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Referenced By / William Shakespeare
aka: Shout Out To Shakespeare

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"Brush up your Shakespeare
Start quoting him now
Brush up your Shakespeare
And the women you will wow!"

Using a phrase or character from Shakespeare's work. Often a Literary Allusion Title.

This trope has been done to death, yet it continues to thrive. For one thing, Shakespeare wrote some really good lines. For another, reaching back to the Western past keeps Western authors grounded and helps maintain a cultural vocabulary for sharing ideas. It could be argued that a good deal of the English language is a shout out to Shakespeare, considering the amount of idioms and coinages he's responsible for. There's also the simple fact that Shakespeare's words and works have become so ingrained within Western culture that many creators may end up quoting and referencing it without even realising that they're doing so.

Besides naming things after lines from Shakespeare, books may begin with a quote by Shakespeare or some other source that lends an aura of erudition; another common source of these is the Bible. Or they might just use him as a character.

Good Night, Sweet Prince and Alas, Poor Yorick are subtropes. When an entire work is adapted from a Shakespearean source, see The Bard on Board. See also Literary Allusion Title.William Shakespeare and The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples. For characters speaking in quotes of other authors or sources, see Speaks in Shout-Outs.

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    All's Well That Ends Well 
  • Helen B. Narbon is named after Helen de Narbon, who likewise is the daughter of a notable doctor and has inherited their skills. The Shakespearean version isn't a Mad Scientist, though.

     Antony and Cleopatra 
  • In "The Duchess and the Devil" from Horatio Hornblower, delirious Archie quotes an extract from Antony and Cleopatra. He later says to Horatio that his friend Duchess may be Cleopatra or Gertrude, Lady Macbeth, Beatrice, but she's no Duchess. She's an actress named Katherine Cobham.

    The Comedy Of Errors 
  • The terminal text in the Marathon Infinity secret level "Two for the Price of One" is lifted verbatim from Dromio of Ephesus' speech in Act 4, Scene 4.

  • Succession: Logan Roy's toady Frank recites an apropos line from Coriolanus, which confuses Logan. When Frank explains the reference, Logan rolls his eyes and makes a derogatory comment about Frank having a library card. This is one of many indications that the Roys, in spite of being media and entertainment moguls, are utterly disdainful of art.

     Henry IV Part 1 

     Henry IV Part 2 
  • In Icebound the Judge says "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" to Ben after Ben is given sole control of the Jordan family estate.
  • Men at Arms borrows the gag of the former herald (or town crier, in this case) with No Indoor Voice signing on to a militia.
  • In Only Angels Have Wings, the camp doctor tells Geoff (in Spanish), "A man can only die but once."
  • In Spider-Man: Far From Home, Nick Fury says "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown" after giving E.D.I.T.H. to Peter Parker. He then adds that Tony Stark thought that Peter wouldn't get the reference because it wasn't from Star Wars.

     Henry VI Part 2 

  • The Eagles' song "Get Over It" contains the lyric, "The more I think about it, old Billy was right/Let's kill all the lawyers, kill them tonight".

    Richard II 
  • Richard II is about a rather foolish king, whose final soliloquy contains the line "I wasted time, and now doth time waste me."

Comic Books


  • The Scarlet Pimpernel has Sir Percy quoting John of Gaunt's "this blessed plot/ this earth, this realm, this England" speech before going before Chauvelin's firing squad.


  • The Muse song "Knights of Cydonia" contains the lyrics:
    How can we win / when fools can be kings?/ Don't waste your time/ or time will waste you.

Western Animation

  • In the Total Drama story, Legacy, one chapter begins with the quote,
    For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
    And tell sad stories of the deaths of kings;
    Some deposed, some slain in war...

    Richard III 
  • All the Roofs of Uncertainty: Jason quotes Shakespeare's Richard III in chapter 10.
    "My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, and every tongue brings forth a several tale, and every tale condemns me for a villain".
  • Once when Stephen Colbert substituted for Jon Stewart on The Daily Show he introduced the show;
    "I'm sitting in for Jon Stewart, and here's the thing...Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous, by drunken prophecies, libels and dreams, to set Comedy Central and Jon Stewart in deadly hate, the one against the other; and if Comedy Central be as true and just as I am subtle, false, and treacherous, this day should Jon Stewart closely be mewed up."
  • Freaked has Ricky, an actor who becomes half-deformed into a "freak," recites the "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, drawing a parallel between Richard's and his own deformity. Ricky's deformities include a pronounced and hunched shoulder.
  • The Goodbye Girl: Elliot Garfield is forced by his director to play Richard III as if he were Camp Gay, which becomes Stylistic Suck.
    Elliot: [drunkenly reading one of his bad reviews] "Elliot Garfield researched Richard III, and discovered him to be England's first, badly dressed, interior decorator!"
  • Jesus of Montreal: While Father Leclerc is talking to Daniel about the plays he's seen, he recites, "Now is the winter of our discontent."
  • Reality Bites: Troy answers the phone at one point by saying, "Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent."

    The Sonnets 
  • One young man in Dead Poets Society tries to impress a girl by reciting Sonnet 18. ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?...") He goes on to claim he wrote it...
  • Doctor Who contained a veiled reference to Sonnet 57 (among many, many less subtle references, natch) in the episode featuring the Bard himself.
    The Doctor: Come on! We can have a good flirt later.
    Shakespeare: Is that a promise, Doctor?
    The Doctor: Oh, fifty-seven academics just punched the air.
  • Proust's masterpiece In Search of Lost Time has been published in English under the title Remembrance of Things Past, a line from Sonnet 30. ("When to the sessions of sweet silent thought...")
  • The Marathon Infinity level "Poor Yorick" (itself a Shakespeare reference) has a secret terminal that consists entirely of the text from Sonnet No. 131.
  • In an episode of My So-Called Life, Mr. Katimsky's class discusses Sonnet #130 (the one that begins, "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"), which leads both Brian and Jordan to make a realization about Angela.
    • The name of Sting's album, "...Nothing Like the Sun", is derived from the first line of that same sonnet, and that line is also borrowed in the song "Sister Moon" (which doubles as an Album Title Drop).note 
  • Kate Wilhelm's Hugo-winning novel Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, whose title is taken from Sonnet 73. ("That time of year thou mayest in me behold...")
  • In In a Lonely Place, the drunken Classically-Trained Extra who stumbles down the stairs in Steele's apartment quotes from Shakespeare's Sonnet 29.
  • The opening line of Sonnet 18 is referenced in Mort, which mentions that its titular character's honesty would never make him a poet, because if he ever compared someone to a summer's day, he would mention which day it was and whether or not it was raining.

    Twelfth Night 

See also Twelfth Night Adventure.

  • "If music be the food of love, play on" is quoted by Dr. Phibes in Dr. Phibes Rises Again.
  • "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." A very frequently parodied line, with "greatness" replaced with some other quality. Probably the most famous example is from Catch-22: "Some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them."
  • Emilie Autumn's "O Mistress Mine" is based on a song from this play, and "Girls! Girls! Girls!" contains a variation on the "Some are born great..." line.
  • Thank You, Jeeves has Bertie trying to quote the "patience on a monument" speech, only to break down when he gets to the word "damask", which Jeeves both supplies and defines.
  • The Neverending Story by Michael Ende quotes the Twelfth Night song that begins:
    When that I was and a little tiny boy
    With hey, ho, the wind and the rain
  • "There is no darkness but ignorance" is quoted in Pop Team Epic as the official website's substitute for a premise.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy misquotes or paraphrases Shakespeare by remarking "if poetry be the food of love"...
  • In Little Women (2019), Professor Bhaer goes to a performance of the play, and he notices Jo watching from the nosebleed seats.

    The Winter's Tale 
  • The Jeeves and Wooster story "Indian Summer of an Uncle" ends with Bertie and Jeeves taking off to avoid the wrath of Aunt Agatha, as Bertie utters the famous "Exit, Pursued by a Bear" beloved of schoolboys everywhere.
  • Phineas and Ferb invent Hockey Z-9, and at one point, their musical accompaniment exits, pursued by a (polar) bear.
  • Young Justice features a character named Perdita, whom Word of God (self-described "Shakespeare nut" Greg Weisman) confirms is a shout-out.

Anime & Manga

Comic Books

  • Batman; Being a narcissist who loves showing off how smart he is - or how much he perceives himself to be - the Penguin tends to quote from the Bard all the time in the comics and some animated adaptations. For instance, in one story from 1997:
    Penguin: "And lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds". Shakespeare's Sonnet 94, don't you just love that Bard?
    Batman: Not when he's quoted by a ham like you, Cobblepot.
    Penguin: Ham? I'll have you know I studied Shakespeare at - (Cut off as Batman belts him.)
  • Kill Shakespeare is a comic based around all Shakespeare characters and stories... there's no place to start.
  • Robin: As literature turns out to be Tim's worst class, because he hates reading plays which means he never quite gives enough of his very limited time to doing the homework, he ends up having to go to a "Shakespeare in the Park" production for extra credit. Later on he helps an acquaintance understand homework by quoting a bit of the Bard's poetry, which he appreciates far more than reading plays.
  • The Simpsons story "Bard Boiled" revolves around parodies of Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Henry V, Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Richard III, Titus Andronicus, and King Lear.

Comic Strips

  • In FoxTrot, Jason and Marcus begin an attack on Paige with a yell of "Cry havoc, and let slip the bugs of war!" (Julius Caesar III.i) Paige corrects them, saying "It's 'dogs',"... and then they each squirt a bug at her. Jason explains that "Dogs wouldn't fit in our squirt guns." Marcus asks, "Did we shoot two bees, or not two bees?"


  • Fanfic Much Ado About Shakespeare: Love's Labours Won has bucketloads and bucketloads of Shakespeare's quotes, puns and allusions. The title itself refers to two Shakespeare's plays and Archie quotes so many of Shakespeare's plays and poems which he knows by heart. Several sonnets appear in full. Horatio and Archie go to a bookseller's and read lines. Horatio buys a copy of sonnets as an apology gift for Archie. Basically this fic is one large appreciation of the Bard's genius and especially Archie's love for his work. And also the fandom's appreciation of this character trait of Archie's. He paraphrases Shakespeare in canon, too, but in fandom he's a major bookworm, major theatre geek and Shakespeare's most devoted admirer. This fic runs with that idea.


  • Quite a lot in Coraline. The poster in the old ladies' apartment reads "King Leer". The boy in the uniforms store yelled "My kingdom for a horse!". Several lines from Hamlet were quoted during the theater scene. And to top it off, Oregon natives will recognize the city the titular character's family moved to as Ashland, Oregon, where the Shakespeare Festival is held annually.
  • Dancin': It's On!: The hotel is attended by a receptionist who makes puns out of Shakespeare quotes. He says "2B or not 2B" to a patron staying in a suite numbered 2B, and later says "wherefore art thou Romeo" while searching for a patron named Romeo in the guestbook.
  • In Jesus of Montreal, Rene, while narrating a documentary on outer space, quotes "the winter of our discontent" speech from Richard III, and then later, while playing Pilate in the passion play he helps put on, quotes from Hamlet, specifically the "To be or not to be" speech.
  • In one of the nightmare sequences in the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), Nancy's class is analyzing Julius Caesar. After Nancy starts seeing a corpse talk to her, one of the students quotes a line from Hamlet:
    "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
  • In the movie Renaissance Man, Danny DeVito's character is assigned to teach a class of undereducated students on an Army base. To that end, he takes the novel approach of using the various works of Shakespeare to kick-start their minds.
  • Just about every other line in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, especially if it's said by General Chang.
    • Its very title is from Hamlet: "[D]eath—the undiscovered country, from whose bourne/No traveler returns". (III.i)
    • Hamlet
    • Henry IV, Part II
      • Chang: We have not heard the chimes at midnight?
    • Henry V
      • Chang: Once more unto the breach, dear friends.
      • Chang: The game's afoot.
    • Julius Caesar
      • Chang: Cry havoc! And let slip the dogs of war!
      • Chang: I am constant as the northern star.note 
    • The Merchant of Venice
      • Chang: Tickle us, do we not laugh? Prick us, do we not bleed? Wrong us, shall we not revenge?
    • Richard II
      • Chang: Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the deaths of kings.
    • Romeo and Juliet
      • Chang: Parting is such sweet sorrow.
    • The Tempest
      • Chang: Our revels now are ended.
  • Theatre of Blood. Giftedly Bad actor Edward Lionheart becomes a Serial Killer and disposes of the critics who demolished his reputation via murders that are inspired by the Bard's tragedies (and he's quoted liberally throughout). In order: Julius Caesar (stabbed 22 times with knives), Troilus and Cressida (speared to death and dragged behind a horse), Cymbeline (decapitated while sleeping), The Merchant of Venice (heart cut out, serving as a "pound of flesh" here), Richard III (drowned in a barrel of wine), Romeo and Juliet (sword fight), Othello (murder of the guy's wife by himself, believing her to be unfaithful), Henry VI Part 1 (burning, via electrocution here), Titus Andronicus (being fed his "children" - his dogs - in a pie, force-fed till death) and King Lear (blinded with with red-hot daggers).


Live-Action TV

  • Blackadder did this to varying extents throughout its seasons.
    • The original series had a lot of Shakespearean references, particularly to Richard III, given its Alternate History premise in which far from being killed, one of the "Princes in the Tower" grew up to be Richard IV, a psychotic Boisterous Bruiser (BRIANBLESSED). The end credits even list "Additional dialogue — William Shakespeare".
      • In more detail: the first episode was basically the last act of Richard III crossed with Macbeth, complete with three witches whose names in the shooting script are those of the princesses from King Lear. Some of the more grandiose characters quote directly from Henry V and Julius Caesar. (The account of the King's charge into Constantinople later in the series echoes Coriolanus, but that may be a coincidence.)
    • The second series was a Retool, but one episode ("Bells") had Blackadder Jumping the Gender Barrier and falling in love with "Bob" (thus referencing Twelfth Night), and since Bob was actually named Kate, they used the line "Kiss me, Kate." In one episode Percy says "Let us sit upon the carpet and tell sad stories", (a paraphrase of John of Gaunt in Richard II: "For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings") and in the finale, Melchett says "Like private parts to the gods are we, they play with us for their sport" (a paraphrase of the Earl of Gloucester in King Lear: "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport.") The episode "Money" loosely parallels the plot of The Merchant of Venice, and includes a mad beggar who has wandered out of King Lear and quotes from it incessantly. The character of Nursie is a pretty clear tribute to Romeo and Juliet; then there are the names of several unseen characters (Romeo the Builder, Uncle Osric, etc.).
    • The third season had an episode involving the Scottish Play and its related superstitions.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • Three of the episode titles are "Perchance to Dream", "The Purple Testament" and "A Quality of Mercy"; Rod Serling even quotes Portia's words to Shylock at the end of the latter episode ("The quality of mercy is not strained, / It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven / Upon the place beneath: it is thrice blessed, / It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes"; The Merchant of Venice, IV.i).
    • A running joke in "The Bard" (in which the hack would be TV writer Julius Moomer brings Shakespeare to life and puts him to work writing for television) has Shakespeare quoting his plays, title and verse. At one point the Bard says, "To be or not to be - that is...." looks confused, and then exits.
  • In the first episode of Westworld the, apparently malfunctioning, Peter Abernathy threatens Ford and Bernard saying: "By most mechanical and dirty hand I will have such revenges on you both. What they are yet I know not, but they will be the terrors of the earth." before he is shut down. The first sentence is taken from a scene in Henry IV where Pistol tells Fallstaff to take revenge for the imprisonment of Doll, a prostitute he loves. The second is King Lear rebuking his daughters.
    • The phrase that seems to trigger sentience in the hosts is "these violent delights have violent ends" from Romeo and Juliet.
  • Also from Whose Line, a suggestion from "Scenes from a Hat" involves "Outtakes from the Hillbilly National Theater's Shakespeare Festival":
    Greg: "Juliet, you get down here! I love you and you're my cousin, get on down here!"
    Colin: "Oh, that this too too solid flesh would squeal like a pig!"
    Wayne: "Yea, the two revenuers from Verona approacheth... read a book, people!"
    Greg: (to Wayne) "Look, Othello, we don't mind y'all movin' here, I just don't want you datin' my sister no more!"
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, one of the main characters goes by the Stage Name Titus Andromedon, and one of his acting rivals is Coriolanus Burt.


  • In Ruddigore, Robin quotes "Alas, poor ghost!" from Hamlet. Also, his faithful servant Adam is named after a similar character in As You Like It.

Video Games

  • The Monkey Island series has got plenty of them, and I mean PLENTY:
    • In The Secret of Monkey Island, Stan S. Stanman quotes Polonius in saying, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" (Hamlet I.iii).
    • In Monkey Island 2, if the player has Guybrush examine the skull in his inventory, he says, "Alas, poor Dad", in a spoof of Hamlet (V.i).
    • In The Curse of Monkey Island, a character decides to rewrite various Shakespeare plays to better suit the local pirates' tastes, mangling not only famous Shakespeare quotations but entire plotlines, resulting in lines such as "Wherefore art thou treasure, Romeo?", "Spot, ye blasted dog, get out of me bloomin' garbage! Out, damned spot!" and "Alas, poor Yorick, I knew him...and his two pals!", the latter spoken while juggling three skulls (one of them being Murray, of course).
      • Speaking of Murray, if the player tries having Guybrush use him anywhere else, he'll say, "Alas, I can't use Murray with that" (another spoof of Hamlet (V.i)).
    • Tales of Monkey Island has a few of the shout-outs to Shakespeare:
      • At the beginning of the intro to Chapter 2, the Voodoo Lady quotes England's deposed king Edward IV's words to Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (a.k.a. just Warwick), before the former is taken captive in Henry VI Part 3: "What fates impose, that men must needs abide; / It boots not to resist both wind and tide" (IV.iii). Only her subtitle got it right ("needs"), while her voice got it wrong ("need").
      • In Chapter 4, if the player has Guybrush use one of the severed legs on the altar without dipping it in sugar water, he will quote a few lines in a spoof of "Alas, poor Yorick" from Hamlet (V.i) (this is done in the PS3 version in order to net the player a "Guybrush Goes Classy" silver trophy).
      • Speaking of PS3 trophies, there are a few trophies that are shout-outs too ("What's in a Name?" from the balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet (II.ii), and "Adieu, Adieu..." which is a reference to Hamlet's father's written line, "Adieu, adieu, remember me," from Hamlet (I.v)).
      • In Chapter 5, Morgan stabs LeChuck and calls him a "bunch-backed toad", which is taken from the line from Richard III, in which Queen Margaret, widow of King Henry VI, curses Queen Elizabeth (wife of King Edward IV) with: "The day will come that thou shalt wish for me / To help thee curse that poisonous bunch-backed toad" (I.iii).

Web Comics

Western Animation

  • Dan Vs. "Ye Olde Shakespeare Dinner Theatre" is essentially made of Shakespeare quotes, which makes sense, since Dan's beef is with the terrible acting at a Shakespeare-themed dinner theater. Further, the plot references the Bard multiple times: for example, Dan takes out one of the actors by pouring soda in his ear, referencing the play-within-a-play from Hamlet. Then he defeats another actor by gluing a donkey mask onto his face, referencing A Midsummer Night's Dream. And the trio of tech ladies working at the theatre seem to be modeled after the witches from Macbeth.
  • 1949 Looney Tunes cartoon A Ham in a Role features a cartoon dog who works for Looney Tunes but really wants to do Shakespeare. The dog even has a portrait of Shakespeare on his wall! Over the course of the cartoon the dog recites from Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Richard III, and Julius Caesar.
  • The Rupert episode "Rupert and Algy's Misadventure" had a scene where Algy Pug tried to stall for time by quoting various works by Shakespeare, including Hamlet and Richard III.
  • An episode of The Simpsons ("Funeral for a Fiend"), when Sideshow Bob attempts to blow the Simpson family up:
    Sideshow Bob: Let's not tarry. As Shakespeare said, "If it were done—when 'tis done—then 'twere best / It were done quickly." Power on! [turns on the laptop as a detonator and laughs maniacally] This time I've made no mistakes.
    Lisa: Actually, you made one. What Shakespeare really said was, "'twere well / It were done quickly."
    Sideshow Bob: Yes, I'm sure you've studied the immortal bard extensively under your "Miss Hoover." [leaves and shuts the door]
    Lisa: Macbeth, Act I, Scene vii. Look it up.
    Sideshow Bob: [reenters the room] I shall! [takes the laptop] Come on, Wikipedia. Load, you unwieldy behemoth!
    [the laptop explodes, and Bob falls to the ground]
    Sideshow Bob: "Hoist on his own petard."
    Lisa: [corrects him again] It's "Hoist with his own petard".
    Sideshow Bob: Oh, get a life!


Real Life

Alternative Title(s): Shout Out To Shakespeare, To Shakespeare