Shakespeare Did It First!
He may not have been the Trope Maker
, Trope Namer
, Trope Codifier
, or even the Ur-Example
, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he did it before you!
Whatever great invention, character or plot device you come up with, Shakespeare is always the guy who has already done it and done it better than you could ever hope to. Note that he wasn't the first
to use a lot of these conventions, however he's the
earliest writer most people know who used so many
His fans have been aware of this long before the Internet. Horace Walpole, widely recognized as the inventor of the Gothic Horror
genre, proudly admitted he borrowed most of the ingredients for the Gothic recipe from his idol.
Shakespeare was not only the first to use many a trope, but the first troper. That is, the first to comment on it
. Some examples:
- Ambition Is Evil: Julius Caesar discusses Cassius:
"Yond' Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much; such men are dangerous[...]
Such men as he be never at heart's ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves."
- Badass Beard:
"He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man;"
(Much Ado About Nothing
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: Benedick and Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing.
- Everything's Deader with Zombies: Prospero in The Tempest boasts about being able to make dead people walk:
"...graves at my command
Have waked their sleepers, oped and let 'em forth
By my so potent art."
- Eye Scream:
"Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now?"
- Fatal Flaw:
"So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them...
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
Their virtues else ? be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo?
Shall in the general censure take corruption
From that particular fault."
- Foregone Conclusion: Shakespeare coined the phrase.
"But this denoted a foregone conclusion: 'Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream."
- The Grotesque:
"Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time
Into this breathing world, scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by themó
Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
Have no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity."
- Hamming It Up:
"Nor do not saw the air too much with your hands, but suit the action to the word, the word to the action."
- I Banged Your Mom/Your Mom note :
Villain, what hast thou done? Aaron:
That which thou canst not undo. Chiron:
Thou hast undone our mother. Aaron:
Villain, I have done
thy mother. (Titus Andronicus
Y'are a dog. Apemantus:
Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog? (Timon of Athens
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall
"If this were acted upon the stage I would condemn it as an improbable fiction." Twelfth Night
) "How many ages hence shall this our lofty scene be acted over in states unborn and accents yet unknown!"
- Manly Tears: Lampshaded by Macduff in Macbeth.
- MST3K Mantra:
"Do not infest your mind with beating on
The strangeness of this business"
- Naughty Nuns in Measure for Measure
- Out, Damned Spot!:
"Out, damned spot! out, I say!"
- Pre Ass Kicking One Liner
: Turn, hell-hound, turn! (Macbeth
- Reality Is Unrealistic:
"If this were play'd upon a stage now, I could condemn it as improbable fiction." (Twelfth Night
- Refuge in Audacity:
"If we shadows have offended
Think but this, and all is mended
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear
And this weak and idle theme,
no more yielding, but a dream
[...] Give me your hands, if we be friends
and Robin shall restore amend."
' (A Midsummer Night's Dream
- Russian Reversal:
"I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."
- Show Within a Show: Many times, most notably in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
- "Shut Up" Kiss:
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Benedick and Beatrice of Much Ado About Nothing.
- Sweet Polly Oliver: The Bard had four plays that made use of this plot - As You Like It, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Twelfth Night, The Merchant of Venice, Cymbeline - long before the Trope Namer was written.
- Teen Drama: Romeo and Juliet.
- The Secret of Long Pork Pies: One Roaring Rampage of Revenge that comes with a free sample-platter is Titus Andronicus. Eat your heart out, Sweeney Todd.
- Villain Protagonist/Protagonist Journey to Villain: Macbeth. Or, Richard III if you like them blacker than black from the start.
- Wall Bang Her: Discussed in this exchange at the beginning of Romeo and Juliet:
Sampson: A dog of that house shall move me to stand: I will take the wall of any man or maid of Montague's.
Gregory: That shows thee a weak slave, for the weakest goes to the wall.
Sampson: 'Tis true, and therefore women being the weaker vessels are ever thrust to the wall: therefore I will push Montague's men from the wall, and thrust his maids to the wall.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Invoked Trope in the Prologue of Henry V, where the Chorus admits that it would be nigh impossible to recreate a field of battle full of soldeirs and horses, but asks the audience to play along anyway.
Quite possibly the ultimate proof of the truth of this law: Shakespeare has an example of a Sock Puppet
in Julius Caesar
. Yes, a character uses a made-up persona
in a play set in ancient Rome and written in Elizabethan England. It's also used as an early example of Astroturfing
For virtually all other professions, an appropriate substitution would be 'Leonardo da Vinci did it first'. Seriously, look the guy up. He did just about everything you can do except being an accomplished author or famous rock star, and that was just because getting a decent scribe to take down his lengthy fictional masterpieces for him would have been quite expensive in 15th-Century Italy.
Dedicated in memory of TV Tropes founder William Shakespeare, who started every page on this site