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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 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 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".

    King Lear 
  • As if "I Am The Walrus" wasn't bizarre enough, at the end part of a BBC radio production of King Lear was mixed in live. The part they got was Act 4, Scene 6, from Oswald's Final Speech to Edgar saying, "Sit you down, father; rest you."
  • In the first episode of Garth Marenghis Darkplace, a title card appears (in the middle of a scene), reading "This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen." It's actually somewhat appropriate, which is immediately ruined by the fact it cites King Lear, p46 rather than an act and scene, demonstrating just how much of a hack writer Garth Marenghi is.
  • In The Lost World, the T-rex attacks a San Diego video store, in which a poster for a King Lear movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger can be briefly glimpsed.
  • In the graphic novel Preacher, protagonist Jesse Custer greets a storm with a cry of "blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage! Blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes!" and a sheepish admission of "always wanted to do that".
  • President Bartlet on The West Wing has three daughters, but it's the middle one, Ellie, with whom he has the difficult relationship. In the episode named after her, the Surgeon General says in an Internet chat that generally speaking marijuana isn't worse for you than cigarettes, and the White House is planning to fire her when Ellie (a medical student herself) sticks her oar in by telling the press her father would never fire a doctor for giving accurate if impolitic medical information to the public. Bartlet has a fight with her, assuming she did it just to give him a hard time and demanding to know why she isn't always on his side like her sisters. Later, reflecting, he mentions King Lear and says that, after all, it was actually a nice thing she said about him.
    • The West Wing borrows a lot from King Lear, especially in the earlier seasons. Leo takes the Earl of Kent's role (Bartlet's oldest friend, more pragmatic where Bartlet is idealistic), Charlie is the Fool (younger and less educated than other characters but wise, father-son relationship with Bartlet), the Vice President is Edmund (hungry for power that he feels he is owed, somthing of a schemer).
  • In The Wheel of Time, one character is described as "a king in every inch of him."
  • Scott Keith titled his rant about WWE's decline in the early 1990s "The King Lear Rant".

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

    Titus Andronicus 

    Twelfth Night 
  • "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"...

    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.

  • In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the Duke's and King's acts are basically mashups of half-remembered lines from Shakespeare plays.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • In Blackout/All Clear by Connie Willis, Polly Churchill chooses all her aliases from Shakespeare, and she falls in with a famous Shakespearean actor who constantly speaks in allusions to the Bard.
  • 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.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • One of the Dragaera books explains that Paarfli's verbose and anachronistic writing style is borrowed from the style of the popular play Redwreath and Goldstar Have Traveled to Deathsgate. This page, lists several other Shakespearean allusions as well as many allusions to other works.
  • The villains of The Father Luke Wolfe Trilogy all have motivations similar to those of a Shakespeare villain; the play featuring that villain is mentioned throughout the novel in Father Wolfe's class discussions. The specific connections are: Dr. Brandt and Claudius, Allie Carpenter and Iago, and Colonel Stone and Brutus.
  • 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 out squirt guns." Marcus asks, "Did we shoot two bees, or not two bees?"
  • 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.
  • In The Hunger Games, Katniss remembers a boy who was eliminated from one edition of the games for cannibalism. His name? Titus. There are some other minor characters with names from Shakespeare—Cressida comes to mind, for one and Lavinia, who has no tongue.
  • 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.
  • Kill Shakespeare is a comic based around all Shakespeare characters and stories... there's no place to start.
  • 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).
  • Otome wa Boku ni Koishiteru is a gender flipped Twelfth Night Adventure (right down to the most powerful cast member getting the Wholesome Crossdresser) that quotes Hamlet ("To be, or not to be" in Japanese) and has Romeo and Juliet as the class play.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • Vorkosigan Saga: Miles Vorkosigan frequently quotes from Shakespeare, especially but not exclusively Richard III — like Shakespeare's Richard, Miles is a physically deformed smooth talker with a possible but dubious claim on the throne (although a good guy).
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 takes it Up to Eleven.
  • There is a Professional Wrestling organization called Renaissance Rumble, who perform Shakespeare-themed events and their Tagline is "No Holds Bard."
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): William Shakespeare]]:
    • 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 real life, the moons of Uranus include Miranda, Caliban, Sycorax, Prospero, Setebos, Stephano, Trinculo, Francisco, Ferdinand, Titania, Oberon, Puck, Cordelia, Ophelia, Bianca, Cressida, Desdemona, Juliet, Mab, Portia, Rosalind, Margaret Perdita, and Cupid. In fact, according to Wikipedia, Ariel was one of the few moons of Uranus that wasn't initially named after a Shakespeare character—the first four were Titania and Oberon (after A Midsummer Night's Dream) and Ariel and Umbriel (after Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock). It just so happened that when they started finding more moons, Pope only got one more shout-out (Belinda) and Shakespeare got a couple dozen or so, with The Tempest alone receiving nine, ten if you include Ariel as a Tempest shout-out as well.

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


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