Great Figures in Shakespeare: Part 2 – Macbeth to Caius Martius Coriolanus

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Sure everyone thinks the story of Romeo and Juliet is about true love struggling against impossible odds. However, we should keep in mind that these two are teenagers who get married and later kill themselves in the same week. Not exactly a model for a good relationship. Yet, it tends to be celebrated.

So we’re off to a great start. You might notice how some of Shakespeare’s language can be different and you might find some of his characters saying things that you’ve probably heard before. That’s because a lot of what you hear in Shakespeare’s plays has made it into a lot of common usage. You may not have even heard of Twelfth Night, but how many times have you heard the saying, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them?” You probably can’t even count. Then there’s Henry V’s speech that contains, “band of brothers” which most people associate with a famed WWII series with David Schwimmer. You probably have heard of “the dogs of war,” but you probably don’t know that it’s from Mark Antony’s speech in Julius Caesar. In this selection, I’ll go over Shakespearean figures like Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing, Coriolanus, Othello, Emilia, and Desdemona from Othello, Hermia from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Rosalind from As You Like It, Portia from The Merchant of Venice, Cordelia from King Lear, as well as Henry V, Margaret of Anjou, and Richard III.

 

16. Macbeth

"If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir." - Act I, Scene 3. Maybe, but first you have to kill the guy who already has that gig first. And that's your cousin Duncan who already has an heir and a spare.

“If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me without my stir.” – Act I, Scene 3. Maybe, but first you have to kill the guy who already has that gig first. And that’s your cousin Duncan who already has an heir and a spare.

From: Macbeth

Pro: He’s a brave and capable warrior who’s loyal to his king and has a relatively happy relationship with his wife.

Con: He has a consuming ambition which becomes more apparent when he hears the witch prophecies and is pressured by his wife into committing regicide. May have some insecurity with his masculinity which his wife exploits. However, once he kills Duncan, he becomes increasingly paranoid and plots a series of murders to secure his throne. This makes his enemies see him as a murderous tyrant and surround him in hopes to bring him down. Also tends to take witches’ prophesies more seriously than he should in his own interpretation.

Fate: Killed by “a man of no woman born” MacDuff because he had no idea such prophecy actually meant, “man born via emergency Caesarian section.”

 

17. Romeo

"But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!" - Act II, Scene 2. Yesterday he would've been saying the same thing about Rosaline.

“But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks?/It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!” – Act II, Scene 2. Yesterday he would’ve been saying the same thing about Rosaline.

From: Romeo and Juliet

Pro: Well, he seems like a nice kid that Lord Capulet doesn’t seem initially bothered by him. Seems to really love Juliet more than anything almost from the time he meets her. He’s also loyal to his cousin Benvolio and his friend Mercutio. Also can be quite a badass and a fierce fighter. Then again, considering his family’s involved in a feud….

Con: Let’s face it, this guy is incredibly impulsive and is strongly idealistic toward love and romance that he pined for a girl named Rosaline and gave up on love when she rejected him. But when he first lays eyes on Juliet, he completely forgets about her and in just hours he decides he wants to marry her. And he ties the knot with her the day after meeting her only to be involved in a gang war that results in him killing Tybalt for killing Mercutio an hour later before being kicked out of Verona (though he at least feels bad about killing the guy). Sure he may love Juliet, but you can’t deny his motivations for being in love with her and being with her by any means necessary was extremely selfish which caused nothing but heartache and suffering, not just for him but for Juliet and everyone else. Oh, and he kills Paris, too sometime later. And when he thinks Juliet died (while she was only faking it), he poisons himself.

Fate: Commits suicide after thinking that Juliet is dead mostly because the information Friar Lawrence intended for him never arrived.)

 

18. Benedick

"That I neither feel how she should be loved nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me: I will die in it at the stake." - Act I, Scene 1. He'll end up wanting to marry Beatrice by the fifth act and getting hitched in a double ceremony.

“That I neither feel how she should be loved nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me: I will die in it at the stake.” – Act I, Scene 1. He’ll end up wanting to marry Beatrice by the fifth act and getting hitched in a double ceremony.

From: Much Ado About Nothing

Pro: Despite what you see of him in the beginning, he’s actually not as a bad as he initially seems. And once he suspects that Beatrice might like him, he starts to open up and grow up even if it means attracting ridicule from his friends for his reversal of his well-known attitudes. But he might enjoy shocking them by shaving off his beard and professing his undying love for Beatrice. And we know his love for her is genuine when he challenges Claudio to a duel to the death over his accusation of Hero’s unfaithfulness as well as his value on justice even at the risk of loyalty. Excluding the priest, he’s the only male character in the whole play who doesn’t participate in Hero’s public shaming. Nevertheless, he and Beatrice tend to have a healthier relationship than some Shakespearean couples since they have a lot in common as well as bring out the best in each other.

Con: He starts out as a misogynist who refuses to marry and disparages Claudio for wanting to marry Hero. But his insult barbs with Beatrice tend to reveal that he’s in total denial of his feelings to her. Can also be kind of an attention whore who’s said to perform for the benefit of others that for a time it’s hard to tell whether he’s been in love with Beatrice all along or falls for her suddenly.

Fate: Ends up married to Beatrice in a double wedding with Claudio and Hero.

 

19. Cordelia

"Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:/Who cover faults, at last shame them derides."- Act I, Scene 1. Still, at least she gets to be the Queen of France. Unfortunately, she had to come back home to save her daddy which got her killed.

“Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides:/Who cover faults, at last shame them derides.”- Act I, Scene 1. Still, at least she gets to be the Queen of France. Unfortunately, she had to come back home to save her daddy which got her killed.

From: King Lear

Pro: Refuses to flatter her old man in order to get a piece of his real estate because she thinks the idea is stupid and is pissed at her sisters’ insincerity. Later raises an army in France to fight her wicked sisters and take back her ungrateful daddy’s land. Easily forgives her dad when he comes to his senses. Is the only one of Lear’s daughters who truly cares about him.

Con: However, her loveliness, honesty, integrity, and sincerity don’t keep her from getting imprisoned and eventually executed. Should’ve spent more time with her new hubby in France.

Fate: Executed through strangulation.

 

20. Portia

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd,/It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d;/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes." - Act IV, Scene 1. However, the quality of mercy she had in mind consisted of the Jewish guy losing everything.

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d,/It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven/Upon the place beneath: it is twice bless’d;/It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.” – Act IV, Scene 1. However, the quality of mercy she had in mind consisted of the Jewish guy losing everything.

From: The Merchant of Venice

Pro: She’s got beauty, brains, grace, quick wits, and is one of the richest heiresses in Belmont. Loves Bassanio and is willing to do anything for him, even save his best friend Antonio by offering money to Shylock and dressing up as a lawyer in court (despite a lack in legal training). Has fun twisting the rules to her own advantage and ends up outsmarting everyone.

Con: Is basically subservient to her dad’s will beyond the grave that she has to marry the guy who chooses the right casket (fortunately, she marries the guy she wants to be with anyway). Still, she could do better than Bassanio who basically married her for money in order to help his friend. Also, despite her speech on the quality of mercy, making Shylock lose everything is just awful. If she only had Shylock give up his demand for a pound of flesh, it would’ve been fine. Regularly shows prejudice toward non-Christians and foreigners.

Fate: Married to Bassanio in a double wedding with Gratanio and Nerissa.

 

21. Juliet

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose,/By any other name would smell as sweet." - Act II, Scene 2. Of course, their feuding families would disagree. Hell knows what they're fighting for.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose,/By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Act II, Scene 2. Of course, their feuding families would disagree. Hell knows what they’re fighting for.

From: Romeo and Juliet

Pro: She’s more practical and level headed than Romeo. Though she may be really in love with him, her willingness to marry him a day after meeting him is more understandable (like a desire to escape an arranged marriage with Paris). Not to mention, she can be quite determined as well as very brave since she disobeys her parents, follows her heart as well as braves disownment and being trapped in a tomb to stay true to the man she loves. She even devises her and Romeo’s escape plan which would’ve worked if there wasn’t a plague going on.

Con: She tends to be idealistic and naïve as well as doesn’t think things through. Also, taking a knockout potion in order to fake her death was a really bad idea, especially when there’s a plague going on. Comes from a rather dysfunctional family. Oh, and she tends to mature way too quickly through this play.

Fate: Commits suicide through stabbing herself in the family tomb once she finds Romeo dead.

 

22. Desdemona

"I have none: do not talk to me, Emilia;/I cannot weep; nor answer have I none,/But what should go by water. Prithee, tonight/Lay on my bed my wedding sheets: remember; /And call thy husband hither." - Act IV, Scene 2. Apparently, this isn't going to help Desdemona's case since Othello won't listen. So she's basically doomed by this point.

“I have none: do not talk to me, Emilia;/I cannot weep; nor answer have I none,/But what should go by water. Prithee, tonight/Lay on my bed my wedding sheets: remember; /And call thy husband hither.” – Act IV, Scene 2. Apparently, this isn’t going to help Desdemona’s case since Othello won’t listen. So she’s basically doomed by this point.

From: Othello

Pro: Well, she loves Othello and is willing to defend her choice in front of her enraged and disappointed folks in front of the Duke of Venice. Is beautiful, honest, and stands by her man. Is kind enough and willing to plead Cassio’s case to get him re-instated when he falls from favor after getting involved in a fight.

Con: Unfortunately, her devotion to Othello doesn’t help her situation no matter how many times she tells her husband she didn’t cheat on him. Also doesn’t seem to have a lot of common sense. Thinks everything will be fine after losing her handkerchief when it really gets worse as her husband starts physically and verbally abusing her. Feels the best thing to do when confronted with accusations of infidelity is to continually assert her innocence but Othello doesn’t believe her. What she should’ve done is confide in Emilia about why he’d think that and get to the bottom of it.

Fate: Is smothered to death by Othello in her bed. But at least he later finds out she’s innocent like she said.

 

23. Rosalind

"Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love." - Act IV, Scene 1. Yes, but tell that Orlando. Or just tell him you're Rosalind already.

“Men have died from time to time, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.” – Act IV, Scene 1. Yes, but tell that Orlando. Or just tell him you’re Rosalind already.

From: As You Like It

Pro: Is admired for her quick wit, intelligence, and beauty. Puts on a brave front when it comes to being separated from her dad and eventually being exiled. Incredibly self-aware, especially on matters of the heart. Willing to take a chance on Orlando even though she knows that love isn’t all chocolate and roses. Can be bossy, opinionated, and gutsy. Can be in love with a man without being a fool. Stays true to her family and friends throughout the play.

Con: Dressing as Ganymede really put a big obstacle in her dating life. Her being Ganymede in front of Orlando in order to practice the moves on “him” yet you wonder why she doesn’t just take her clothes off to reveal herself to him. Then there’s that her drag disguise ends up attracting unwanted attention from a shepherd girl named Phebe who falls for her as Ganymede.

Fate: Ends up married to Orlando in a wedding ceremony with Oliver and Celia, Touchstone and Audrey, and Silvanus and Phebe.

 

24. Margaret of Anjou

"Peace, impudent and shameless Warwick, peace!/Proud setter-up and puller-down of kings!" - Act III, Scene 3. Because Queen Margaret isn't going down in these Wars of the Roses without a fight. And she will fight even when her husband won't.

“Peace, impudent and shameless Warwick, peace!/Proud setter-up and puller-down of kings!” – Act III, Scene 3 in Henry VI Part 3. Because Queen Margaret isn’t going down in these Wars of the Roses without a fight. And she will fight even when her husband won’t.

From: Henry VI Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III

Pro: Is pretty, smart, charming, and knows how to do her husband’s job better than him as well as would do anything to keep him on the throne. Knows what she wants and passionately goes after it no matter who’s in her way. Has a real affection for Suffolk and is really upset when he’s banished and executed. Is completely devoted to her husband’s career. Leads armies and has courage in battle. Doesn’t care what anyone thinks about her. Loves her son and would do anything for him. Realizes the horror in wars when her son is killed.

Con: Has something on the side with Suffolk (to be fair, this was a Cyrano de Bergerac situation so what did you expect?). But her relationship with him plays like a medieval version of House of Cards. It’s not known whether they love each other but they don’t seem to love anything more than power (though there’s some affection between the two). Is basically cold to her husband Henry because she sees him as too weak and pious and mostly supports him for power. And when it comes to consolidating power, she doesn’t care about a man’s life, justice, or the common people. Is so ruthless that she’s willing to kill people and does a lot of nasty things. Loves her son but isn’t necessarily nice to him. Loses it when her son gets stabbed in front of her eyes. As a widow, she’s quite bitter and is mostly cursing everyone near her but some of her curses come true.

Fate: Fated to live in the York castle (though in real life she was ransomed by the French king and lived in France as a poor royal relation).

 

25. Hermia

"By all the vows that ever men have broke/(In number more than ever women spoke),/In that same place thou hast appointed me,/To-morrow truly will I meet with thee." - Act I, Scene 1. Well, at least Lysander is better at keeping vows when he's not under a love potion.

“By all the vows that ever men have broke/(In number more than ever women spoke),/In that same place thou hast appointed me,/To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.” – Act I, Scene 1. Well, at least Lysander is better at keeping vows when he’s not under a love potion.

From: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Pro: Loves Lysander so much that she’s willing to risk a death sentence in order to be with him. Is beautiful but is no fool realize that Lysander might break his promises and she’s willing to take that chance anyway. And even when he seems to like Helena, she holds on to it no matter what the consequences or circumstances. Is also bold to stand up for herself.

Con: Doesn’t like being called short. Does not have a great relationship with her dad. Probably shouldn’t have told Helena about her and Lysander’s plans to elope. And when Lysander seems like he’s into Helena, the claws will come out and she will fight Helena.

Fate: Marries Lysander in a triple wedding ceremony with Demetrius and Helena and Theseus and Hippolyta.

 

26. Othello

"Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore,/Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof;/Or, by the worth of mine eternal soul,/Thou hadst been better have been born a dog/Than answer my wak'd wrath." - Act III, Scene 3. Uh, Othello, you really shouldn't trust Iago. Iago isn't honest and he's not your friend. In fact, he wants to ruin your life.

“Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore,/Be sure of it; give me the ocular proof;/Or, by the worth of mine eternal soul,/Thou hadst been better have been born a dog/Than answer my wak’d wrath.” – Act III, Scene 3. Uh, Othello, you really shouldn’t trust Iago. Iago isn’t honest and he’s not your friend. In fact, he wants to ruin your life.

From: Othello

Pro: He really loves Desdemona and is a brave as well as competent general. Also, was certainly right to appoint Cassio over Iago as we see in the play.

Con: Has a lot of insecurities pertaining to his ethnicity and age which makes him unable to completely trust his own wife, which Iago exploits for all its worth. Can be emotionally volatile and has a tendency to believe in his own fears (even if they’re backed by only circumstantial evidence like Desdemona’s handkerchief at Cassio’s or Cassio’s bragging). Once his emotions are inflamed and he makes up his mind of what’s going on, he becomes disastrously blind towards everyone else’s intentions or the truth. Let’s just say that he really needs to calm down. Also, tends to believe “honest” Iago when he really shouldn’t (at least over his own wife) who ends up playing him for a sap. When he suspects his wife’s cheating on him, he starts verbally and physically abusing her and eventually kills her in a homicidal rage.

Fate: Commits suicide after finding out that Desdemona had been faithful to him all along.

 

27. Emilia

"I hold my peace, sir? no;/No, I will speak as liberal as the north;/Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,/All, all, cry shame against me, yet I'll speak." - Act V, Scene 2. Nice work, Emilia, but why didn't you speak up earlier? Like when Desdemona was still alive?

“I hold my peace, sir? no;/No, I will speak as liberal as the north;/Let heaven and men and devils, let them all,/All, all, cry shame against me, yet I’ll speak.” – Act V, Scene 2. Nice work, Emilia, but why didn’t you speak up earlier? Like when Desdemona was still alive?

From: Othello

Pro: She’s sensible, smart, and is the only character in the cast who sees Iago for what he truly is. Also, she single-handedly foiled Iago’s plans by telling Othello that his wife wasn’t cheating on him because she gave Desdemona’s handkerchief to her husband who planted it at Cassio’s place. Even more amazing is that she exposed him when Iago threatened her with a knife before stabbing him.

Con: For one, she’s in a very unhappy marriage with Iago and puts up with his misogynistic jokes. It has also made her quite cynical that she contemplates adultery. Second, she steals Desdemona’s handkerchief and gives it to Iago and doesn’t tell Othello about it until after he kills his wife. In fact, she even lies about it, saying that she didn’t know where it is. Had she come clean and exposed Iago to Othello while Desdemona was still alive, she could’ve prevented a whole tragedy based on a complete misunderstanding.

Fate: Stabbed by her husband but she dies triumphant since it shows how much of a bastard Iago truly is.

 

28. Henry V

"Thus we play the fools with the time; and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds, and mock us." - Act II, Scene 2 in Henry IV Part 2. Guess killing Hotspur during the Battle of Shrewsbury didn't help his daddy issues. Wait a minute, that's Loki. What the hell he's doing in England when he's supposed to be in Asgard?

“Thus we play the fools with the time; and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds, and mock us.” – Act II, Scene 2 in Henry IV Part 2. Guess killing Hotspur during the Battle of Shrewsbury didn’t help his daddy issues. Wait a minute, that’s Loki. What the hell he’s doing in England when he’s supposed to be in Asgard?

From: Richard II, Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V

Pro: Despite what his dad thinks of him, he’s clearly intelligent and capable of psychological machinations required of kings as well as a brave and noble warrior. Has a lot of admiration for Hostspur. Wants to really please his dad and everyone else. Great with giving speeches before getting into battle mode. And doesn’t do too bad with a French princess after winning the Battle of Agincourt either.

Con: He starts out as a disreputable frat boy which earns his dad’s displeasure even though it might be more of an act to shock the people when he emerges as his true, heroic self in order to win his dad’s and the country’s admiration. Yet, his heavy measure of deceit involved in his plan calls his honor to question, especially since his treatment of Falstaff further sullies his name. He’s quite capable of humiliating and tormenting and later disowns him altogether. As king, he uses a gift of tennis balls from the French in order to declare war on their country. Also, how is he entitled to the French throne again? Not to mention he threatens a city governor to surrender or else he and his soldiers would rape, murder, and loot. Yes, the guy can be quite despicable.

Fate: Dies between Henry V and the Henry VI Trilogy.

 

29. Richard III

"Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York;/And all the clouds, that lour'd upon our house,/In the deep bosom of the ocean buried."- Act I, Scene 1. Let's just say, the real Richard III wasn't this evil, which to many fans is kind of disappointing. Because he's so entertaining.

“Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York;/And all the clouds, that lour’d upon our house,/In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”- Act I, Scene 1. Let’s just say, the real Richard III wasn’t this evil, which to many fans is kind of disappointing. Because he’s so entertaining.

From: Henry VI Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III

Pro: He’s smart, suave, cunning, and politically savvy as well as a force to be reckoned with on the battlefield. He’s also very personable and entertaining that you just can’t hate him despite how despicable he really is. Certainly has the balls to woo Lady Anne and take her as his wife despite not being Prince Charming. Doesn’t give a shit about what people think about him. Has quite a sense of humor (well, a sick sense of humor but it’s pretty compelling). Wonderful with words. Wasn’t as bad a guy in real life as he is in this play.

Con: Is an unapologetic villain who enjoys being evil and is only out for himself that he’s willing to turn his brothers against each other as well as uses his allies (and Lady Anne) as pawns. May have insecurities due to his deformed appearance that make him feel so inadequate and unloved that made him prone to being hated and belittled throughout his life (according to Freud). Also a manipulative and pathological liar since he pretends to be godly and moral but stops at nothing to get what he wants. He seduces and marries Lady Anne (despite killing her dad and husband) with every intent on discarding her later (in real life, he certainly loved her since they were kids and was devastated when she died). Has his brother George of Clarence sent to the Tower of London and murdered (in reality, it was clearly Edward IV who wanted him dead while he was against executing him). Drives his brother Edward IV to an early grave so he could imprison and murder his kids in the Tower of London. Even poisons Anne and has his allies killed (in reality, he did not poison Anne). Though seen as a true Machiavellian, he tends to ignore Machiavelli’s one crucial rule from The Prince on how to retain power (like never be hated).

Fate: Knocked off his horse and killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field but he went down fighting.

 

30. Caius Martius Coriolanus

"You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate/As reek o' th' rotten fens, whose loves I prize/As the dead carcasses of unburied men/That do corrupt my air, I banish you!" - Act III, Scene 3. Basically the most arrogant way to say, "You can't fire me, I quit!" He's also going on hating the plebs, again.

“You common cry of curs, whose breath I hate/As reek o’ th’ rotten fens, whose loves I prize/As the dead carcasses of unburied men/That do corrupt my air, I banish you!” – Act III, Scene 3. Basically the most arrogant way to say, “You can’t fire me, I quit!” He’s also going on hating the plebs, again.

From: Coriolanus

Pro: He’s a brilliant Roman general and war hero who saves Rome from its enemies as well as helped banish the tyrant king Tarquin. Earns the name “Coriolanus” when he leads an army and defeats the city of Corioles. Is a real mama’s boy who’s willing to spare Rome when she wants him to.

Con: He’s a lower-class hating snob who thinks plebeians don’t deserve any political power or even any food and a poster boy for aristocratic arrogance dominating the play. He also has a seriously bad temper, an unwillingness to compromise, and a tendency to say the first thing that comes to mind. This doesn’t help that the play kicks off with a food riot with plebeians going threatening to go after him with clubs, pikes, and whatnot. Or if he’s pursuing a career in politics after he gets out of the Roman Army. Not to mention, he’s so unlikeable that it’s hard for audiences to connect with him. He’s so offensive and obnoxious that he can’t pretend he likes a group of people whom he hates. Has a very freaky relationship with his mom. Oh, and when he’s forced out of office, he ends up betraying his people to the Volscians. Can also be emotionally immature and lets himself be bullied by his mom.

Fate: Killed by the Volscians while trying to arrange a peace treaty between them and the Romans.

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Great Figures in Shakespeare: Part 1 – Viola to Hamlet

Edwin_Booth_as_Hamlet_lithograph

Hamlet: A man in his early 20s whom every accomplished stage actor and movie star wants to play and every psychiatrist and psychologist wants to psycho-analyze. After all, the guy has major issues. By the way, this is a lithograph of Hamlet as portrayed by 19th century stage great Edwin Booth considered by some theater historians as the greatest American actor of his time. However, you probably know him better as the older brother named John Wilkes Booth who shot Lincoln in the head at Ford’s Theater. However, he didn’t share his brother’s views and actually saved Robert Lincoln from being run over by a train in Jersey City. Also had a personal life filled with tragedy with his dad and several close relatives dying insane, two wives who died young, financial troubles and alcoholism, and that bit about his brother killing a US president.

As it comes to Shakespeare’s plays, it’s always his characters who are the most endearing. After all, they’re the ones who get the story going. And the fact that we use Shakespearean characters to name moons off of Uranus kind of emphasizes their importance. Some of these Shakespearean figures I present to you may be well-known or ones you might not have even heard of. Some of them may be based off historical figures while some might be seen as totally fantastical. Also, there might be some you don’t even like since a lot of them tend to be jerks. But I have them on anyway since they tend to say memorable lines. I’m going to introduce to you 150 of these. In this first selection, I introduce to you Viola and Malvoli from Twelfth Night, Beatrice and Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing, The Nurse from Romeo and Juliet, Lady Macbeth from Macbeth, Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Falstaff from Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor, not so honest Iago from Othello, King Lear and the Earl of Gloucester from King Lear, Prospero from The Tempest, the chronically depressed Jacques from As You Like It, Volumnia from Coriolanus, and Hamlet.

 

  1. Viola
"’T is beauty truly blent, whose red and white/Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:/Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive/If you will lead these graces to the grave,/And leave the world no copy." - Act I, Scene 5. Just so you know Viola is going to regret saying this once Olivia gets the hots for "Caesario."

“’T is beauty truly blent, whose red and white/Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:/Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive/If you will lead these graces to the grave,/And leave the world no copy.” – Act I, Scene 5. Just so you know Viola is going to regret saying this once Olivia gets the hots for “Caesario.”

From: Twelfth Night

Pro: She’s resourceful and practical as well as quick-witted enough to evaluate her situation and is a sound judge of character. As a single woman shipwrecked in a strange foreign land alone, she finds herself in an extremely dangerous position. Also, is very intelligent, has an engaging wit, and immense charm. But she manages to win over a sea captain’s loyalty as well as complete trust in Duke Orsino and bring Olivia out of a depression. Also, in her situation, dressing as a guy is understandable. And her dealings with Lady Olivia and Duke Orsino are forthright and honest.

Con: Unfortunately, dressing up as Cesario to work for Duke Orsino has implications that she didn’t think through. Not only does she end up in love with her boss but the object of his affections ends up in love with her (as Cesario). This when she was trying to woo her on Orsino’s behalf.

Fate: Quits her disguise and marries Duke Orsino once he realizes that Lady Olivia has no interest in him.

 

  1. Beatrice
"In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature." - Act I, Scene 1. She's basically saying that Benedick's so stupid that even his horse seems to have more sense than him. She ends up falling for him later on.

“In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature.” – Act I, Scene 1. She’s basically saying that Benedick’s so stupid that even his horse seems to have more sense than him. She ends up falling for him later on.

From: Much Ado About Nothing

Pro: She’s feisty and sharp as well as doesn’t care what other people think about her. She also refuses to marry for two reasons. First, because she wants a suitable man who’d treat her as an equal partner. Second, because she doesn’t want to eschew her liberty and submit to a controlling husband. She also tends to rebel against how women in her society are treated. She also cares about Hero and explodes with fury at Claudio for mistreating and humiliating her for violating her chastity. In fact, she’s willing to put Hero’s loyalty above all else, even at the cost of her relationship with Benedick (but he sticks by her). Not to mention, despite a bad start, she tends to open up to the sensitivities and weaknesses of love once she gives Benedick a chance. And let’s just say they tend to have a healthier relationship than some Shakespearean couples since they have a lot in common as well as bring out the best in each other.

Con: Unfortunately for her in the beginning, her Prince Charming tends to be Benedick who she tends to jab insults with. She also tends to be rather stubborn and cynical that it’s most likely she wouldn’t have given him the chance had other characters not suggested that he might be in love with her.

Fate: Ends up marrying Benedick in a double wedding with Hero and Claudio.

 

  1. The Nurse
"Faith, here it is./Romeo is banish'd; and all the world to nothing,/That he dares ne'er come back to challenge you; /Or, if he do, it needs must be by stealth./Then, since the case so stands as now it doth,/I think it best you married with the county. /O, he's a lovely gentleman! " - Act III, Scene 5. Uh, I don't think Juliet wants to hear this. She might do something drastic.

“Faith, here it is./Romeo is banish’d; and all the world to nothing,/That he dares ne’er come back to challenge you; /Or, if he do, it needs must be by stealth./Then, since the case so stands as now it doth,/I think it best you married with the county. /O, he’s a lovely gentleman! ” – Act III, Scene 5. Uh, I don’t think Juliet wants to hear this. She might do something drastic.

From: Romeo and Juliet

Pro: She’s sensible and seems more like a mother to Juliet than Lady Capulet. And it is only whom Juliet confides her feelings for Paris and Romeo. She’s also one of the only member of the older generation to take Juliet’s feelings into consideration. Oh, and she could hold her own against a couple of immature teenage boys.

Con: Not sure if she should’ve approved of or assisted Juliet eloping with Romeo. Or told Juliet that she should marry Paris either. Because we know how that turned out from there. She also drinks. Also uses salty language and talks about bodily functions a lot.

Fate: She’s probably a mess by the end considering how she lost her family and then two kids that she helped raise.

 

  1. Lady Macbeth
"Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be/What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;/It is too full o' the milk of human kindness/To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;/Art not without ambition; but without/The illness should attend it." - Act I, Scene 5. I guess she's telling Macbeth that he's being too nice and that's bad.

“Glamis thou art, and Cawdor; and shalt be/What thou art promised. Yet do I fear thy nature;/It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness/To catch the nearest way: thou wouldst be great;/Art not without ambition; but without/The illness should attend it.” – Act I, Scene 5. I guess she’s telling Macbeth that he’s being too nice and that’s bad.

From: Macbeth

Pro: She’s charming, attractive, and completely devoted to her husband’s career. Is a consummate hostess. She’s also quite headstrong and knows what she wants. And despite her exterior, she at least has a conscience as we find out later. Also, she and Macbeth seem to love each other, in their own twisted way. Not to mention, she’s not as into killing once her husband becomes king of Scotland.

Con: She’s a scheming and heartless woman who prays for demons to have her become evil so she’ll have no remorse for her actions. Tends to be more ambitious and ruthless than her husband and is quite frightening. Goads her husband into committing regicide by questioning his manhood. And because Duncan resembles her dad too much for her to do it herself. Unfortunately, after the deed is done and she becomes queen, she goes mad from guilt, starts sleepwalking, experiences hallucinations, and ends up killing herself over it. And her role seems to diminish as her husband decides to kill Banquo without her input.

Fate: Commits suicide off-stage after her guilt over Duncan’s murder practically destroys her.

 

  1. Titania
"Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;/Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;/Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,/Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,/To make my small elves coats, and some keep back/The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders/At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;/Then to your offices and let me rest." - Act II, Scene 2. Just in time for Oberon to work his magic so she'd fall for an ass.

“Come, now a roundel and a fairy song;/Then, for the third part of a minute, hence;/Some to kill cankers in the musk-rose buds,/Some war with rere-mice for their leathern wings,/To make my small elves coats, and some keep back/The clamorous owl that nightly hoots and wonders/At our quaint spirits. Sing me now asleep;/Then to your offices and let me rest.” – Act II, Scene 2. Just in time for Oberon to work his magic so she’d fall for an ass.

From: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Pro: As queen of the fairies, she’s a force to be reckoned with in a world of magic. She’s gracious but sassy enough to stick to her guns and refuses to give up an Indian boy she’s raising, thus protecting her love and honor. Also seems to love Oberon, too despite their disagreements.

Con: Unfortunately, this doesn’t stop her husband from trying to get his way by slipping her a love potion and making her look like a fool. Also, we’re not sure why she’s willing to forgive Oberon after his horrible treatment of her. Then again, tricking one’s spouse into falling for a furry might be a thing in their relationship.

Fate: Well, she seems to have reconciled with Oberon, at least in the short run.

 

  1. Sir John Falstaff
"Well, God give thee the spirit of persuasion and him the ears of profiting, that what thou speakest may move and what he hears may be believed, that the true prince may, for recreation sake, prove a false thief; for the poor abuses of the time want countenance. Farewell: you shall find me in Eastcheap." - Act I, Scene 1 in Henry IV Part 1. Yes, he may not be a great role model but you can't help but like the guy.

“Well, God give thee the spirit of persuasion and him the ears of profiting, that what thou speakest may move and what he hears may be believed, that the true prince may, for recreation sake, prove a false thief; for the poor abuses of the time want countenance. Farewell: you shall find me in Eastcheap.” – Act I, Scene 1 in Henry IV Part 1. Yes, he may not be a great role model but you can’t help but like the guy.

From: Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor

Pro: Well, he’s a jovial guy who you can’t help but like. Has a point when it comes to linking honor with violence at least in his era. Also a master of puns and wordplay. However, while he gets Hal into trouble, he seems to regard him as a friend which makes Hal’s repudiation of him so harsh when he becomes king.

Con: He’s a vain, boastful, and cowardly knight who spends most of his time drinking at the Boar’s Head Inn with petty criminals. Lives on stolen or borrowed money. Tends to lead the wayward Prince Hal into trouble. He’s also selfish, lazy, dishonest, corrupt, and manipulative. Would go after married women to get some money out of it and he does. So it’s little wonder why Henry IV doesn’t really like seeing his son hang out with the guy.

Fate: Dies off-stage between Henry IV Part 2 and Henry V.

 

  1. Iago
"Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,/But seeming so, for my peculiar end:/For when my outward action doth demonstrate/The native act and figure of my heart/In compliment extern, 'tis not long after/But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at: I am not what I am." - Act I, Scene 1. Basically, he's saying, "I am a horrible person but nobody here seems to notice that." While inherently evil, his motivation for wanting to ruin Othello's life remain a mystery.

“Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,/But seeming so, for my peculiar end:/For when my outward action doth demonstrate/The native act and figure of my heart/In compliment extern, ’tis not long after/But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at: I am not what I am.” – Act I, Scene 1. Basically, he’s saying, “I am a horrible person but nobody here seems to notice that.” While inherently evil, his motivation for wanting to ruin Othello’s life remain a mystery.

From: Othello

Pro: Well, he’s charismatic and personable enough to get people to listen and trust him. Also a capable soldier with ample self-esteem. Very intelligent.

Con: Face it, this “honest” man is a pathological liar and sociopath. Super pissed that his boss Othello promoted a younger guy over him, he sets on a mission to ruin his life by telling him that all Venetian women are whores and makes it look like that Cassio and Desdemona are having an affair. All this while pretending to be his friend. Such a setup drives Othello mad that he mistreats and later kills his own wife in a rage. Later murders his accomplice and his wife to cover his own ass. And he displays absolutely no remorse as well as refuses to speak another word when he gets caught. Sure he may have various motives for his evil like racism, envy, suspicion Othello’s sleeping with his own wife, but it’s fair to say that he has no motive. He just simply enjoys it. Also treats Emilia like shit. In a nutshell, he’s a complete monster.

Fate: At least he faces justice in the end and you probably know he doesn’t have much time left.

 

  1. Prospero
"What see'st thou else/In the dark backward and abysm of time?" - Act I, Scene 2. Still, you have to wonder if Prospero is such a powerful sorcerer, why doesn't he just magically transport him and his daughter off the island?

“What see’st thou else/In the dark backward and abysm of time?” – Act I, Scene 2. Still, you have to wonder if Prospero is such a powerful sorcerer, why doesn’t he just magically transport him and his daughter off the island?

From: The Tempest

Pro: He’s a highly intelligent and powerful sorcerer who likes his books and loves his daughter (though he’s not setting her up with Ferdinand just because he wants her to be happy). Is sensitive to human suffering once he sees the shipwreck and the survivors’ pitiful state. Ultimately forgives his brother in the end mostly because he just wants to go home.

Con: For one, he’s kind of a control freak who bullies his servants. His study of magic basically isolates him from his own family and responsibilities. Starts out as a bitter old man who orchestrates a storm to cause a shipwreck because the boat’s carrying his brother who ousted him as Duke of Milan. He’s cruel to Ferdinand and Caliban and is only nice to Ariel when he’s totally subservient. Puts his enemies through all kinds of hell so he could judge them. Also, if Ferdinand wasn’t such a swell guy, his plan to fix his daughter with him would’ve backfired horribly.

Fate: Renounces magic, becomes Duke of Milan again, and comes home.

 

  1. King Lear
"Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!/You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout/Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!/You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,/Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,/Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,/Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world!/Crack nature's molds, all germens spill at once/That make ingrateful man!" -Act III, Scene 2. This probably the stuff you shouldn't say when caught in a thunderstorm. Apparently, Lear's retirement hadn't worked out as well as he planned.

“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!/You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout/Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks!/You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,/Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,/Singe my white head! And thou, all-shaking thunder,/Strike flat the thick rotundity o’ the world!/Crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once/That make ingrateful man!” -Act III, Scene 2. This probably the stuff you shouldn’t say when caught in a thunderstorm. Apparently, Lear’s retirement hadn’t worked out as well as he planned.

From: King Lear

Pro: Loves his daughters. Smart enough in realizing his stupidity later before gaining a new perspective on life and starts sympathizing for other people’s hardships.

Con: Dividing his kingdom and responsibilities to his daughters and having them publicly profess their love to him was a very huge mistake. This results into him dividing his domain between Goneril and Regan as well as throwing Cordelia out of the kingdom. And throws out the Earl of Kent for offering some constructive criticism. Also insists that he keep his knights, be allowed to visit his older daughters as much has he wishes, and retain 100 knights which leads Goneril and Regan to become sick of him. Prays to the gods so Goneril won’t have kids. These actions start a series of conflicts that lead to an all-out civil war, is betrayed by his two oldest daughters for flipping out on them, and goes mad wandering into a thunderstorm. Blind to the love of the daughter who actually cares about him.

Fate: Dies of a broken heart after Cordelia’s death.

 

  1. Malvolio
"Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em." - Act II, Scene 5. Unfortunately, for him, he's more subject to a series pranks designed for his humiliation than anything else.

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” – Act II, Scene 5. Unfortunately, for him, he’s more subject to a series pranks designed for his humiliation than anything else.

From: Twelfth Night

Pro: Well, he’s a loyal steward for Lady Olivia as well as always emphasizes the value of dignity, decency, decorum, and “good order.” He’s also great at his job that Lady Olivia has a lot of respect for him and wishes to retain him.

Con: While his Puritanism makes him a model butler in Olivia’s household, it also makes him an insufferable snob and is opposed to having a good time. He also has an enormous ego and is willing to do anything for advancement. And when he sees a chance for that, he abandons all such proper conduct and behaves like an utter fool. He may also be in love with his boss but that’s understandable. But he’s more interested in marrying Olivia for the material benefits and is kind of a perv. Nevertheless, his own sense of conceit makes him easy prey for pranksters and they somehow get him to think that Olivia has a crush on him as well as dress in cross garters and yellow tights in hopes of impressing her, never mind that he’s 20 years older than her. This makes him look like a complete idiot that he eventually gets angry and swears revenge. But not before he’s locked in a box and subject to a mock exorcism.

Fate: Well, he basically ends up having to act as steward for Olivia for the rest of his life which sucks for him because she married Sebastian. Also, being the butt of endless pranks. And I’m sure he’ll never hear the end of the yellow tights incident. Poor thing.

 

  1. Earl of Gloucester
"I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;/I stumbled when I saw: full oft 'tis seen,/Our means secure us, and our mere defects/Prove our commodities." - Act IV, Scene 1. Sure Gloucester was a jerk. But you have to feel bad when Cornwall blinds him and kicks him out of his castle.

“I have no way, and therefore want no eyes;/I stumbled when I saw: full oft ’tis seen,/Our means secure us, and our mere defects/Prove our commodities.” – Act IV, Scene 1. Sure Gloucester was a jerk. But you have to feel bad when Cornwall blinds him and kicks him out of his castle.

From: King Lear

Pro: Loves both his sons equally despite them being from different moms. But he eventually ends up gaining insight that one of them hates him and wants to kill his brother. Loyal to Lear. Later ends up leading a life of consideration.

Con: Is initially arrogant, self-satisfied, insensitive, and hypocritical. Is duped by his illegitimate son Edmund into thinking that his legitimate son Edgar is trying to kill him. And assumes what Edmund said was true without even trying to speak to Edgar about it. This leads to him throwing out the son who actually cares about him. Also was in his castle when Regan and Cornwall decided to strip him of political office, blind him, and throw him out. Even when blind, he tends to be a jerk to his own son Edgar (who rescued him) as well as the Earl of Kent in disguise.

Fate: Dies offstage.

 

  1. Jacques
"I must have liberty/Withal, as large a charter as the wind,/To blow on whom I please." - Act II, Scene 7. Also, weeping over deer isn't a smart thing to do in Western PA during hunting season. Just thought you'd like to know.

“I must have liberty/Withal, as large a charter as the wind,/To blow on whom I please.” – Act II, Scene 7. Also, weeping over deer isn’t a smart thing to do in Western PA during hunting season. Just thought you’d like to know.

From: As You Like It

Pro: Supports Duke Senior and goes into exile with him. Has a brilliant insight into humanity. Not afraid of roughing it in the woods.

Con: He’s a cynic who enjoys being melancholy because he purposely seeks out depressing experiences. And he really doesn’t have a lot of things in his life to be bummed about. Refuses to take part in the wedding festivities at the end of the play. Wants to be a fool so he could criticize everyone and everything without retribution.

Fate: Goes back to an abandoned cave.

 

  1. Volumnia
"Had I a dozen sons, — each in my love alike, and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, — I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country, than one voluptuously surfeit out of action." - Act I, Scene 3. Not exactly something you'd want to hear from mama. Imagine how she'd be like if her son was a tribute in the Hunger Games.

“Had I a dozen sons, — each in my love alike, and none less dear than thine and my good Marcius, — I had rather had eleven die nobly for their country, than one voluptuously surfeit out of action.” – Act I, Scene 3. Not exactly something you’d want to hear from mama. Imagine how she’d be like if her son was a tribute in the Hunger Games.

From: Coriolanus

Pro: She’s “dearest mother” to Coriolanus as well as one of the few women around who could keep him from destroying Rome.

Con: Sure she may be the most influential person in Coriolanus’s life but unfortunately, he’s a real piece of work. Thinks violence and bloodshed is more beautiful than the sight of a mother nursing her baby. So how she raised Coriolanus to be Rome’s deadliest warrior may not be something we want to know. Tends to rejoice when her son’s wounded since it shows physical proof of his valor. But she had no problem sending him off to war when he was young while most mothers would insist their boys would stay at home. Thinks having a military career is the only way for boys to become men. Always wants to take the credit for Coriolanus’s achievements. And she mostly lives through her son because being a woman makes her unable to slaughter any Volscians herself. After that, she wants Coriolanus to be a politician while he wants nothing to do with politics. Then she says that she’d have more pleasure seeing her son go off the war than going to bed with him, if he was her husband, of course. Okay, she’s kind of freaky. Also, is utterly delighted to see her grandson torturing butterflies. Has no patience with her daughter-in-law Virgilia’s weakness and fear. Despises the common people (which isn’t surprising).

Fate: Hailed as a savior of Rome but loses her son. Well, at least she can live through his son Martius. Really don’t want to know how that kid’s going to turn out.

 

  1. Dogberry
"O, that he were here to write me down — an ass! — but, masters, remember, that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass." - Act IV, Scene 2. Perhaps one of the few times when this guy knows what he's talking about.

“O, that he were here to write me down — an ass! — but, masters, remember, that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.” – Act IV, Scene 2. Perhaps one of the few times when this guy knows what he’s talking about.

From: Much Ado About Nothing

Pro: He may not look like much but he’s not keen of people slandering proper ladies. And when he realizes something devious is afoot he’ll uncover the truth of the matter. His purpose as a comic relief might leave audiences wondering whether he’s truly confused or simple minded as he seems.

Con: He doesn’t like his job too much and doesn’t think he’s very competent. And his instructions to the watch seem somewhat contradictory to the whole purpose of patrolling that even his own men see him as an object of ridicule. His inability to get to the point holds some responsibility for the scene in the church. He’s also not very good with words or syntax.

Fate: Well, Don John’s deception is exposed in spite of his efforts rather than because of them.

 

  1. Hamlet

“I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.” – Act III, Scene 4. Yeah, but where does all that cruelty get him in the end? Oh, wait, dead.

From: Hamlet

Pro: Well, he’s a very smart guy. Gives eloquent soliloquies and can come up with intricate revenge schemes. Can write a play to confirm that his uncle Claudius did kill his dad. He also knows how to foil Claudius when he wants to kill him (after all, he gives a letter with a death warrant to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and get conveniently kidnapped by pirates). Also, you can’t blame him for being moody since his dad died less than 2 months ago while his mom married his uncle who’s now become king. On top of that, he finds out that his Uncle Claudius killed his father. Yeah, you’d have serious issues if that happened, too. And yes, he has every right to berate his mom over her sex life and remarrying so quickly. Probably loves Ophelia or maybe not.

Con: Is a chronically depressed pessimist who dresses in black angsts a lot. He’s a shitty boyfriend since he verbally abuses and coldly rejects Ophelia as well as stabs her dad through a curtain (well, the guy was eavesdropping, but still). Not sure if pretending to be nuts and contemplating suicide is a good idea after hearing about your uncle killing your dad. His mom’s actions also screw up his views on women as well as his relationship with Ophelia (which doesn’t turn out well). Then there’s the fact when he hears King Claudius in prayer confessing to murdering his dad, he doesn’t just burst forth and kill him now because he doesn’t want to see the guy go to heaven (even though Claudius isn’t sorry for his crimes). Yeah. Note that after this scene, his uncle tries to have him killed a few times. Not to mention, Freud thinks the guy has a massive Oedipus Complex for his unhealthy obsession with his mom’s sexuality (but come on, who wouldn’t in his case). Then again, his dad’s ghost did tell him to leave her alone (but he’s not a guy who has to live with this).

Fate: Is fatally stabbed by Laertes during a fencing match with a poisoned blade. But it takes a while for him to succumb. At least he gets to kill Claudius, finally. Still, despite his most famous soliloquy on contemplating suicide, you wouldn’t think he’d die like this. But he does.