Shakespeare is one of two POV characters in this novel. The book includes extensive quotations from his actual works and from two fictional plays of his, which he wrote in a timeline where England was occupied by Spain - a play about King Philip II of Spain written to please the occupiers, and a play about the Briton Queen Boudicca, written to arouse a rebellion against them. Turtledove borrows several single lines from Henry VIII, Titus Andonicus, The Merchant of Venice, and King John and adapts them to fit into one or the other fictional plays.
At different points throughout the novel, Shakespeare works on a play titled Love's Labours Won. This is the title of one of his storied "lost plays;" it is believed by some to have been meant as a sequel to Love's Labours Lost. The play which Shakespeare works on in the novel seems to be Love's Labours Lost with a different title and minor alterations (like The Maltese Elephant and The Phantom of the Catacombs in Southern Victory, or Invaders from Minerva in A World of Difference. In Ruled Britannia itself, Prince of Denmark (Hamlet) and If You Like It (As You Like It) get the same treatment.
Other existing plays referred to specifically include Richard III, Macbeth, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Taming of the Shrew, and Romeo and Juliet. Turtledove writes a scene in which Prince of Denmark is performed live in its entirety, with Shakespeare's fellow King's Men Richard Burbage as Hamlet and Will Kemp as the Gravedigger. Shakespeare himself plays Hamlet's deceased father.
Constable Walter Strawberry is based on Dogberry from Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing.
Several famous lines of Shakespeare are worked seamlessly into the narration and dialogue, and may pass over the heads of most readers.
Shakespeare is the POV character in the entirety of this story, which revolves around him discovering that another playwright has plagiarized his work. Shakespeare attends a live performance of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, at first intending to confront Stoppard and demand he stop stealing Shakespeare's scenes and characters, then intending to compliment Stoppard on the play's cleverness, and finally learning that Stoppard is long dead from the theater company's perspective and centuries unborn from his own, and that the actors themselves come from the impossibly distant future. While watching the performance, Shakespeare also reflects on how the conventions of Elizabethan-Jacobean theater are not observed by the play.
The story uses several Shakespearean quotes, though very few are simply slipped into characters' dialogue as so many had been in Ruled Britannia. The most heavily quoted play is Hamlet, mostly lines which also appear in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and are excerpted from the latter. At the end of the story a 21st century actress quotes a good-sized chunk of The Tempest for Shakespeare's benefit. The Tempest was apparently written in 1610 and 1611; the story is set in 1606, so Shakespeare is hearing lines which he himself had not yet written but would later, or would have, written. The implications of this alarm him to the point that he flees the 21st century actors' company. It is not clear how if at all his as-yet unwritten projects will be affected by this encounter.
Shakespeare is not a character in the following works, but homage is still paid to him.
When Israel is accused of unwarranted brutality in striking against its enemies, former Israeli soldier Orly Binur asks rhetorically, "We're on the bottom for 2,500 years, and people want us to be saints if we're on top for twenty-five minutes?" Her American husband Eric Katz immediately thinks of the diatribe of the Jewish character Shylock in The Merchant of Venice Act 3, Scene 1: "If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"
When the US Vice President visits the Third Temple in Jerusalem and finds that he himself is not the center of attention, assistant ceremonial supervisor Yitzhak Avigad thinks "There are more things in heaven and earth, Mr. Vice President, than are dreamt of in your foreign policy," and wonders if he is going mad when he has resorted to mangling Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5. Just minutes later, after the Vice President has proven himself to be a very bad orator, Yitzhak thinks that the disastrous speech has been "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing," and is shocked to realize that this line from Macbeth Act 5, Scene 5, needs no modification to fit the situation.
Although the relevant POD of this series occurred in 1452, Shakespeare's life and literary output seem to have been unaltered, and are referenced copiously.
In Opening Atlantis: Nouveau Redon, Victor Radcliff reflects that Blaise Black's definition of honor and courage under fire closely match those of Falstaff. He declines to explain this to Blaise as changes to the English language in the two lifetimes since Shakespeare had written, would render the archaic speech incomprehensible to one who was not yet fluent in English. This gets Radcliff curious about the rates of change in other languages.
In The United States of Atlantis, Radcliffe reflects that the line "Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness" (Hamlet Act V) was equally applicable to enduring the horrors of war as it was to gravedigging.
A very short while later, Radcliff once again invokes the graveyard scene of Hamlet by addressing the skull of a honker which his ancestor William Radcliff had acquired a century earlier with "Alas, poor Yorick..." Blaise Black intrudes upon him at this point and regards the scene with nothing more than a raised eyebrow.
In Liberating Atlantis, Frederick Radcliff mistakenly attributes to Shakespeare a quote from Shakespeare's contemporary Sir John Harington: "Treason doth never prosper, what's the reason? Why, if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
In "The Scarlet Band," after Athelstan Helms reveals that the government of the United States of Atlantis was implicit in a conspiracy to discredit the House of Universal Devotion, an unnamed Atlantean investigative journalist promises "Now that we know something's rotten in the state of Denmark, like, we'll be able to run it down ourselves." James Walton, the POV character of the story, reflects that the line contains a Shakespearean allusion. (It comes from Act I of Hamlet.)
Nicole Yoshida, realizing that Internet access is a double edged sword for Pacifica's goals, thinks The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in our technology, paraphrasing Cassius' line in Julius Caesar, Act I, scene 2. ("... but in ourselves.") Later in the same scene, Malcolm Washington replies to another of Yoshida's observations with Hamlet's line "Ay, there's the rub."
David Fisher recites a quotation from Francis Bacon's iconic play Prosciutto, which turns out to be a speech from Hamlet, Act V, Scene II. The implication is that in this fantasy universe, Bacon really did write the plays of Shakespeare.
In "The Quest for the Great Gray Mossy," Milvil thinks of an axiom, "aggression is the better part of valor." In Henry IV, Part One, Sir John Falstaff remarks that "the better part of valour is discretion," often paraphrased in popular culture as "discretion is the better part of valor."
In "Vilest Beast," set in 1610, Allan Cooper before setting off on a dangerous mission, declares that "every subject's duty is the king's, but every subject's soul is his own" (Henry V Act 4, Scene 1). Caleb Lucas replies "Well spoken!" and then adds "Imitate the action of the tiger!" (Ibid. Act 3 Scene 1.) The narration acknowledges that they are borrowing these lines from Shakespeare, who is still alive at this point. As few of his plays had yet been offered in printed form (at least in OTL), this suggests that, before these men left England for Virginia in 1607, the had either seen the play performed in London by Shakespeare's own company or met someone who had.
The titular phrase "every inch a king" was spoken by the titular character in King Lear, Act IV scene 6. After being driven insane, Lear, crowned with weeds, makes futile assertions of his now usurped power.
This fantasy tragedy appears to be structurally based on Romeo and Juliet. The key scenes in the tragic love between Ricold Botron and Ellene Caffilos mirror Romeo's first meeting with Juliet, and his visit to the family crypt. The story is set in Cathaly, a city-state which resembles a generic Renaissance Italian municipality.
Despite completely dominating Britain in the early 21st century, Nazi Germany has developed a deep reverence for Shakespeare by 2010. In fact, the study of Shakespeare is more dynamic in Germany than in the Anglosphere. This is in part because a 19th century German translation made Shakespeare less archaic and more accessible in language, and in much larger part because Germans enjoy a much higher standard of living than do the citizens of any Anglophone country, and correspondingly have more time and resources to devote to scholarship of all stripes.
As President John Nance Garner is facing impeachment, he remembers Shakespeare's Mark Antony eulogizing the title character in Julius Caesar that "The evil that men do lives after them,/The good is oft interred with their bones." Despite the fact that Joe Steele is dead, the dictatorial regime he created in the United States survives him, and continues to subvert U.S. democracy.
This pastiche serves as a direct sequel to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Minor fairy characters from the play are given new development and revealed to be soldiers in Faerie's standing army. In that capacity, they are called to fight against outside menaces, both supernatural (kobolds) and natural (bats). The Indian apprentice, whose existence is a major plot catalyst in the play, but was never intended by Shakespeare to be brought on stage, appears directly as well, and is given the name Ghosh.
"Lee at the Alamo"
- "If it were done when 'tis done,
- Then 'twere well it were done quickly."
Lee recognizes the line and reflects that he greatly prefers Shakespeare to most 19th-century authors.
The Macbeth quote may also foreshadow the story's final scene, where Lee, having been honored for service to the United States on the field of battle against an army of traitors, finds himself sorely tempted to turn traitor himself. Macbeth faces the same dilemma in the first act of the play, but decides to give in to the temptation, whereas Lee ultimately overcomes it. (There may be a further ironic allusion to the fact that, as anyone with a smattering of American Civil War lore knows, the OTL Lee did turn traitor.)
This story revolves around the introduction of Broadway-style musical plays to a generic fantasy kingdom. While most of the story's myriad stage references are to 20th-century American comedy, there is a reference to Prosciutto, a well-regarded play which troupe members Jeclyn and Benasbiee starred in. As prosciutto is an Italian foodstuff made from pig meat, the pun appears to be prosciutto=ham=Hamlet.
Diana McGraw's conscience troubles her after her affair with Marvin. When her dense husband asks her what's wrong, she assures him all is well and she loves him, then thinks to herself "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." (Hamlet Act III)
The story's title is taken from Romeo's line in Romeo and Juliet, Act I, scene 1: "He that is stricken blind, cannot forget the precious treasure of his eyesight lost." This quote is placed before the story in Friends of the Horseclans II.
Apparently Hamlet borrowed the phrase "aye, there's the rub" from popular usage. Crosstime immigrant Allister Park is surprised to realize this, when he hears the phrase in the mouth of Tawantiinsuujuan agent Ankowaljuu in a timeline where Shakespeare never existed.
In How Few Remain, Abraham Lincoln reads Shakespeare. without paying much attention to it. during a mostly solitary train ride across the Upper Midwest, during which he is preoccupied with his own melancholy thoughts.
In Breakthroughs, during a major US victory on the Roanoke Front, US barrels carry with them large bundles of lumber to fill in wide ditches that Confederate military engineers had dug in an attempt to immobilize them. Captain Cremony, Chester Martin's CO, is reminded of Macbeth, and exclaims "Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane!"
Also in Breakthroughs, Charley Sprague quotes the third act of Hamlet: "Aye, there's the rub." On recognizing the quote, Percy Stone comments that, between it and an earlier Biblical quote, Sprague is bringing a touch of class to Jonathan Moss's squadron. Encouraged, Sprague quotes Shakespeare again, this time Act III of Henry V:
- "But when the blast of war blows in our ears
- Then imitate the action of the tiger."
This time Stone responds that he is not limber enough to lick his own balls.
- "Why, Man, he doth bestride the narrow world
- Like a Colossus; and we petty men
- Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
- To find ourselves dishonorable graves."
Then Blackford, his wife, and Upton Sinclair compare Roosevelt to Julius Caesar, with Flora pointing out that, had he been a true Caesar, he would not have accepted the results of the 1920 election but would have called out the troops to maintain presidential power. She also admits that the troops might have followed such an unlawful order coming from Roosevelt.
In an attempt to break the chilling mood this reflection had brought, Blackford skips ahead to the third act of Julius Caesar by saying:
- "I come not to praise Caesar, but to bury him."
In Drive to the East, Scipio, realizing that his son is beginning to plan to take up arms against the Freedom Party, is reminded of a very appropriate quote from the first Act of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar:
- "Yon Cassius has a lean and hungry look.
- He thinks too much: Such men are dangerous."
- O brave new world, to have such people in't!
- "Yon Carsten has a lean and mustang look.
- He thinks too much: Such men are dangerous."
Following this paraphrase, Carsten reminisces about his school days. Though he dropped out of school before completing high school, he did remember Shakespeare almost thirty-five years after having read it, thanks to the effectiveness of his English teacher, Miss Brewster, as an educator.
In In at the Death, Dowling has the opportunity to prove that he's not entirely ignorant of Shakespeare by reflecting that the short, slim, and dour Falstaff Jeffries does not live up to his name - that is, he does not match the magnificent clown from Henry IV parts one and two and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Falstaff was larger than life both in terms of physical size and force of personality.
On a much earthier note, in The Center Cannot Hold, Jonathan Moss consoles himself for having accidentally impregnated Laura Secord by reminding himself that Shakespeare had impregnated his wife before their wedding.
The story "Typecasting" revolves around the Ashland Shakespeare Festival's controversial production of The Tempest. Along the way, characters also discuss Sir Laurence Olivier's 1966 film version of Othello. After the conflict is resolved, the story ends with Governor Bill Williamson declaring "All's well that ends well," the title of another Shakespeare play.
Kelly Birnbaum reflect on roughing it in the wilderness when doing geological fieldwork and thought of the gravedigger's line in Hamlet Act 5, Scene 1 that "Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness." This reflected her becoming accustomed to the hardships as time went on. Her familiarity with this scene also let her contemplate how deeply buried in ash the I-90 from Missoula was, deeper than alas poor Yorick, a skull the gravedigger comes across during his work.
After Louise Ferguson's pregnancy test came back positive, she scrubbed her hands in the washroom sink repeatedly like Lady Macbeth. This is a reference to Act 5, Scene 1, of the play Macbeth where Lady Macbeth sleepwalks and tries to wash imaginary bloodstains from her hands after the murder of King Duncan.
Justin Nachman was complaining about being stuck in Guilford, Maine to which Rob Ferguson replied he kind of liked the town. Nachman then gave Ferguson a look that said "Et tu, Brute". This line is uttered by Julius Caesar as he was assassinated in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1.
Vanessa Ferguson contemplated being stuck in a FEMA refugee camp due to her lack of funds. She had transferred her savings from Wells Fargo to a local Denver bank because she received more personal service. But as Hamlet had said "there was the rub". This line comes from a soliloquy in the play Hamlet Act 3, scene 1.
Louise Ferguson complains to her co-worker Patty that her son Marshall charges her the going rate to provide childcare for her infant son while she went to work. Patty sympathetically quotes "Sharper than a serpent's tooth is an ungrateful child" from King Lear Act 1, scene 4, although she incorrectly attributes it to the Bible.
Rob Ferguson thought one winter in Maine how he had become accustomed to using snowshoes and reflected on the gravedigger's line in Hamlet Act 5, Scene 1 that "Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness."
Thomas Bushell recites several Shakespeare quotations throughout the novel, mostly from Hamlet and Julius Caesar. In the Charleroi coal mines, he tells his guide Rufus Fitzwilliam to "Lay on, Macduff", a line from Macbeth. As so many people do, he misuses this line to mean "lead the way" when in fact it is a challenge to a death-duel. Fitzwilliam doesn't understand the line, anyway.
Bushell is a bit too clever for his own good when he plays with a famous line from Antony and Cleopatra Act II Scene 2: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety." In the original play, this line is spoken by the Roman soldier Enobarbus to describe the temperamental moods of Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. Bushell twists this line to praise the tailoring abilities of Marcus Aurelius Stimpson: "Age cannot stale nor custom wither his infinite embroidery." Sadly, the reference goes right past Bushell's audience Irene Clarke, who is stymied by it.
At the beginning of An Emperor for the Legion, Nevrat Sviodo meets Marcus Scaurus after having been brought in by Scaurus's Khatrisher scouts. Mistaking the Khatrishers for Yezda, Nevrat initially fled from them. She did not heed their cries of "Friends! Countrymen!" but did allow herself to be brought in when they cried "Romans!"
"Friends, Romans, countrymen" is the famous opening line of Mark Antony's eulogy for Julius Caesar in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, Act III Scene 2.
In Sentry Peak, Turtledove introduces a Detinan Civil War General who is a stand-in for American Civil War General William Rosecrans. As "Rosecrans" is the English form of the Danish name "Rosencrantz," Turtledove named the character after the other half of the hapless duo of errand-runners from Hamlet: Guildenstern.
On the other side of the Detinan divide, a regiment of the Army of Franklin is jam-packed with soldiers who share names with characters from various Shakespeare plays: Florizel, Gremio, Thersites, Thisbe, Tybalt, etc. One member is named Ormerod, which does not appear to be Shakespearean, but has a wife named Bianca, which is.
In Coup d'Etat, the major quotes Act I, Scene 7 of Macbeth to Alistair Walsh as the two scout the defences of 10 Downing Street, planning an antifascist coup: "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it was done quickly."
- "Oh God! I could be bounded in a nutshell
- And count myself a king of infinite space!"
When the cessation of hostilities allows electricity to return to Britain. David Goldfarb reflects that he rather misses the atmosphere which torchlight had lent the White Horse Inn, saying that it had been possible to imagine Shakespeare visiting the place.
Frank Coffey recites lines from Hamlet's soliloquy, drawing parallels between Hamlet's conflicts and the ongoing impasse between Tosevites and the Race. When Tom de la Rosa says that he can't see Coffey (a black man) as a melancholy Dane, the wit replies "You're right - I'm too cheerful."
Sam Yeager reflects on how much American vernacular has changed in the 50-plus years between his going into cold sleep and his encountering the crew of the Commodore Perry. He reflects that the English language has always been a dynamic language and that Shakespeare would find Ernest Hemingway incomprehensible. (Turtledove further explored the idea of Shakespeare struggling to understand later generations' versions of the language in "We Haven't Got There Yet.")
The time-displaced Sam tells his grandson Richard Yeager that "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in the stars, but in ourselves" (Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 2), and then adds that it isn't true in this case, because his culture shock results from his travel to a star, Tau Ceti.
- Alpha and Omega, p. 340, HC.
- Ibid., pgs. 392-393.
- See e.g.: Atlantis and Other Places, pg. 436, HC.
- And the Last Trump Shall Sound, pgs. 21-22.
- The Case of the Toxic Spell Dump, p. 270.
- Ibid., p. 23.
- A Different Flesh, p. 23, 2018 edition.
- Ibid., p. 48.
- Bombs Away, pg. 324, HC.
- Counting Up, Counting Down, p. 360, purple ed.
- Chicks 'n' Chained Males, p. 146. Chicks Ahoy, pg. 703.
- Down in the Bottomlands and Other Places, p. 273.
- Eruption, pgs. 59-60, HC.
- Ibid., pg. 205.
- Ibid., pg. 251.
- All Fall Down, pg. 23, HC.
- Ibid, pg. 64.
- Ibid, pg. 74.
- Things Fall Apart, pg. 62, HC.
- The Two Georges, p. 228, HC.
- Ibid., p. 296, HC.
- An Emperor for the Legion p 3
- Homeward Bound, pgs. 45-46, HC.
- Ibid., p. 401, HC.
- Ibid., p. 438, HC.
- Ibid., p. 550, HC.
- Ibid., p. 582, HC.