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YMMV / William Shakespeare

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  • Complete Monster: William Shakespeare has produced timeless works with quite the incredible and diverse output. From some of his plays have come villains who are impressive in their depravity centuries later.
    • Othello: Honest Iago is one of the most famous examples of this trope in English Literature. A bitter Venetian officer who resents the promotion of another man over him by his commander, the Moor Othello, Iago schemes for revenge by ingratiating himself with Othello and driving him to madness with insinuations his beloved wife Desdemona is having an affair with the officer Cassio. Iago undermines Othello while acting as his friend. Iago murders his accomplice and even his own wife to cover for himself, and at the end, convinces Othello to murder Desdemona. At the end, Iago displays no remorse and refuses to speak one word more in his whole life. Through the play, Iago goes through various motives for his evil: racism, envy, suspicion Othello is sleeping with his own wife... but at the end he simply concludes there is no motive. He simply enjoys this.
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    • Richard III is one of the most famous examples of a Historical Villain Upgrade in English drama. Richard informs us early on that he is determined to prove a villain and ruin the day for everyone else. To that end, he seduces Anne Neville, whose noble husband he himself murdered, with every intent of discarding her later. He has his brother George, Duke of Clarence, sent to the Tower of London and murdered, drives his older brother King Edward IV into an early grave and has Edward's two young sons imprisoned in the Tower of London, before having them murdered. He poisons Anne herself, and even begins having his allies killed. On the night before his battle with Henry Tudor, he is visited by the spirits of his victims, who tell him to despair and die. Richard is left alone, deserted by all, and at the end, he admits that even he has nothing but hatred for himself.
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  • Growing the Beard: Believe it or not, even the Bard had to grow into his talents, and his earliest works can be very spotty. Most scholars would agree he didn't really hit his stride as a playwright till somewhere around the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet, which was something like his eleventh play! ("Something like" because, owing to the patchy nature of early-modern record-keeping, we can't be absolutely certain when Shakespeare wrote anything.)
  • Missing Episode: Records indicate that Shakespeare wrote plays entitled The History of Cardenio and Love Labour's Won (which is probably a sequel or something along those lines to Love's Labour's Lost). Unfortunately, no copies of them are known to exist.
    • An 18th-century play called Double Falsehood is thought to be a rewrite of Cardenio (it has the same plot as the Cardenio episode in Don Quixote only with the names changed) and was included in the Arden Shakespeare series in 2010. Arden credited the work to Shakespeare, John Fletcher (who appears to have collaborated with Shakespeare on the play or rewrote the play from Shakespeare's original script), and eighteenth-century dramatist and editor Lewis Theobald. Theobald claimed to have adapted the text from a Restoration-era manuscript which was at least based on the Shakespeare/Fletcher original (Restoration productions of Shakespeare were heavily adapted for contemporary tastes and theatrical practices) but which was later destroyed in a fire. Understandably, people at the time doubted this, and that was largely that until the 2010s, by which time computer-based lexical analysis and interest in Shakespeare's collaborative work led scholars to revisit Theobald's claims and determine that he may have been telling the truth. While the surviving text of The Double Falsehood is probably an adaptation of an adaptation, it may well have its origins in Shakespeare.
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    • Love's Labour's Won is sometimes argued to have been an alternate title to an extant play (following the example of Twelfth Night, or What You Will) — the most frequently suggested candidates are The Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing, as they are not mentioned in the 1598 pamphlet that is the only evidence that Love's Labour's Won existed, were probably written before 1598, and could theoretically be described by the title. The Royal Shakespeare Company staged Much Ado under that title in 2014, alongside Love's Labour's Lost with the same cast. However, Love's Labour's Lost does end with an obvious Sequel Hook so any attempt to connect it to an existing play is purely conjectural.
  • Older Than They Think: On account of being the most prolific and most popular playwright of his generation, and one who in succeeding centuries became the most influential writer on the English language, many audiences coming to Shakespeare credit him with far more than his already considerable achievements:
    • Contrary to Anonymous and others say, Shakespeare was not the first to write drama in blank verse. That honor goes to the obscure play Gorboduc a 1561 play by Thomas Norton and Thomas Sackville. The first major Elizabethan tragedy in blank verse was Thomas Kyd's The Spanish Tragedy the Trope Codifier for Elizabethan Tragedy, with its Anti-Hero protagonist, play-within-the-play, Gambit Pileup plot already containing much of the elements which prefigures the work done by Christopher Marlowe (who was seen as the greatest talent of his day) and then by Shakespeare.
    • Indeed many critics note that with the exception of two works, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest, no work by Shakespeare can claim to be original, and even those two have predecessors. Many of them were based on pre-existing sources and even Hamlet was based on an earlier lost work called Ur-Hamlet by critics. Many of his plays were popular commissions that was Pandering to the Base (For instance, Macbeth had witchcraft and sorcery that appealed to King James I's hobby-horses). Likewise, since the Elizabethan stage was subject to censorship, it was unlikely that Shakespeare had much of a choice in the subject matter of his work, as such authors who see him as pro-royalty or anti-royalty are more or less hampered by Wish Fulfillment since Shakespeare didn't really have a choice in the matter in most of his works. His history plays and subjects were already done by multiple playwrights and leading lights of the day and his Richard III was based on work done by Sir Thomas More.
  • Painful Rhyme: Some of his poems and plays may appear to employ this, but most are likely due to the fact that English pronunciation has changed markedly in 400 years, and they would have rhymed perfectly well when he wrote them.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: This has happened to some of Shakespeare's works, since a lot of people are familiar with the works inspired by his own (or even quotes) that the plays come off as rather run of the mill.


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