Modern Shakespeare

“What’s past is prologue.”

-Shakespeare’s The Tempest

sunglasses shakespeare

Not a fan of early modern English?  Think Shakespeare’s outdated and obsolete?  We’d beg to differ!  Here are some modern twists on the old playwright and his works.  Bet you didn’t realize just how much Shakespeare pops up in pop-culture…

Shakespeare Memes

Most students know what a meme is, but for those who are unfamiliar with social networking, memes are defined as:

  1. An element of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, esp. imitation.
  2. An image, video, etc. that is passed electronically from one Internet user to another.

There are many memes about the Bard or his works–just look at these posted here, or search Google, Facebook or other social media sites to find more!  Find a funny Shakespeare meme you’d like to share?  Email it to Mr. Riccio.

A reference to the three witches from Shakespeare's Macbeth

A reference to the three witches from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

This meme references the lines spoken by Mercutio in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet


A pun (play on words) from Shakespeare’s Richard III, whose line was originally “Now is the winter of our discontent.”

one does not simply understand shakespeare

Shakespeare can be difficult to understand, but have no fear-your English teachers are here to help you!


A funny reference to the line repeated by Lady Macbeth

swag shakespeare

Did you know that Shakespeare invented over 1,700 words? Many of these we still use today!


Shakespeare References in Music

Shakespeare wrote, “If music be the food of love, play on!”  Play on indeed–in the course of your lifetime, chances are you’ve heard at least one song that mentions Shakespeare, or one of his works!  Taylor Swift’s song “Love Story” mentions Romeo & Juliet–as do songs by The Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, Madonna, Peggy Lee, and many others.  Led Zeppelin even has a CD whose name is based on a line from one of Shakespeare’s plays! A number of other bands have even taken their name from popular works of his!  The website Mental Floss features an article about 11 songs that mention Shakespeare.  Why, even The Beatles performed a Shakespeare play!

If you’re interested in listening to some songs that show the influence of Shakespeare’s work, then check out this playlist on Grooveshark–see if you can recognize the references.  If you know of a song that references Shakespeare or his plays, but you do not see it on the playlist, let Mr. Riccio know!

Songs to do with Shakespeare


Not a fan of pop or rock music?  That’s okay!  Shakespeare’s works have influenced hip-hop and rap too!  Funny “news” website The Onion has an article that refers to Shakespeare as “The Ultimate Rapper.”  The playwright was particularly skilled with rhymes, and many of his works follow a particular rhythm and meter known as iambic pentameter.  Just like popular rap artists, Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written to be performed and spoken aloud.  Check out this quick clip on Youtube from the film 10 Things I Hate About You, based on Shakespeare’s play The Taming of the Shrew-here a high school teacher reads Shakespeare’s Sonnet 141, highlighting the natural rhythm in the poem.  Educational hip-hop group Flocabulary has written a number of raps about the Bard and his works as well–check them out here on their website or on Youtube!

Shakespeare at the Movies

Since the beginning of movies, Shakespeare’s plays have been put on the silver screen.  While many adaptations are faithful to their original context, others have been adapted to more modern settings, as well as set in places around the world.  Some films may center entirely around Shakespeare’s plays, while others simply make reference to a Shakespearean quote or a scene from one of his works!  Toy Story 3 mentions Shakespeare when the toys decide to act out a play.  Gnomeo & Juliet is a cartoon adaptation of one of Shakespeare’s most famous works.  There are a number of movies based on Shakespeare’s plays coming out in the next few years as well, including Romeo & Juliet an adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing by Joss Whedon:



Disney’s The Lion King is also an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  And don’t forget Iron Man’s reference to Shakespeare in the movie The Avengers!  She’s the Man and 10 Things I Hate About You are also modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays.  Be sure to read here to learn of other Shakespeare quotes in films such as Harry Potter and Twilight!

For a full list of movies attributed to William Shakespeare’s writing, check out Shakespeare on!

Shakespeare on TV

Check out this Levi’s Jeans commercial that quotes A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  This coffee commercial says that hundreds of chickens were let loose in a school library to read Shakespeare.  Shakespeare’s even been used to sell Slim Jims!  Many television shows have referenced Shakespeare over the years.  The TV series “Band of Brothers” gets its name from a line in Shakespeare’s Henry V.  Not particularly excited about studying Shakespeare?  Neither were the Huxtable children in this episode of ‘The Cosby Show”!  Both “Family Guy” and “South Park” reference the famous playwright in multiple episodes.  In one episode of “The Simpsons,” Shakespeare’s Hamlet is re-created.  Read about more TV episodes referencing Shakespeare here.

Shakespearean Titles & Books

Ever wonder where that book got its name?  Chances are it was inspired by Shakespeare.  Take a look at a few novel names below–some references are given, see if you can find the others:

  • Brave New World, Aldus Huxley-taken from The Tempest, “What brave new world, that has such creatures in it…”
  • The Moon Is Down, John Steinbeck
  • Gaudy Night, Dorothy Sayers
  • Under the Greenwood Tree, Thomas Hardy
  •  And Be a Villain, Rex Stout
  •  Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury-from Macbeth
  • Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov
  • Band of Brothers, Stephen Ambrose
  • The Dogs of War, Frederick Forsyth
  • There is a Tide, Agatha Christie
  • By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Agatha Chrstie-from Macbeth “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.”
  • Not in Our Stars, M. M. Marshall-From Julius Caesar “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars…”
  • Chimes at Midnight, Terence White
  • The Mousetrap, Agatha Christie
  • Twice-Told Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • A Muse of Fire, A.D. Harvey
  • Strange Snow, Steve Metcalfe
  • Walk the Night, Robert C. Reinhart
  • A Plague on Both Your Houses, Robert. W. Whitaker-taken from Mercutio’s final lines in Romeo & Juliet
  • The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner-from Macbeth

Many of Shakespeare’s famous stories have also been made into graphic novels!  If you’d like to purchase one, check out this list on Google.

Shakespeare in the News

As recently as April of this year, Shakespeare was featured in the news!  Researchers have been conducting studies to see how Shakespeare’s plays might help children who have Autism.  The dramatic reading of his works and the overly expressive gestures have been proven to help children with Autism improve communication skills.  Check out a video news report on the article here from Fox News!

The New York Times has it’s own Shakespeare Topic section that features a number of news articles about the famous writer, including an article about Shakespeare being performed for inmates at Riker’s Island, sonnets being recited on the streets of NYC, and why Shakespeare still resonates with a modern age!

Forbes magazine recently posted an article about how Shakespeare may have been a money-grubbing food hoarder!

Yahoo even has a report on how Shakespeare’s sonnets were recorded as DNA letters!

Shakespeare…in Space?

Did you know that two of Shakespeare’s plays have been translated into Klingon, the language of Star Trek?  The Canadian Shakespeare Project has even created a Shakespeare themed video game set in space based on the story Romeo & Juliet.  Play the game online here!

It’s not just Star Trek that references the Bard–look below at these Star Wars thed Shakespeare image and jokes:

but soft star wars



Want to test your knowledge on Shakespeare?

Play trivia games inspired by the Bard on!