Few will deny that William Shakespeare was a literary genius. More than 450 years later, Shakespeare still towers over every literary figure — his plays have never ceased being performed, by professional and amateurs alike, as well as finding their way into various film adaptations; his plays are translated, read, and studied in high school and universities around the globe; his words and phrases form an important part of the English lexicon; and his work continues to inspire artists, filmmakers, poets, and writers. But, like any mortal, Shakespeare made mistakes. If one reads his plays very carefully, you will find some rather interesting blunders and anachronisms (things that belong to another time period). Here are some of the mistakes that Shakespeare made:
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
In the play, which takes place in Ancient Rome around 45 B.C., a clock strikes the hour; however the clock was not invented until 1656.
Antony and Cleopatra
The play, which takes place throughout the Roman Empire from about 44 B.C. to 30 B.C., mentions billiards; however, billiards were not introduced until the early 1340s.
The Winter’s Tale
A vessel is described as “driven by a storm on the coast of Bohemia” and “Our ship has touched upon the deserts of Bohemia.” However, Bohemia, now a part of Czechoslovakia, does not have a coast and is a fertile region surrounded by mountains.
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
In an early scene, Hamlet’s father’s ghost appears before the sentries at Elsinore, the Danish royal castle. The ghost is presumably Catholic since it speaks of purgatory and absolution; however during the period in which the play takes place in Denmark, the Danes were pagans.
Prince Hamlet’s friend, Horatio, refers to the cliffs of Elsinore: “What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, / Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff / That beetles o’er his base into the sea” However, Elsinore has no cliffs.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Valentine explains that he traveled from Verona to Milan by ship (“Once more adieu! my father at the road / Expects my coming, there to see me shipp’d.”). The only problem is that it is impossible to make that trip by ship, since both are located in the central part of northern Italy.
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For further reading: The Blunder Book by M. Hirsch Goldberg