April 23rd is a very significant day in the life of William Shakespeare so I thought I’d celebrate the event with a short fun quiz. How much do you know about the greatest dramatist in the English language?
An easy one to start with:
1. “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.” This is spoken by one of the witches at the start of Macbeth, and refers to Macbeth himself. But who wrote the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes?
(a) Stephen King
(b) Ray Bradbury
(c) Dean Koontz
(d) Thomas Harris
2. Who were Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
(a) They sang Bridge Over Troubled Water.
(b) Two characters in Hamlet.
(c) Shakespeare’s copyright lawyers.
(d) It was the gay sequel to Romeo and Juliet
3. Which one of Shakespeare’s plays has fourteen characters die by the final curtain, including two being baked in a pie, one buried alive and another having her tongue cut out?
(a) King Lear
(b) Henry IV Part III
(c) Titus Andronicus
(d) Silence of the Lambs
4. What did Shakespeare call his autobiography?
(a) As I Like it.
(b) Much Ado About Nothing.
(c) The Play’s the Thing
(d) Shakespeare in Love.
5. Who said: ‘I read Shakespeare and the Bible and I can shoot dice. That’s what I call a liberal education’
(a) Pope Bendict XVI
(b) Newt Gingrich
(c) Susan Sarandon
(d) Tallulah Bankhead
6. (Spoiler alert) Who is the only character left alive at the end of Hamlet?
7. Who was Yorick?
(a) a skull that Hamlet found in a graveyard
(b) Ophelia’s lover
(c) Falstaff’s comedy sidekick
(d) Richard III’s chiropractor
8. What was the name of Shakespeare’s son?
(d) William Shakespeare Junior
9. Why was the date April 23rd significant in Shakespeare’s life?
(a) it’s the day he was born
(b) it’s the day he was married
(c) it’s the day he died
(d) it’s the day he bought his first typewriter
10. Finally, according to many people, Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare. So who was he?
(a) Sir Francis Bacon
(b) Edmund de Vere
(c) Christopher Marlowe
(d) Sir Francis Drake
1. The answer is (b) Ray Bradbury. He wrote this massive bestseller in 1962.
2. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were courtiers hired by the king to spy on Hamlet. It is suggested that they were named after two Danish aristocrats who visited in England in 1592, Frederick Rosenkrantz and Knud Gyldenstierne
3. Titus Andronicus. Shakespeare’s first tragedy, and really just a piece of hackwork, trying to emulate the gory revenge plays that were very popular with audiences at the time. The young bard soon learned to take his character Polonius’ advice: To thine own self be true.
4. If you wrote any answer take off two points.
5. It was (d) the wonderful actress Tallulah Bankhead. Also famous for saying ‘I’m as pure as the driven slush.’
6. It’s (c), Horatio. Hamlet’s father is poisoned, (by having it poured in his ear, an early example of bad research), Ophelia commits suicide, Polonius is stabbed, Hamlet has Rosencrantz and Guildenstern executed by falsifying evidence against them, Gertrude is poisoned, Laertes dies in a swordfight with Hamlet, and Hamlet stabs his father Claudius before dying himself from a poisoned blade.
This is not the record. Only 9 characters died in Hamlet (not counting poor Yorick, who was already deceased. Alas.) King Lear has ten deaths plus an eye gouging while Titus Andronicus has 14. Shakespeare, it should be remembered, was as much Jeffery Deaver as he was poet.
7. It was (a). Yorick was once jester to Hamlet’s father. On finding his skull it allows Hamlet an opportunity to reflect on his own mortality, something that it’s wise to do if you find yourself in a Shakespeare play.
8. The answer is (a) Hamnet. Shakespeare’s only son died at eleven years old of unknown causes. It is not thought that Hamlet was written as a response to his son’s death; he was born before Will gained a reputation as a playwright, and the play had been around for a very long time. But its thought the grief over his son’s death did greatly affect his work. Consider the conclusion of King Lear when the ruined monarch recognizes his daughter is dead:
No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all?
Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!
9. the correct answer is (a) and (c). He was born and died on the same day.
10. None of the answers is correct. Shakespeare was Shakespeare unless you’re Travis Bickle.