Mistakes in Shakespeare’s Plays

alex atkins bookshelf literatureFew 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.

SHARE THE LOVE: If you enjoyed this post, please help expand the Bookshelf community by sharing with a friend or with your readers. Cheers.

Read related posts: What if Shakespeare Wrote the Hits: Don’t Stop Believin
Were Shakespeare’s Sonnets Written to a Young Man?
When Was Shakespeare Born?
The Legacy of Shakespeare
Shakespeare the Pop Song Writer

The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folio
Who Are the Greatest Characters in Shakespeare?
The Most Common Myths About Shakespeare
Shakespeare and Uranus
Best Editions of Shakespeare’s Sonnets

For further reading: The Blunder Book by M. Hirsch Goldberg


One response to “Mistakes in Shakespeare’s Plays

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: