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.
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.
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.
- The Nurse
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.
- Lady 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.
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.
- Sir John Falstaff
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.
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.
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.
- King Lear
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.
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.
- Earl of Gloucester
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.