Shakespeare might have been one of the greatest writers and playwrights of all time. However, this doesn’t mean that many of his plays offer good relationship advice. I know Taming of the Shrew comes to mind with Petruchio’s treatment of Katarina amounting to domestic abuse and psychological torture. Using bed tricks to get your man sure isn’t great advice for women in Measure for Measure or All’s Well That Ends Well and might even qualify as rape. But many people tend to idealize Romeo and Juliet despite that it involves two teenagers who get into a serious relationship way too quickly and commit suicide. Oh, and Romeo kills two other people, too. But in plays like Othello, Cymbeline, and The Winter’s Tale do get right that you should probably believe your wife when she tells you that she’s being unfaithful. Because jealousy isn’t a really good thing in relationships. In this selection we’ll meet more Shakespearean figures such as Prince Malcolm and Banquo from Macbeth, Henry VI, Edward IV, Lady Anne Neville, the Duke of Buckingham, Jessica from The Merchant of Venice, Don Pedro and Leonato from Much Ado About Nothing, Constance of Brittany from King John, George of Clarence, Lady Emilia from The Two Noble Kinsmen, and Goneril, Regan, and the Duke of Albany from King Lear.
106. Prince Malcolm
Pro: Well, unlike his dad Duncan, he eventually gets it together to what a menace Macbeth is that he and MacDuff carry out a plot to save the kingdom. Thus, he proves to be much savvier and stronger than his old man. Said to have all the kingly virtues and is willing to see what needs to be done. Also knows when to get the hell out when there’s a guy who’s ambitious enough to kill for the crown.
Con: He may be an okay guy but after his dad’s murdered, he doesn’t know what to do and decides to run for it until he sees how things play out. Also, wouldn’t be able to save Scotland without MacDuff’s help.
Fate: Becomes king of Scotland but whether he’ll make a great king is the question.
107. Edward IV
From: Henry VI Parts 2 and 3, and Richard III
Pro: Well, he puts a good enough fight to secure his claim to the throne twice. Loves his wife and family (as well as some girls on the side). Tries to make peace with the nobles once he’s on the throne again.
Con: He’s a self-interested guy who doesn’t care about honor or loyalty. Alienates his allies by sending Warwick to France but getting hitched to an English girl instead. Didn’t think others will be clamoring for the throne the first time he’s crowned. Way too trusting when it comes to his brothers, particularly Richard. Is duped by Richard into thinking that George of Clarence was trying to overthrow him and has him killed (in real life this wasn’t the case).
Fate: Dies of natural causes (in real life, he died suddenly at 40 and wasn’t driven to an early grave by Richard).
108. Henry VI
From: Henry VI Parts 1, 2, and 3
Pro: He’s a sweet, pious guy who’s always trying to make peace among his feuding nobles. Virtuous and good-natured, he readily listens to Gloucester’s general solid advice. Always wants to do what’s good for God and country. Great at making speeches. Not really into exploiting and killing people. Full of thought provoking words than damning ones and even thanks the guards keeping him in prison.
Con: Unfortunately, unlike his grandpa and dad, he’s not the kind of guy you’d want for a king because he doesn’t have the brawn, military charisma, political savvy, or insistence on getting the job done whatever it costs in spades. Doesn’t like to act on his own. Thinks he’s got a right to be king just because his dad and grandpa were. His pacifism is unlikely to impress nobles trying to win a war in France. Lack of experience totally undermines his authority. His choosing Margaret of Anjou as a spouse is kind of sketchy as well because he dumped a rich and well-connected woman for her but she’s pretty and she’s more savvy and ruthless than he is. Yet, that decision is ill-informed, misguided, and even Gloucester’s against the idea. Oh, and she doesn’t care much of him except that he’s a king and is her ticket to power. Having Suffolk woo Margaret for him was a really bad idea, ditto giving up some French lands for her. Also lacks his dad and grandpa’s decision making skills. His mediation to resolve the argument between York and Somerset kicked off the Wars of the Roses. But even then, he’s hesitant to fight it out with the Duke of York who wants his throne.
Fate: Gets killed by Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III. In reality, he was killed on orders by Edward IV. Also, in real life, he’s said to suffer from mental breakdowns and could’ve been mentally ill.)
From: King Lear
Pro: Well, she’s pretty. Also, her complaints about her old man seem totally justified when it comes to his retinue of knights who were out of control party boys breaking furniture and harassing her servants.
Con: She’s absolutely selfish, ruthless, and extremely cruel. After her dad gives her half his lands, she promptly betrays him and doesn’t shed a tear when he’s forced to wander, homeless, and exposed to the elements. Poisons her own sister over an evil philanderer and has no remorse. Hell, she even plots to kill her husband.
Fate: Commits suicide because she’d rather die than apologize.
From: King Lear
Pro: Well, she’s pretty. Also has some good reasons to complain about her dad, especially when it comes to his retinue of knights who were out of control party boys breaking furniture and harassing her servants. Not to mention, her and Cornwall seem to be made for each other.
Con: She’s about as evil as her sister. But unlike Goneril, she’s more likely to get men to do her dirty work for her than attend to it herself. During the torture scene, she begs Cornwall to pluck out Gloucester’s other eye.
Fate: Poisoned by her sister Goneril.
111. Duke of Albany
From: King Lear
Pro: Well, he’s not as bad as his wife and actually sticks up for himself in the end.
Con: Despite being a force for good, he’s a total wuss who let’s his vicious wife Goneril walk all over him. And even when he sees how evil she is, he still doesn’t do much to stop her. Knows that Lear and France might be in the right but leads his armies into battle against them anyway. Oh, and when he finds that Goneril’s cheating on him, he can’t confront him alone and brings Edgar in to do his fighting for him. Yes, this guy lacks any balls to do anything.
Fate: Well, it seems like he’s left ruling the kingdom with Edgar helping him.
112. Don Pedro
From: Much Ado About Nothing
Pro: Well, he was right about Beatrice and Benedick making a great couple and it’s better for them that he made it happen. He’s also a kind and good general who draws admiration wherever he goes. Not to mention, he’s also supportive for Claudio’s bid for Hero’s hand and helps arrange that. As a person of authority, he’s constantly the voice of reason and something of a peacemaker with clear speech and anti-dramatic tendencies. When Beatrice rejects him, he shrugs it off. Also has a sense of humor and very forgiving toward his half-brother.
Con: Unfortunately, despite his maturity and cool-headedness, he still ends up deceived by his brother Don John’s “window scene” presentation which easily shakes him into never being sure of himself again. But at least he knows his own gullibility unlike Claudio. However, since Don John is his brother, you’d think he’d see through his latest act of treachery even when it’s further denied. But he doesn’t and until the end, he sees Hero as guilty as charged. In some ways, he should really know better since he has even less of an excuse to trust Don John than Claudio.
Fate: He ends up alone.
From: Much Ado About Nothing
Pro: He’s nice to his niece and loves his daughter as well as wants her to be happy. He’s also cautious and friendly.
Con: In many ways, he’s a lot like the Sultan from Aladdin insomuch that he’s a local authority figure (Governor of Messina) who lets himself be guided by the ideas and opinions of others. For instance, he’s just as fine with Hero marrying Claudio as he would be if Don Pedro proposed to her. However, when Hero seems to prove promiscuous, he’s more likely to believe the noble accusers and threaten his own daughter. In fact, he’s humiliated and wishes she’d die. Sure he eventually does try to help Hero and confronts Claudio but not until the local priest convinces him of his daughter’s innocence. Yes, I know Claudio’s an idiot, but the fact this guy shames his own daughter over an adultery accusation is just totally inexcusable. As Hero’s dad, he should’ve been the first guy to defend her, not the priest.
Fate: Well, he gets to marry off his niece and daughter.
114. Lady Emilia
From: Two Noble Kinsmen
Pro: She’s beautiful, nice, and has fought in battles as an Amazon. Likes gardens. Is appalled when Palamon and Arcite fight to the death for her and tries to get them banished so she won’t have to deal with them again. Refuses to attend the fight because she’s horrified that other men will die simply because she’s pretty and exists.
Con: She unintentionally gets entangled in a love triangle with 2 different guys but she can’t see either as better than the other and doesn’t want to condemn one to death. Also, there’s no sign that she loves either of them and actually feels that she’ll never share a love as intense or as close as she had with her best friend Flavinia.
Fate: Marries Palamon but pledges to keep the day of Arcite’s death as a memorial day to him for the rest of her life.
115. George of Clarence
From: Henry VI Parts 2 and 3 and Richard III
Pro: Well, he’s not as bad as Richard, but that’s not saying much.
Con: He’s an opportunistic bastard. Betrays his family during the Wars of the Roses after Edward IV marries a woman he doesn’t like (though he does go back). More focused on his own emotions and desires.
Fate: Gets stabbed and drowned in a massive vat of wine on Richard’s orders (in real life he was smothered to death on Edward IV’s orders because he wanted him dead which had nothing to do with prophecies. In fact, it had more to do with him being a part of an armed rebellion against his brother and other increasingly lunatic stunts. And ironically, Richard was against this).
116. Constance of Brittany
From: King John
Pro: Wants her son Arthur to become King of England that she enlists the help of French king Philip II and the Duke of Austria to back her up with military muscle. Is tormented with grief after her son dies.
Con: Is limited by the people she has to work with and her allies are only interested in helping her so they could manipulate Arthur for their own purposes and gain control of England. Forgets that when allies are helping you for personal gain, they’re likely to abandon you when an opportunity for more gain comes along. This is what happens when Philip II marries his son Louis to King John’s niece. Also a lot of her actions to secure the throne for Arthur end up getting her son killed. Later becomes erratic and self-destructive.
Fate: Dies of grief over losing her son. In real life she died before her son did.
117. Lady Anne Neville
From: Richard III
Pro: Well, she’s beautiful and well connected.
Con: Gets herself hitched to a new man while she’s supposed to be mourning for her dad, husband and father-in-law (to be fair, this is supposed to show how much of a manipulator Richard III is. But in real life, he actually loved her possibly since they were kids. And she only married Edward of Westminster because her daddy wanted her to). Lets herself be used by her husband as a political pawn to further his agenda. Then again, she could be just as crooked and ambitious as him so she might’ve married him just so she could wear the tiara again.
Fate: Poisoned to death by her husband so he could marry Elizabeth of York (in real life she died of TB and he had no intention to marry his niece. Richard also took his wife’s death really hard. In fact, after his wife’s death, he was trying to arrange marriages for both of them to Portuguese royalty).
Pro: He’s sharp and smart enough to be the play’s voice of reason and know that something shady is going on with his friend Macbeth. Doesn’t seem to be taken in by the witches and wouldn’t be surprised if they’re trying to trick Macbeth. He’s also courageous in battle but tends to take his time. Has a good relationship with his son.
Con: Unfortunately, his suspicions on Duncan’s murder don’t protect him from his friend betraying him once he becomes king. Also, might be too ambitious for his own good and doesn’t snitch when he should.
Fate: Is brutally murdered by Macbeth. At least his son Fleance is wise enough to hightail it and survives.
119. Duke of Buckingham
From: Richard III
Pro: Well, at least he won’t kill kids because he waffles when Richard orders him to kill the princes in the tower (in reality, we’re not so sure).
Con: He’s greedy as well as willing to lie, cheat, and steal to help his pal Richard get the crown. Duped into thinking Richard will reward him with the earldom of Hereford once he becomes king (big mistake). After ticking off Richard, he hightails it to Wales so he can join forces with Edmond against him.
Fate: Gets executed on Richard’s orders.
From: The Merchant of Venice
Pro: Sure she has to put up with living with Shylock which can be hell. And you can’t blame her for wanting to get out and dodge. May love and feel some guilt for her father. Thinks Lorenzo loves her because she’s smart and pretty.
Con: While you can’t blame her for eloping with Lorenzo, she’s a selfish bitch who breaks her dad’s heart. She converts to Christianity to escape being her father’s daughter and sees his conduct and behavior with being Jewish. Either that, or she’s suffering from internalized oppression that makes her ashamed of her own identity. Nevertheless, while she’s willing to part with her dad and her own identity for a man, she perfectly fine with taking her dad’s ducats which she freely spends and exchanging her dead mom’s ring for a monkey. And she even joins in the accusations of wickedness and cruelty made against him. Sure she may not have the best dad, but what she did to him was pretty awful.
Fate: Marries Lorenzo and takes all her dad’s worldly goods.