remove the flesh of Antonio, as the contract only allows Shylock to collect the flesh, and not the blood of Antonio


Antonio, a merchant of Venice

Bassanio, Antonio's friend. Suitor to Portia

Portia, a rich heiress

Nerissa, Portia's waiting maid. In love with Gratiano

Balthazar, Portia's servant, who Portia later disguises herself as

Shylock, a rich Jew. Moneylender. Father of Jessica

Jessica, daughter of Shylock. Lorenzo's girlfriend

Launcelot Gobbo, a servant to Shylock

Prince of Morocco, suitor to Portia


“In sooth I know not why I am so sad” – first line, spoken by Antonio

“All that glisters is not gold” – Morocco

“Hath not a Jew eyes?” – Shylock

“I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys” – Shylock

“The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven, upon the place beneath” – Portia

The Merry Wives of Windsor

Falstaff arrives in Windsor very short on money. He decides, to obtain financial advantage that he will court two wealthy married women, Mistress Ford and Mistress Page. Falstaff decides to send the women identical love letters. three different men are trying to win the hand of Page's daughter, Mistress Anne Page

It is generally believed that Shakespeare originally named Falstaff ‘John Oldcastle’, and that Lord Cobham, a descendant of the historical John Oldcastle, complained, forcing Shakespeare to change the name


Sir John Falstaff

Mistress Margaret Page

Master George Page, her husband

Anne Page, their daughter. In love with Fenton

Mistress Alice Ford

Master Frank Ford, her husband who is jealous of Falstaff

Doctor Caius, a French physician

Mistress Quickly, his housekeeper

Pistol, a soldier


“Why then, the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open” – Pistol

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The play portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (mechanicals) rehearsing for Pyramus and Thisbe, who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set


Theseus, Duke of Athens

Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus

Egeus, father of Hermia, wants her to marry Demetrius

Hermia, in love with Lysander

Helena, in love with Demetrius

Lysander, in love with Hermia at first but later loves Helena and then goes back to love Hermia

Demetrius, in love with Hermia at first and then loves Helena at the end

Oberon, Titania's husband and King of the Fairies

Titania, Queen of the Fairies

Robin Goodfellow / Puck, servant to Oberon

Peaseblossom, fairy servant to Titania

Cobweb, fairy servant to Titania

Moth, fairy servant to Titania

Mustardseed, fairy servant to Titania

Peter Quince, carpenter, leads the troupe and plays Prologue

Nick Bottom, weaver, plays Pyramus

Francis Flute, bellows-mender, plays Thisbe

Robin Starveling, tailor

Tom Snout, tinker

Snug, joiner


“Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour draws on apace” – first line, spoken by Theseus

“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania” – Oberon

“I’ll put a girdle round the Earth in forty minutes” – Puck

“That is the true beginning of our end” – Quince

“The course of true love never did run smooth” – Lysander

Much Ado about Nothing

The main plot concerns the deception of Don John, while Claudio believes Hero to be unfaithful. The sub-plot is the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick


Benedick, a lord and soldier from Padua. Companion of Don Pedro

Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon

Don John, the Bastard Prince. Brother of Don Pedro

Claudio, of Florence; a count. Companion of Don Pedro. Friend to Benedick

Leonato, governor of Messina

Beatrice, niece of Leonato.

Hero, daughter of Leonato

Dogberry, a constable in charge of Messina's night watch


“Are you good men and true?” – Dogberry

“Comparisons are odorous” – Dogberry

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Pericles flees from the court of the King of Antioch after solving a riddle which means that Antiochus is engaged in an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Eventually Pericles is reunited with his daughter, Marina

George Wilkins may have written part of the play

John Gower introduces each act with a prologue


Antiochus, king of Antioch

The Daughter of Antiochus

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Simonides – king of Pentapolis

Thaisa, daughter to Simonides. Pericles' wife

Marina, daughter to Pericles and Thaisa

The Taming of the Shrew

The play begins with a mischievous nobleman tricking a drunken tinker named Christopher Sly into believing he is actually a nobleman himself. The main plot depicts the courtship of Petruchio and Katherina, the shrew. The subplot features a competition between the suitors of Katherina's more desirable sister, Bianca


Katherina Minola, the ‘shrew’

Bianca, sister of Katherina

Baptista, father of Katherina and Bianca

Petruchio, suitor of Katherina

Gremio, elderly suitor of Bianca

Lucentio, suitor of Bianca

Hortensio, suitor of Bianca and friend to Petruchio

Grumio, Petruchio's main servant

Christopher Sly, a drunken tinker


“This is the way to kill a wife with kindness” – Petruchio

“Why, there's a wench! Come on, and kiss me, Kate” – Petruchio

The Tempest

The play is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the rightful Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place using illusion and skilful manipulation. He conjures up a storm to lure his usurping brother Antonio and King Alonso of Naples to the island


Prospero, the overthrown Duke of Milan. May have been modeled on John Dee

Miranda, Prospero's daughter. Falls in love with the Prince of Naples, Ferdinand

Ariel, a spirit who does Prospero's bidding and is, at times, visible only to him

Caliban, a villainous island native, the deformed son of a witch named Sycorax, who is unseen in the play. He now works as Prospero's slave but despises him

Alonso, King of Naples

Sebastian, Alonso's treacherous brother

Antonio, Prospero's brother, who usurped his position as Duke of Milan. He and Sebastian plot unsuccessfully to kill Alonso

Ferdinand, Alonso's son. Falls in love with Miranda


“Boatswain!” – first line, spoken by the master of a ship

“Full fathom five thy father lies, Of his bones are coral made… But doth suffer a sea-change” – Ariel (sung)

“He that dies pays all debts” – Stefano

“Be not afraid. The isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs” – Caliban

“How beauteous mankind is. O brave new world, that has such people in’t!” – Miranda

“We are such stuff as dreams are made of, and our little life is rounded with a sleep” – Prospero

Twelfth Night

The play centres on the twins Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola (who is disguised as a boy and takes the name Cesario) falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia. Upon meeting Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man. Set in Illyria

Twelfth Night; or, What You Will – full title


Viola, Sebastian's twin sister

Sebastian, Viola's twin brother

Duke Orsino, Duke of Illyria

Olivia,  a wealthy countess

Malvolio, steward in the household of Olivia

Sir Toby Belch, Olivia's uncle

Sir Andrew Aguecheek

Feste, the clown of Olivia's household


“If music be the food of love, play on” – first line, spoken by Orsino

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em” – Malvolio

“No more cakes and ale” – Toby Belch

“What is the opinion of Pythagoras concerning wildfowl?” – Feste

“Why, this is midsummer madness” – Olivia

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The play tells of the friendship of Valentine and Proteus, who both fall in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan

Smallest named cast of any play by Shakespeare

Launce’s dog Crab is the only dog to appear in a play by Shakespeare


Valentine, a gentleman of Verona

Proteus, a gentleman of Verona. Valentine’s closest friend

Silvia, falls in love with Valentine in Milan

Julia, falls in love with Proteus in Verona

Duke of Milan, Silvia's father

Lucetta, Julia's waiting woman


“Who is Sylvia? What is she, that all our commend her?” – Host (sung)

The Winter’s Tale

King Leontes suspects his wife, Hermione, of adultery with King Polixenes. Leontes expels Perdita, who falls in love with Florizel. Perdita is eventually re-united with King Leontes. Statue of Hermione comes to life at the end of the play

Exit, pursued by a bear – Stage direction. Antigonus is killed by the bear


Leontes, The King of Sicily, and the childhood friend of Polixenes

Hermione, The Queen of Sicily

Polixenes, The King of Bohemia

Florizel, Polixenes's only son and heir

Perdita, The daughter of Leontes and Hermione

Autolycus, A roguish peddler, vagabond, and pickpocket


“Lawn as white as driven snow” – Autolycus (sung)


Henry IV, Part I

Henry IV, Part 1 depicts a span of history that begins with Hotspur's battle at Homildon in Northumberland against the Douglas late in 1402, and ends with the defeat of the rebels at Shrewsbury in the middle of 1403


King Henry IV

Henry, Prince of Wales, eldest son of Henry IV. Nicknamed "Hal" or "Harry"

Sir John Falstaff, a knight who befriends Prince Hal

Mistress Quickly, hostess of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap

Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland

Thomas Percy, Earl of Worcester. Northumberland's brother

Harry Percy, Northumberland's son, surnamed Hotspur

Edmund Mortimer, Earl of March. Hotspur's brother-in-law and Glendower's son-in-law

Owen Glendower, leader of the Welsh rebels

Archibald, Earl of Douglas. Leader of the Scottish rebels


“The better part of valour is discretion” – Falstaff

Henry IV, Part II

The play’s focus is on Prince Hal's journey toward kingship, and his ultimate rejection of Falstaff. It deals with Falstaff's age and his closeness to death, which parallels that of the increasingly sick king

Rumour – the presenter in Henry IV, Part II

At the end of the play, an epilogue thanks the audience and promises that the story will continue in a forthcoming play


King Henry IV

Prince Hal, later King Henry V

Prince John of Lancaster, Henry's son

Duke of Gloucester, Henry's son

Duke of Clarence, Henry's son

Sir John Falstaff

Mistress Quickly

Pistol, a soldier

Doll Tearsheet, a prostitute


“He hath eaten me out of house and home” – Mistress Quickly

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” – Henry IV

Henry V

The play tells the story of King Henry V, focusing on events immediately before and after the Battle of Agincourt (1415), including the Siege of Harfleur. Following the victory at Agincourt, Henry attempts to woo the French princess, Catherine of Valois

Henry V has a scene written in French

Captain Macmorris, a very minor character with only one scene, is the only Irish character in the whole canon

Dauphin sends a gift of a container of tennis balls to Henry V


King Henry V

Duke of Gloucester, Henry's brother

Duke of Bedford, Henry's brother

Duke of Clarence, Henry's brother

Duke of Exeter, Henry's uncle

Duke of York, Henry's cousin

Charles VI of France

Isabel, wife of Charles VI

Catherine, their daughter. Catherine of Valois


Hostess. Formerly Mistress Quickly, now Pistol’s wife


“All hell shall stir for this” – Pistol

“Cry, ‘God for Harry, England and Saint George!’” – Henry V

“Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more” – Henry V

“Tennis balls, my liege” – Exeter

“This day is caused the feast of Crispian” – Henry V

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers” – Henry V

Henry VI, Part I

Henry VI, Part I deals with the loss of England's French territories and the political machinations leading up to the Wars of the Roses, as the English political system is torn apart by personal squabbles and petty jealousy

Shakespeare’s first play, believed to have been written in 1591


King Henry VI

Duke of Bedford, Henry VI's uncle and Regent of France

Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, Henry VI's uncle and Lord Protector of England

Duke of Exeter, Henry VI's great-uncle

Charles, Dauphin of France

Joan la Pucelle (Joan of Arc)

Bastard of Orleans

John Talbot

Henry VI, Part II

Henry VI, Part II focuses on the King's inability to quell the bickering of his nobles, the death of his trusted adviser Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, the rise of the Duke of York and the inevitability of armed conflict. As such, the play culminates with the opening battle of the War, the First Battle of St Albans (1455)

Largest cast of all Shakespeare's plays

Original title of the play was The First Part of the Contention of the Two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster


King Henry VI

Queen Margaret, Queen to Henry VI (Margaret of Anjou)

Duke Humphrey of Gloucester, Henry VI's uncle and Lord Protector of England

Duchess Eleanor of Gloucester, Gloucester's wife

Cardinal Beaufort, Bishop of Winchester. Henry VI's great-uncle

William de la Pole, Marquis, later Duke, of Suffolk. Lover of Queen Margaret

Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York who asserts he should be king

Jack Cade, leader of the Kentish rebellion


“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers” – Dick the butcher

Henry VI, Part III

Henry VI, Part III deals primarily with the horrors of The Wars of the Roses, where moral codes are subverted in the pursuit of revenge and power. Covers the period from 1455 to 1471

Features the longest soliloquy in all of Shakespeare, and has more battle scenes (four on stage, one reported) than any other of Shakespeare's plays


King Henry VI

Queen Margaret, Queen to Henry VI

Edward, Prince of Wales. Their son

Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York who asserts he should be King

Edward Plantagenet, Earl of March. Later King Edward IV. York's eldest son


“My crown is in my heart, not on my head” – Henry VI

Henry VIII

Covers the period from 1520 until the christening of Princess Elizabeth in 1533

Henry VIII was Shakespeare’s last play

An alternative title, All is True, is recorded in contemporary documents, the title Henry VIII not appearing until the play's publication in the First Folio of 1623

Henry VIII is thought to be a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher

During a performance of Henry VIII at the Globe Theatre in 1613, a cannon shot employed for special effects ignited the theatre's thatched roof (and the beams), burning the original building to the ground


King Henry VIII

Cardinal Wolsey, Archbishop of York and Lord Chancellor. Initially, Henry's chief advisor

Queen Katherine. Later divorced

Anne Boleyn, Katherine's maid of honour. Later Queen Anne

Duke of Buckingham

Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury. Replaces Wolsey as Henry's chief advisor

Stephen Gardiner, close ally of Wolsey. King's secretary. Later Bishop of Winchester

Thomas Cromwell, Wolsey’s secretary

King John

The play covers the reign of King John (1199 – 1216), but makes no mention of Magna Carta


King John

Queen Eleanor, his mother. Widow of Henry II

Prince Henry, his son. Later King Henry III

Philip Faulconbridge, also known as Philip the Bastard and Richard Plantagenet. Natural son of Richard I

Robert Falconbridge, his half-brother. Legitimate son of Sir Robert Faulconbridge

Lady Falconbridge, their mother. Widow of Sir Robert Falconbridge

Arthur (Duke of Brittany)

King Philip of France


“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily” – Salisbury

Richard II

The play spans only the last two years of Richard's life, from 1398 to 1400. Richard is killed by Piers Exton


King Richard II

John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. Richard's uncle

Duke of York, Richard's uncle

Thomas Mowbray, Duke of Norfolk

Queen, Richard's wife (an unnamed composite of his first wife, Anne of Bohemia, and his second, Isabella of Valois)

Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford. Son of John of Gaunt. Later King Henry IV

Earl of Northumberland

Henry 'Hotspur' Percy. Northumberland's son

Piers Exton

Bushy, favourite of Richard

Bagot, favourite of Richard

Green, favourite of Richard


“This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, this earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this other Eden… this precious stone set in the silver sea… this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” – John of Gaunt

Richard III

The play begins with Richard describing the accession to the throne of his brother, King Edward IV in 1471, and ends with his death at Bosworth Field in 1485

Richard III is the second longest play in the canon after Hamlet


King Edward IV

Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Brother to Edward IV; later King Richard III

George, Duke of Clarence. Edward IV's brother

Duchess of York,  Edward, Richard and George's mother

Queen Elizabeth, Queen to King Edward IV

Duke of Buckingham

Lady Anne Neville. Widow of Edward of Westminster. Later Queen to King Richard III

Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond. Henry VI's nephew. Later King Henry VII

Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby. Richmond's stepfather


“Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York” – first line, spoken by Richard Gloucester

“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” – King Richard (last words)


Antony and Cleopatra

Mark Antony, one of the three rulers of the Roman Empire, spends his time in Egypt, living a life of decadence and conducting an affair with the country’s beautiful queen, Cleopatra. When a message arrives informing him that his wife, Fulvia, is dead and that Pompey is raising an army to rebel against the triumvirate, Antony decides to return to Rome. In Antony’s absence, Octavius Caesar and Lepidus, his fellow triumvirs, worry about Pompey’s increasing strength. Caesar condemns Antony for neglecting his duties as a statesman and military officer in order to live a decadent life by Cleopatra’s side


Mark Antony, Roman general and one of the triumvirs

Octavius Caesar, a triumvir

Lepidus, a triumvir

Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt

Sextus Pompey, rebel against the triumvirate and son of the late Pompey





"My salad days, When I was green in judgment: cold in blood" – Cleopatra

"Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale / her infinite variety" – Enobarbus


Coriolanus is based on the life of the legendary Roman leader, Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Coriolanus becomes active in politics and seeks political leadership. His temperament is unsuited for popular leadership and he is quickly deposed, whereupon he aligns himself to set matters straight according to his own will. The alliances he forges to accomplish his own will result in his ultimate downfall and death


Caius Marcius, later surnamed Coriolanus

Menenius Agrippa, senator of Rome

Cominius, consul and commander-in-chief of the army

Titus Lartius, Roman general

Volumnia, Coriolanus' mother

Virgilia, Coriolanus' wife

Tullus Aufidius, general of the Volscian army


Imogen is in love with Posthumus Leonatus. The two have secretly married, exchanging jewellery as tokens: a ring from Imogen, a bracelet from Posthumus. Cymbeline has discovered the affair and banishes Posthumus

Also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline


Cymbeline, King of Britain

Imogen/Innogen, Cymbeline's daughter by a former queen, later disguised as the page Fidele

Posthumus Leonatus, Imogen's husband

Pisanio – Posthumus’ servant


“I have not slept one wink” – Pisanio


The protagonist of Hamlet is Prince Hamlet of Denmark, son of the recently deceased King Hamlet, and nephew of King Claudius, his father's brother and successor. Claudius hastily married King Hamlet's widow, Gertrude, Hamlet's mother. Denmark has a long-standing feud with neighbouring Norway, and an invasion led by the Norwegian prince, Fortinbras, is expected

Ophelia drowns after Hamlet rejects her

Yorick’s skull is discovered as gravediggers prepare the grave of Ophelia

Laertes – name is apparently taken from the father of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey

In the final scene, Laertes kills Hamlet with a poisoned foil to avenge the deaths of his father and sister, for which he blamed Hamlet

The Murder of Gonzago – play in Hamlet

Longest Shakespeare play

Hamlet has the most lines spoken by any one character in a single play. Overall, the most lines are spoken by John Falstaff

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – full title

Written at an uncertain date between 1599 and 1602


Hamlet, son of the late King and nephew of the present King

Claudius, King of Denmark and Hamlet's uncle

Gertrude, Queen of Denmark and mother to Hamlet

Polonius, Lord Chamberlain

Ophelia, daughter to Polonius

Horatio, friend to Hamlet

Laertes, son to Polonius

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, courtiers and friends to Hamlet

Fortinbras, Prince of Norway


“Who’s there?” – first line, spoken by Barnardo

“Go, bid the soldiers shoot” – last line, spoken by Fortinbras

“Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy” – Hamlet

“And to my mind – though I am native here, and to the manner born” – Hamlet

“Ay, springes to catch woodcocks” – Polonius

“Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shall not escape calumny. Get thee to a nunnery, go, farewell” – Hamlet

“Brevity is the soul of wit” – Polonius

“Frailty thy name is woman” – Hamlet

“Good night, sweet prince” – Horatio

“More matter, with less art” – Gertrude

“Murder most foul” – Ghost

“Neither a borrower or a lender be” – Polonius

“The lady doth protest too much, methinks” – Gertrude

“The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” – Hamlet

“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray, love, remember. And there is pansies; that’s for thoughts” – Ophelia

“The rest is silence” – Hamlet

“Though this be madness, yet there is method in't” – Polonius

“To be, or not to be; that is the question: whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles… To die, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub… when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause… But that the dread of something after death, the undiscovered Country… Thus conscience does make cowards of us all” – Hamlet’s soliloquy

Julius Caesar

The play depicts the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar on 15 March 44 BC and the aftermath of his death. Marcus Brutus speaks more than four times as many lines as Julius Caesar and the central psychological drama is his struggle between the conflicting demands of honour, patriotism and friendship


Julius Caesar

Calpurnia, his wife

Marcus Brutus, a noble Roman

Portia, his wife

Lucius, his servant

Marc Antony, triumvir

Octavius Caesar, triumvir

Lepidus, triumvir

Cassius, conspirator against Caesar

Casca. conspirator against Caesar


“Beware the ides of March” – Soothsayer

“But I am constant as the Northern Star” – Julius Caesar

“Cry ‘havoc’ and let slip the dogs of war” – Marc Antony

“Et tu, Brute? – then fall Caesar” – Julius Caesar (last words)

“Friends, Romans. Countrymen, lend me your ears… I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him” – Marc Antony

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune” – Brutus

“This was the most unkindest cut of all” – Marc Antony

“This was the noblest Roman of them all” – Marc Antony, referring to Brutus

“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Such men are dangerous” – Julius Caesar

King Lear

King Lear descends into madness after disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Based on the legend of a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king


Lear, King of Britain

Goneril, Lear's eldest daughter

Regan, Lear's second daughter

Cordelia, Lear's youngest daughter

Duke of Albany, Goneril's husband

Duke of Cornwall, Regan's husband

Earl of Gloucester

Earl of Kent. Later disguised as Caius

Edgar, Gloucester's son

Edmund, Gloucester's illegitimate son


“I thought the King had more affected the Duke of Albany than Cornwall” – first line, spoken by Earl of Kent

“Fie, foe, and fum. I smell the blood of a British man” – Edgar

“I am a man more sinned against than sinning” – Lear

“Take physic, pomp, expose thyself to feel what wretches feel” – Lear

“The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices, make instruments to plague us” – Edgar

“The wheel has come full circle” – Edmund

“The younger rises when the old doth fall” – Edmund

“This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet; he begins at curfew, and walks ‘til the first cock” – Edgar


Macbeth is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth who receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders King Duncan and takes the throne for himself. He is then wracked with guilt and paranoia, and he soon becomes a tyrannical ruler.

Ghost of Banquo haunts Macbeth

Macduff kills Macbeth

A crowned child holding a tree states that Macbeth will be safe until Great Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane Hill

Macbeth is commonly dated 1606


Macbeth, a general in the army of King Duncan. Originally Thane of Glamis, then Thane of Cawdor, and later King of Scotland

Lady Macbeth, Macbeth's wife, and later Queen of Scotland

Duncan, King of Scotland

Malcolm, Duncan's elder son

Donalbain, Duncan's younger son

Banquo, Macbeth's friend and a general in the army of King Duncan

Fleance, Banquo's son

Macduff, Thane of Fife

Siward, general of the English forces

Hecate, queen of the witches


“When shall we three meet again? In thunder, lightning, or in rain?” – first line, spoken by First Witch

“Whom we invite to see us crowned at Scone” – last line, spoken by Malcolm

“All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand” – Lady Macbeth

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” – Second witch

“Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn, and cauldron bubble” – Three witches

“Lay on, Macduff” – Macbeth. Often misquoted as “Lead on, Macduff”

“Out damned spot; out, I say” – Lady Macbeth

“Throw physic to the dogs; I’ll none of it” – Macbeth

“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this pretty pace from day to day… all our yesterdays… Out, out, brief candle!” – Macbeth

“Yet I do fear thy nature; it is too full o' th' milk of human kindness” – Lady Macbeth


Othello revolves around four central characters: Othello, a Moorish general in the Venetian army; his beloved wife, Desdemona; his loyal lieutenant, Cassio; and his trusted but unfaithful ensign, Iago. By subtle innuendo, Iago convinces Othello that Desdemona has slept with Cassio – his deceit results in tragedy

Othello is believed to have been written in approximately 1603, and based on the Italian short story Un Capitano Moro (‘A Moorish Captain’) by Cinthio

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice – full title

Partly set in Cyprus c. 1570


Othello, the Moor

Desdemona, Othello's wife

Iago, Othello's ensign

Michael Cassio, Othello's most loved captain

Emilia, Iago's wife and Desdemona's maidservant

Bianca, Cassio's lover

Brabantio, Venetian senator and Desdemona's father

Roderigo, dissolute Venetian, in love with Desdemona

Doge of Venice


“Tush, never tell me!” – first line, spoken by Roderigo

“This heavy act with heavy heart relate” – last line, spoken by Lodovico

“But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve, for daws to peck at” – Iago

“Killing myself, to die upon a kiss” – Othello’s last words

“O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on” – Iago

“Pride, pomp and circumstance of glorious war!” – Othello

“To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer” – Iago

“Your daughter and the Moor are now making the beast with two backs” – Iago

Romeo and Juliet

The play tells of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Believing Juliet to be dead, Romeo drinks poison. Juliet then awakens and, finding Romeo dead, stabs herself with his dagger. The families are reconciled by their children's deaths and agree to end their feud


Montague, the patriarch of the house of Montague.

Lady Montague, his wife

Romeo, the son of Montague

Benvolio, Romeo's cousin and best friend

Capulet, the patriarch of the house of Capulet.

Lady Capulet, his wife

Juliet, the 13-year-old daughter of Capulet

Tybalt, a cousin of Juliet and the nephew of Lady Capulet

The Nurse, Juliet's personal attendant and confidante

Rosaline, Lord Capulet's niece, and Romeo's love in the beginning of the story

Prince Escalus, the ruling Prince of Verona

Count Paris, a kinsman of Escalus who wishes to marry Juliet

Mercutio, a kinsman of Escalus and a friend of Romeo

Friar Laurence, a Franciscan friar who marries Romeo and Juliet


“Two households, both alike in dignity in fair Verona” – first line, spoken by Chorus

“A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life” – Chorus

“A plague o’ both your houses” – Mercutio

“O happy dagger, this is thy sheath! There rust and let me die” – Juliet (last words)

“O, then, I see Queen Mab hath been with you” – Mercutio

“Parting is such sweet sorrow” – Juliet

“Thus with a kiss I die” – Romeo (last words)

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet” – Juliet

Timon of Athens

Timon of Athens is a collaborative play by William Shakespeare and perhaps Thomas Middleton about the fortunes of Timon, a well beloved citizen of Athens who through tremendous generosity spends his entire fortunes on corrupt hangers-on only interested in getting the next payout


Timon – a lord of Athens

Alcibiades – captain of a military brigade and good friend to Timon.

Apemantus – a churlish philosopher

Flavius – Timon's chief Steward

Flaminius – one of Timon's servants

Servilius – one of Timon's servants

Lucilius – a romantic youth and Timon's servant

Titus Andronicus

Set during the latter days of the Roman Empire and tells the fictional story of Titus, a general in the Roman army, who is engaged in a cycle of revenge with Tamora, Queen of the Goths. It is thought to be Shakespeare's first tragedy, and is Shakespeare's bloodiest and most violent work


Titus Andronicus, Roman general

Lucius, Titus's eldest son

Quintus, Titus's son

Martius, Titus's son

Mutius, Titus's son

Marcus Andronicus, Titus's brother and tribune to the people of Rome

Saturninus, son of the late Emperor of Rome. Afterwards declared Emperor

Tamora, Queen of the Goths. Afterwards Empress of Rome

Demetrius, Tamora's son

Chiron, Tamora's son

Aaron, a Moor

Troilus and Cressida

Troilus and Cressida is set during the later years of the Trojan War, faithfully following the plotline of the Iliad from Achilles' refusal to participate in battle to Hector's death. In one plot, Troilus, a Trojan prince (son of Priam), woos Cressida, another Trojan. The majority of the play revolves around the leaders of the Greek and Trojan forces, Agamemnon and Priam respectively


Priam, King of Troy

Cassandra, daughter of Priam (a prophetess)

Hector, son of Priam

Troilus, son of Priam

Paris, son of Priam

Andromache, Hector's wife


Agamemnon, King of the Greeks and leader of the Greek invasion

Achilles, a prince

Ajax, a prince

Ulysses, King of Ithaca. Also referred to as Odysseus

Menelaus, King of Sparta, brother to Agamemnon

Helen, wife to Menelaus, living with Paris

Patroclus, friend of Achilles


“A good riddance” – Patroclus

Other works

Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets

Problem plays – the three plays Shakespeare wrote between the last of his pure comedies (Twelfth Night) and the first of his pure tragedies (Othello). They are All’s Well That Ends Well, Measure for Measure and Troilus and Cressida

The Two Noble Kinsmen, by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, is a retelling of The Knight's Tale by Chaucer. Sometimes considered the 38th play. The noble kinsmen are Palamon and Arcite, who both fall in love with a jailer’s daughter

Love's Labour's Won is the name of a play written by William Shakespeare before 1598. The play appears to have been published by 1603, but no copies are known to have survived

Cardenio is a lost play, known to have been performed by the King's Men in 1613. The play is attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher

Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies is the 1623 published collection of 36 of William Shakespeare's plays. It is commonly referred to it as the First Folio. It was prepared by Shakespeare's colleagues John Heminges and Henry Condell. The Folio includes all of the plays generally accepted to be Shakespeare's, with the exception of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, The Two Noble Kinsmen, and the two lost plays, Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won

The first 17 poems, traditionally called the procreation sonnets, are addressed to a young man urging him to marry and have children

The "Fair Youth" is the unnamed young man to whom sonnets 1–126 are addressed

The Dark Lady sequence (sonnets 127–152), distinguishes itself from the Fair Youth sequence by being overtly sexual in its passion

Sonnet 18 begins ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer's day’

‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May’ – from sonnet 18

Shakespeare's poetry, not his plays, reached print first, with the publications of Venus and Adonis in 1593 and The Rape of Lucrece in 1594

William Shakespeare dedicated his first work, the poem Venus and Adonis to his patron, the Earl of Southampton

The Rape of Lucrece draws on the story described in both Ovid's Fasti and Livy's history of Rome. In 509 BC, Sextus Tarquinius, son of Tarquin, the king of Rome, raped Lucretia (Lucrece), wife of Collatinus. As a result, Lucrece committed suicide

Dramatist Ben Jonson's first original play, Every Man in His Humour was performed in 1598 by the Lord Chamberlain's Men, with William Shakespeare in the cast