Shakespeare Study Guides
Here you will find a detailed analysis of selected plays, including information on the major characters and themes, study questions, annotations, and the theatrical history of each drama. Please check back frequently for more additions to this page. You will also find extensive explanatory notes and commentary for most of the plays at the bottom of each scene.
Hamlet Study Guide
Macbeth Study Guide
Romeo and Juliet Study Guide
Julius Caesar Study Guide
King Lear Study Guide
Othello Study Guide
The Merchant of Venice Study Guide
As You Like It Study Guide
A Midsummer Night's Dream Study Guide
The Tempest Study Guide
The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide
Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide
Antony and Cleopatra Study Guide
Henry IV, Part 1 Study Guide
Featured Essays and Book Excerpts on Shakespeare's Plays
The Merchant of Venice
Setting, Atmosphere and the Unsympathetic Venetians in The Merchant of Venice
Themes in The Merchant of Venice
A Merry Devil: Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice
Three Interpretations of Shylock
Introduction to Shylock
Shakespeare Sisterhood: Exploring the Character of Portia
Forgiveness and Reconciliation in The Tempest
Magic, Books, and the Supernatural in The Tempest
The Contrast Between Ariel and Caliban in Shakespeare's Tempest
The Relationship Between Miranda and Ferdinand
Shakespeare's Second Period: Exploring Much Ado About
Nothing, Twelfth Night, As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet and the Histories
Introduction to Shakespeare's Malvolio
Introduction to Shakespeare's Feste
Spiritual Grace: An Examination of Viola from Twelfth Night
The Comic Relief of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek
As You Like It
Shakespeare's Fools: Touchstone in As You Like It
Portraits of Human Virtue: A Look at the Characters in Shakespeare's As You Like It
Exploring As You Like It
Stage Rosalinds: The Trouble of Rosalind's Disguise in Shakespeare's As You Like It
How to Study a Play by Shakespeare
Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy
Shakespeare's Blank Verse
Pronouncing Shakespearean Names
Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
Shakespeare's Audience in his Day
Going to a Play in Shakespeare's London
Entertainment in Elizabethan England
Shocking Elizabethan Drama
Daily Life in Shakespeare's London
What did Shakespeare drink?
What did Shakespeare look like?
Shakespeare's Attention to Details
Shakespeare's Portrayals of Sleep
Shakespeare Hits the Big Time
Worst Diseases in Shakespeare's London
Incredible Quotations on Shakespeare's Genius
In the Spotlight
Quote in Context
Your majesty loads our house: for those of old,
And the late dignities heap'd up to them,
We rest your hermits.
Macbeth (1.6), Lady Macbeth
Yes, a king travelling with an entourage of hermits sounds like a scene from Monty Python, but Duncan's hermits were actually almsmen, hired to pray for the welfare of Duncan and his men. According to the Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898, the number of these almsmen was "equal to that of the king's years, so that an extra one was added every returning birthday."
In the context of the play, when Lady Macbeth says 'We rest your hermits' she means that, because of their tremendous feelings of gratitude, she and her husband will pray so hard for Duncan that his almsmen will be able to stop praying ('rest'). Read on ...
Homework Help: Hamlet
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Hamlet (1.4), Marcellus to Horatio
Marcellus, shaken by the many recent disturbing events and no doubt angered (as is Hamlet) by Claudius's mismanagement of the body politic, astutely notes that Denmark is festering with moral and political corruption.
Francisco's lament that he is "sick at heart" acts in concert with Marcellus's famous line to provide an account of a diseased country. Their comments set the gloomy mood of a neglected populace and substantiate Hamlet's suspicions about Claudius's corruption. Read on ...
On Shakespeare's Mind
"Shakespeare's power of imagination was as fertile as that of any man known to history, but he had another power which is rarely absent from great poets, the power of absorbing or assimilating the fruits of reading. Spenser, Milton, Burns, Keats, and Tennyson had the like power, but probably none had it in quite the same degree as Shakespeare. In his case, as in the case of the other poets, this power of assimilation strengthened, rendered more robust, the productive power of his imagination. This assimilating power is as well worth minute study and careful definition as any other of Shakespeare's characteristics." [Sir Sidney Lee] Read on ...