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Shakespeare Expies in Fiction

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
Hodor2 on Nov 14th 2017 at 10:06:48 AM
Last Edited By:
Arivne on Feb 21st 2018 at 6:54:37 AM
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

AKA The Bard By Any Other Name. This came to me after reading an entry on No Celebrities Were Harmed, and I do see that a few of the examples I was thinking of are listed on Shakespeare in Fiction. However, with that caveat, I would suggest this as something to add under Fountain of Expies...

Shakespeare is obviously a celebrated and well known author, leading to a number of references to his writings in countless works. However, some works, typically Medieval European Fantasy or fantasy works set in a Renaissance or Baroque analogue, go a step further by having an in-universe writer obviously modeled after Shakespeare. Besides being referenced/read by characters, characters will also often attend or act in one of this writer's plays, allowing for an Affectionate Parody of Shakespeare with lots of Stylistic Suck and lampshading of dramatic conventions associated with Shakespeare (i.e. characters giving long speeches while dying; men playing female roles, including female roles disguised as men; and the tendency of tragedies to end with the deaths of nearly the entire cast). On occasion, the Shakespeare analogue will even be a character in the story. Because of some evidence that Shakespeare may have acted in some of his own plays, including according to legend, the Player King in Hamlet, some Shakespeare expies that appear will likewise be (invariably hammy) lead actors in their own plays.

Besides Shakespeare's popularity, one likely reason for the frequent creation of in-universe equivalents is that Shakespeare's own plays often had meta-theatrical elements (i.e. The Tempest, Henry V, and As You Like It), and also sometimes included play-within-a-play scenes containing Self-Parody (i.e. The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Hamlet). which also likely explains the large number of works involving a play-within-a-play where the characters perform Shakespeare (i.e. Kiss Me Kate and The Dresser).

Not to Be Confused with The Bard on Board, which is about works that borrow the basic plot line of one of Shakespeare's plays.


Anime and Manga

Fan Fiction


  • In the Discworld novel Wyrd Sisters, one of the characters is the dwarf playwright Hwel (a Welsh name that is pronounced like "Will"), who is hired to put on a Macbeth-like play as propaganda by the Evil Prince usurper-to-the-throne.
  • In the Gentleman Bastard books, Genius Bruiser Jean is a big fan of and likes to quote an in-universe playwright and poet named Lucarno. While the excerpts we get aren't direct quotes from Shakespeare, the general style is very Shakespearean, as are the titles of his plays, and he's obviously used in-story in part because of the author, Scott Lynch's love of Shakespeare.. In the second novel, Red Seas Under Red Skies, Jean's romance with noblewoman turned pirate Ezri, who is also a fan, involves a lot of quoting of Lucarno in their flirtations. Also in the book, Jean has an extended debate with a Wicked Cultured pirate, who is a fan of another playwright (probably an analogue of Marlowe or Jonson), who he praises for edifying and erudite political messages, and who scorns Lucarno for his frequent bawdry and lowbrow appeal. In the third novel, Republic Of Thieves, there's a flashback section where the characters acted in one of Lucarno's plays as con artist training, allowing Lynch to write extensive "excerpts" from a Shakespeare pastiche.
  • The K. J. Parker story "Told By An Idiot" is a rare instance of this being done without a secondary world setting, with the central joke of the story being that while never mentioned, Shakespeare is obviously lurking like a ghost throughout. The story is narrated by an unnamed Burbage-like theatre producer in Elizabethan England who is Born Lucky and has what he believes is a good nose for what sells. One of the playwrights he buys plays from is a Master Allardyce, whose plays evidently contain a number of Shakespeare quotes and seem to be similar plotwise, even if for instance, they involve different English Kings than those of Shakespeare. In all cases, the narrator has a It Will Never Catch On response to Allardyce's work, especially the play about a man who can't make up his mind.
  • In one scene in Swordspoint, the main characters attend a Shakespeare-like play (note, I haven't read the book, so don't know if the play or its writer are named), and mock it for features like characters giving long speeches while dying.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, while Arya Stark is in the City of Canals, Braavos, she hears of Shakespeare-like plays being performed (unlike the medieval Westeros, which only has bards and mummers, Braavos is in the Renaissance and has playwrights), and later performs in one herself, titled "The Blood Hand", written by Phario Forel, known as the "bloodiest quill of all of Braavos". performed by the troop of a guy named Izembarro. The play gives an in-universe Historical Villain Upgrade to Tyrion Lannister, who is framed as a Richard III-style Evil Cripple murderous schemer. Besides the opportunity to give a Shout-Out to Shakespeare, there's an irony obvious to the audience but not the characters, in that while the play gives an exaggeratedly evil version of Tyrion, especially in terms of the real events it retells, at this same point in time, the actual Tyrion Lannister has started to become a lot like the fake evil version of him, due to a large dose of Then Let Me Be Evil.
  • Arcia Chronicles feature an Expy of Shakespeare, though it's not a very favorable portrayal: more like a Take That! for his work on Richard III, since Richard III's expy is one of the good guys in the story.

Live Action Television


  • In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, the eponymous characters have a lot of interaction with the Player (King) that Hamlet hires, and Stoppard's play clearly uses him as part of its overall parody of Hamlet specifically, as well as Shakespeare generally, and in some productions (i.e. the 2017 Old Vic production with Daniel Radcliffe), he looks like a very seedy William Shakespeare). Shakespeare's use of of male actors to play female characters as well as his plays' frequent Ho Yay is represented by the Player's use of Alfred, a young actor who he frequently sexually harasses. Not only does Alfred function as both Ms. Fanservice and Mr. Fanservice in the Player's plays, but the Player prostitutes him to earn extra funds. Additionally, Stoppard satirizes the violent nature of Shakespeare's tragedies with a quote from the Player about the type of plays his troop performs (which overlooks the fact that Shakespeare wrote a lot of comedies and romances that all had happy endings):

"We're more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can't give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They're all blood, you see.

Feedback: 13 replies

Nov 14th 2017 at 10:37:07 AM

^ Yes, please.

@OP: You can move over the Arcia Chronicles example from Shakespeare In Fiction to here, since it's about an expy of the guy, not him directly.

Nov 14th 2017 at 11:33:56 AM

Not To Be Confused With The Bard On Board, which is about works that borrow the basic plot line of one of Shakespeare's plays.

Nov 14th 2017 at 11:35:18 AM

William Fakespeare is an awesome name, but can we have William Shexpyre as a redirect?

Nov 14th 2017 at 11:45:04 AM

I love William Fakespeare- clever and straightforward- and went ahead and changed the name. Also added additional example(s). Going to try to fix some of the typos, which I noticed. Appreciate the feedback.

Nov 14th 2017 at 6:21:10 PM

I love the name. Hat for it.

Nov 14th 2017 at 8:59:10 PM

I think the Game of Thrones example can be culled a bit; focus on the playwright Izembarro and not the play itself. This is a subtrope of No Historical Figures Were Harmed, not Fountain Of Expies, and the pothole to No Celebrities Were Harmed in the description ("will occasionally act in his own plays") should be linked to that.

Nov 14th 2017 at 9:02:36 PM

Good point on both counts. Will fix those things shortly.

Jan 16th 2018 at 9:02:06 AM

Team Fortress 2 has Shakespearicles, the strongest writer who ever lived, along with inventing the stage play, America, the two-story building, and the rocket launcher (to get to the second story, as he never mastered the concept of stairs).

Feb 21st 2018 at 3:18:18 AM

  • Corrected spelling (assoicated, thusfar).
  • Examples section
    • Corrected punctuation (added periods at the ends of sentences and commas).
    • Capitalized (tv).

Feb 21st 2018 at 6:55:28 AM

In Final Fantasy IX, the play that the main character is performing at the start of the game, 'I Want to Be Your Canary', is an obvious parallel to Romeo and Juliet The play is credited to a Lord Avon, as in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace. Also, one of the minor characters in the game is named Puck. Additionally, in the original Japanese, the king, played by Baku, was named Theatre/King Lear.