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->''Brevity is the soul of wit.''

Three actors (male in the video and the original troupe), with the use of costumes, bad wigs, and more wordplay and slapstick comedy than you can shake a rubber skull at, reenact the entirety of the works of Creator/WilliamShakespeare within the time frame of a two-act stageplay. [[HilarityEnsues Hilarity most DEFINITELY ensues]].

This was originally created by TheReducedShakespeareCompany, but has since been sold/given to/adapted by a wide variety of comedy troupes and theatre companies.

The play has NoFourthWall, requires performers to [[HarpoDoesSomethingFunny make it up as they go]] and audience participation. This means the likelihood of two shows (even from the same company of actors) being the same twice is very low, if not outright impossible. Unusual for a modern play, performers are ''not'' under contract to be as true to the script as possible after acquiring performance rights.

That said, the script has three roles named for the actors who originally performed the piece: Daniel (the troupe leader), Jess (the scholar/serious actor), and Adam (comic relief; plays nearly all the female parts). Actors usually perform using their own names.

Amazingly, the play uses just about every [[AbridgedSeriesTropes Abridged Series Trope]] despite [[OlderThanTheyThink predating the genre by 19 years]].

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!!Tropes in TCWOWSA include:
* TheAbridgedSeries: UrExample, and the TropeCodifier for theatrical productions. There are now equivalent shows for just about every literary oeuvre.
** In their [[http://vimeo.com/28343530 30th Anniversary Retrospective]], however, they admit that they weren't the first to come up with the idea of shortening things for humorous effect. Specifically (ZerothLawOfTropeExamples, anyone?), in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" the performance of ''Pyramis and Thisbe'' by Bottom and his friends.
** ''Theatre/ForbiddenBroadway'' also predates this by at least 5 years.
* AllThereInTheManual: The book of the show not only contains the script, but also hundreds of hysterical footnotes that make the book worth reading on its own.
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: "Shakespeare's plays have been [reimagined] on the lunar landscape, Nazi prisoner-of-war camps, and even Vancouver."
* AudienceParticipation: At the end of the first act, the actors use an audience member's program to figure out what they haven't done. At another, they recruit an audience member to play the part of Ophelia--with the rest of the audience playing the various parts of Ophelia's psyche.
* AwesomeAnachronisticApparel (inverted) / AnachronismStew: The costuming direction calls for Converse hi-tops to be worn with Shakespearean garb.
* BreadEggsMilkSquick: Adam refuses to perform dry, boring, vomitless Shakespeare.
* ButtMonkey: Adam.
* ConspiracyKitchenSink: Adam's worldview, as shown by his interpretation of "[[strike:Chernobyl]] Two Noble Kinsmen".
* CreepyCrossdresser: Accidentally invoked when the frequent costume changes finally catch up to Adam, who emerges dressed simultaneously as Claudius, Gertrude, and Ophelia.
--> Jess (as Hamlet): "Here, thou incestuous, murd'rous... [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking cross-dressing]] Dane!"
* CriticalResearchFailure: They leave Adam on his own to research Othello, and he comes to the conclusion that the "moor" referred to in the title is where you tie up a boat.
* CueCardPause: "... and Mary Arden, daughter of a Roman. ... Catholic member of the landed gentry."
* DeadpanSnarker: Jess and Daniel. Depending on the crowd, the audience can get in on it, too.
* DoNotTryThisAtHome: Invoked by the cast just before the 45-second Hamlet. Subverted when Adam suggests doing it at a friend's house instead.
* ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin: The play incorporates (or at least mentions) every play and sonnet by Creator/WilliamShakespeare.
** Also, during RomeoAndJuliet:
-->'''Friar''': Take thou this vial, and this distilled liquor drink thou off. And presently through all thy veins shall run a cold and drowsy humour.
-->'''Juliet''': O, I feel a cold and drowsy humour running through my veins.
-->'''Friar''': Told you so.
* TheExitIsThatWay: In the video version of the Hamlet performance
-->'''Hamlet''': The time is out of joint--O cursed spite, that ever I was born to exit ''right''!
-->*Starts to exit, realizes he is going stage ''left,'' and quickly reverses direction.*
* FootnoteFever: In the annotated edition, the footnotes sometimes take up more space on the page than the text itself.
* GratuitousRap: The Othello performance. Used because [[ValuesDissonance Othello is a moor.]]
** In some performances the it's played for DeliberateValuesDissonance, with one member of the troupe clearly uncomfortable with this (until he forgets); usually the same one who was embarassed about even ''attempting'' Othello due to being "melanin challenged".
** "Are you ''trying'' to piss off [[OprahWinfrey Oprah]]?!"
* HarpoDoesSomethingFunny: Numerous places in the script. Before {{Intermission}}, Daniel's stage direction is "[he] Stalls" with a footnote describing the absurd things previous productions have done to entertain the audience.
* HistoricalHilarity: "'Shakespeare invaded Poland on September 1st, 1939, thus precipitating WorldWarII.' I never knew that!"
* HurricaneOfPuns
** Even the annotations are guilty of this. Example: ''Julius Caesar'' and ''Antony and Cleopatra'' are linked with ''Theatre/{{Macbeth}}'' (with [=MacDuff=] "from my mother's womb most untimely ripped") in what the script calls the "Caesarean section" of the show.
* INeedAFreakingDrink: On the DVD, when Romeo is about to kiss Juliet (Adam), he looks down and takes another swig of poison first.
* IdiotBall: Mostly carried by Adam, but Jess picks it up from time to time as well.
* KnowNothingKnowItAll: Jess (and his successor Austin), most obviously in the "Troilus and Cressida" segment.
* LargeHam: Pretty much a requirement for all three.
* MusicalGag + MythologyGag: At least in the home video release, during the "EPILOGUE!" finish to RomeoAndJuliet, Adam plays a guitar while intoning background music to the spoken narration. The song he sings is the 'Love Theme' from Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 adaptation. The others join in at the end:
** ''"FOR ROMEO AND JULIET ARE DEAD!"''
** Some productions have been known to use "Romeo and Juliet" by DireStraits.
* MyBiologicalClockIsTicking: Ophelia in the crew's version of ''{{Hamlet}}.''
--> "Cut the crap, Hamlet! My biological clock is ticking and I want babies ''now!!''"
** Keep in mind that the above line is not actually spoken by Ophelia, but by the audience representing her inner monologue.
* NiceShoes: The cast traditionally wears Converse hi-tops. Given the sheer physicality of the show, this is as much a practical choice as it is an aesthetic one.
* NoFourthWall: Taken UpToEleven. Not only does the cast constantly address the crowd, but they also drag members onstage (willingly or not), steal their seats, sit on their laps, pretend to vomit on them, and in one (brief) case, take a member hostage.
--> "I'll kill the cameraman!"
--> "I don't care; we've got five of them."
* OneSteveLimit: Averted. The company calls multiple people "Bob" claiming it's easier for them to remember.
* ParentalIncest: In the composite comedy:
-->The fairies and the pages get into a knock down fight in the mud!
-->During which the pages' clothes get ripped off [[SweetPollyOliver revealing female genitalia!]]
-->The Duke recognises his daughters!
-->({{Beat}})
-->''[[{{Squick}} Eeeeww!]]''
* RadioDrama: The play was adapted into a six-part radio series in Britain, with episodes dealing with Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, the remainder of the tragedies, the comedies, the histories and the life of William Shakespeare. The format effectively doubled the length of the stage show and enabled the troupe to expand jokes and add new material. This included "special guests", more raps and recreations of the origins of the Capulet/Montague feud and the lost Shakespeare play "Cardenio".
* RuleOfFunny: The show is made from this.
* RuleOfThree:
-->'''Ghost of Hamlet's Father:''' Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder!
-->'''Hamlet:''' Murder!
-->'''Horatio:''' Murder!
-->'''Ghost of Hamlet's Father:''' For the serpent that did sting thy father's life now wears his crown!
-->'''Hamlet:''' My uncle!
-->'''Horatio:''' His uncle!
-->'''Ghost of Hamlet's Father:''' Let not the royal bed of Denmark become a couch for incest!
-->'''Hamlet:''' Incest!
-->'''Horatio:''' [[ComicallyMissingThePoint A]] [[CrowningMomentOfFunny couch!]]
* UsefulNotes/{{Scotland}}: Gleefully plays with every major Scottish stereotype the authors can think of.
** Lampshaded by the annotated version, which notes the lack of any lines about the engines' inability to "[[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries take any more o' this]]."
* ShownTheirWork: Underneath all the silliness is a very thorough understanding of Shakespeare's work. The show actually makes for a pretty decent introduction to the Bard.
** The script also marks which lines come more or less directly from the original Shakespeare. There are more of them than you'd think.
* SophisticatedAsHell: Actual lines from the Shakespearean plays mixed in with phrases such as "Up yours, Capulet!" and "Dude, your boob!"
* SubliminalSeduction: Just before performing Hamlet backwards, Austin says [[SarcasmMode "Be sure to listen for the Satanic messages!"]]
** [[spoiler: Frank Sinatra is God!]]
* SubvertedRhymeEveryOccasion: Played straight, then subverted in the rap.
--> Othello loved Desi like Adonis loved Venus,
--> And Desi loved Othello 'cause he had a big...sword.
--> But Iago had a plan that was clever and slick.
--> He was crafty, he was sly, he was kind of a prick.
** Some troupes (or, at the very least, one performance by one troupe) made the subversion more obvious, replacing "prick" with "penis" followed by an awkward pause.
* TakeThat: In the televised show during the composite comedy.
--> One of the shrews is elected [[UsefulNotes/HillaryRodhamClinton Senator from New York!]]
* TheDanza: Actors will generally just use their own names for the show, as the original run did.
* ThoseWackyNazis: Adam's biography of Shakespeare becomes one of Hitler after he drops his index cards.
* ThrowItIn: Both subverted and played straight. The show's conceit is that these guys are making it up as they go, and much of the "spontaneity" is actually scripted. Then again, improvisation is encouraged, and there ''is'' a ''lot'' that can go wrong, so no two performances are ever quite the same.
** Austin discourages it though when Adam and Reed try to bring a toy Godzilla into his segment about Troilus and Cressida.
* UnusualEuphemism: The annotated version makes the claim that in Elizabethan England, men commonly sharpened their penises and used them as tools (such as [[IncrediblyLamePun boning knives]]) or weapons, giving the phrase "profaners of this neighbor-stained steel" an entirely different meaning.
* VomitIndiscretionShot: Adam vomits in all his death scenes. Usually on audience members.
--> '''Adam:''' I refuse to do dry, boring, vomitless Shakespeare.
** It should be noted that he only ''pretends'' to vomit. The DVD features him dry heaving (with extremely evocative sound effects) into an audience member's hat.
* WholesomeCrossdresser: Subverted if the troupe in question [[DistaffCounterpart casts a woman as Adam's role]].
* WigDressAccent: Justified, costume changes are ridiculously short.
* YeOldeButcheredeEnglishe: Averted, surprisingly. Almost all of the dialogue is either directly from Shakespeare, or contemporary English. The few cases where they blend are played for laughs.
--> '''Romeo:''' "Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized--"
--> '''Juliet:''' " 'Butt-love'? Why would I call you 'Butt-love'?"

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