Inside the Inspiration of William Shakespeare

“My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go.”

-Hamlet, Act III, Scene 3

Shakespeare is iconic within the world of literature and theatre, and his plays have been performed all over the world in many different fashions. Dating back to the Elizabethan Era, certain objects have been used in order to portray the story told in Shakespeare's renowned scenes, from the most delicate of jewellery to blood stained armour. These objects, although simple in nature, now hold much deeper and symbollic meanings through their usage in Shakespeare's plays.


The Crown

“My crown is in my heart, not on my head; not decked with diamonds and Indian stones, nor to be seen: my crown is called content, a crown it is that seldom kings enjoy.”

- Henry VI, Part 3, Act III, Scene 1

A crown through history is symbollic of power, however in the play Henry VI, the crown is intentionally seen as a simple object rather than one of high regard. Due to the crown's importance in the time of this play being first performed, Shakespeare caused a lot of controversy by showing an actor playing a monarch giving up the crown. The audience would often think that through this depiction of the monarchy in the play, their own monarch (Queen Elizabeth) would also give up her crown. Therefore the play was heavily disliked among the royals in the day.

A perfect example as to how powerful an object, or lack thereof, is when accompanied by the right setting and speech.

The Shield

"Now put your shields before your hearts, and fight With hearts more proof than shields. Advance, brave Titus"

- Coriolanus, Act I, Scene 4

Once again Shakespeare plays with the imagery of an object in both a literal and a theoretical sense, allowing the audience to further ponder on the meaning of the object in that moment of time. In this scene of the play Coriolanus, the characters are advancing in war and the line quoted is a spurring battle cry to motivate the soldiers as they charge. This line is a strong reminder to the characters and to the audience as to what is really being protected.

Should this reminder be kept in their hearts, only then will they be able to advance in any war with "hearts more proof than shields"

The Serpent

"Look like the innocent flower; but be the serpent underneath"

- Macbeth, Act I, Scene 5

Snakes are often portrayed as evil and sly within Shakespeare plays due to the representation of the snake in the Bible from the story of Adam and Eve. With the majority of Shakespeare's audience understanding this imagery well, he leans into using the serpent to describe his characters. The quote mentioned from Macbeth depicts the character of Lady Macbeth, already portraying her as cunning and evil, instantly allowing the audience to form a strong hatred and distrust for the character all through the use of the serpent.

The Dagger

"Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee. I have thee not, and yet I see thee still. Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible To feeling as to sight? or art thou but A dagger of the mind, a false creation, Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain..."

-Macbeth, Act II, Scene 1

One of the most iconic of Shakespeare monologues comes from the play Macbeth, in which a guilt-ridden Macbeth begins to have hallucinations of a bloody dagger which will play a vital role in the remainder of the play. Through several interpretations of this play, this particular scene continually brings actors to present such captivating emotion to the audience in which use of the dagger (or in some cases, lack of a physical prop) brings the attention of the entire theatre to a single point fixated by the actor.

The Perfume

"Here's the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand."

- Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1

Following on with imagery from the play Macbeth, this line is uttered by the Lady Macbeth when she too is guilt-ridden to the point of sleep walking. Here Lady Macbeth's subconcious presents her true deep seated regret for the murder of the king by seeing his blood on her hands. Although a hallucination, she believes that no matter how hard she tries the stain and smell of blood will never leave her much like the guilt she now holds. This is what makes the scene such a turning point in the character development of Lady Macbeth.

The Magic Wand

"I do wander every where, Swifter than the moon's sphere. And I serve the Fairy Queen, To dew her orbs upon the green."

- A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene 1

Magic runs throughout the play of A Midsummer Night's Dream, yet in this scene the fairy expresses the wonder she has in the magic of the natural world. Despite the magic the fairies bring to the world, nature holds it's own magic and beauty and the fairy is simply there to enhance and admire the wonders.

The Rose

"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

- Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene 2

Arguably one of the most popular of scenes from Shakespeare's plays, Juliet's Balcony Scene in which Juliet tries to reason with herself that she can be in love with Romeo despite their family feuds. The line quoted is a perfect metaphor for Juliet loving a man with the name "Montague" and not being in love with the name itself. This, in turn, drives Romeo to "deny thy father" or in other words, renounce his family name and swear his love to Juliet.

The Actor

"All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts,"

- As You Like It, Act II, Scene 8

Finally the symbol that links to Shakespeare from Elizabethan England to the present day, the Actor's Mask. Although the importance of props and the symbollic meanings of the quotes are the crux of what makes Shakespeare plays timeless; the impression of the play on the audience relies heavily on how well the actors portray the characters. In this line from the play As You Like It, Shakespeare cleverly creates the metaphor for a person's life; how life should be lived like a story told.


This collection is under the possesion of K.B Suryavanshi. An avid Shakespeare fanatic and photographer, compelled to bring you this collection in hopes that others will learn more about Shakespeare from somewhere other than Sparksnotes or your slightly crazy English teacher.