To quiz or not to quiz?

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

photograph: Eddie Mallin

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?

(a) Gertrude

(b) Hamlet

(c) Horatio

(d) MacDuff

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?

(a) Hamnet

(b) Hamlet

(c) Hammet

(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.

About colinfalconer

author of bestselling historical novels like Anastasia, When We Were Gods, Aztec and Harem. My books have been published in the UK, US and ANZ and translated into seventeen languages.
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20 Responses to To quiz or not to quiz?

  1. I actually got most of those right. Amazing! I know that most people hate Titus Andronicus, but it is actually one of my favorites. Perhaps it appeals to my horror sensibilities. 🙂 I’m following you here now.

  2. My score is nonpunishable…but I stopped by to say I like this WP format with your books in the header. Still reading and enjoying “Aztec.”

    • Thanks Alvarado! I’m glad you’re liking Aztec. I like the new format too, still getting used to it. All switched over in one hurried day. Should have it looking lived in by the end of the week!

  3. susielindau says:

    Congrats on your WP site! You are going to love it! Let me know if you have any questions!

  4. Diane Capri says:

    Very nice new blog, Colin. Congratulations on The Big Move!

  5. Coleen Patrick says:

    To fail or not to fail . . . I’m not saying which one was me. 🙂

  6. amyshojai says:

    Fun blog! I got most right, but the wrong answers were even more fun. *s* Congrats on the move to WP, this makes it a whole lote easier for me. For some reason Blogger wouldn’t let me post comments half the time.

    • Thanks Amy! Yes, that’s what I moved. Blogger comments are useless and then I tried Intense Debate and that was worse. I couldn’t even see the comments to answer them. I’d had enough. I thought the shift over to WP was going to be a whole lot harder which was why I was putting it off. In the end it was comparatively painless, even for an IT dummy like me!

  7. CC MacKenzie says:

    Very nice new home, Mr Falconer and I suppose seven out of ten isn’t bad, fluffed eight and four you tricky bugger.

    And I can now comment – yea! Blogger’s recently been a total pain and I know not why.

    • Seven out of ten is pretty damned good. Eight was tricky, I only knew that because I did Hamlet at school and our English teacher was a Shakespeare nut. And I’m glad it’s made it easier to comment, that’s why I moved. Blogger is easier to use but now I’ve got some working knowledge of WP I love it.

  8. lwsapir says:

    Your knowledge of Shakespeare is pretty impressive…as is your new wordpress site! LOVE IT! 🙂

  9. livrancourt says:

    My younger sister was born on 4/23 and gets to celebrate with Shakespeare. I was born on 4/20, and get to celebrate with Hitler. I always knew Mom lover her more than she loved me.
    Nice job on the new site, btw…

  10. Debra Kristi says:

    Oh, yay! I like that you added the “Like” button. I’m laughing with Coleen because I’m in the same boat. Fail. Great post. Once again you knocked it out of the park.

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