Mistakespeare: The Bard’s Six Biggest Oopsies

William Shakespeare is considered by many to have been the greatest writer in the English language. But even Shakespeare made mistakes. Lots of them, in fact. While we can overlook the variety of ways he spelled many words (including his own name) because he lived and wrote in an era when standardized English spelling was non-existent, we can still identify six of the most glaring mistakes he made:

verona-to-milan

  1. In the first scene of Two Gentlemen of Verona (perhaps Shakespeare’s earliest play), Valentine heads off to sail from Verona to Milan, though neither city is a port (in fact, they are only 100 miles apart by land). Not only that, but other characters seem (in uncorrected scripts) confused about where they are, referring to their location as Padua or Verona instead of Milan.

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  1. In Henry VI, Part III, Richard Plantagenet refers to a foe as “that notorious Machiavel!” It is a reference to Niccolo Machiavelli (above), whose book The Prince was published in 1532, approximately fifty years after the events depicted in the play.

cannon

  1. In King John, the title character promises, “The thunder of my cannon shall be heard.” However, cannons did not appear in European warfare until about sixty-five years after John’s reign.

cassius_brutus

  1. In what is probably his most famous anachronism, Shakespeare has Brutus and Cassius hear the clock chime three times in Julius Caesar. However, no such device existed in ancient Rome; mechanical clocks were not invented until 1400 years later.

sara-bernhardt-as-cleopatra

  1. In Act 2 of Antony and Cleopatra, the Egyptian queen says, “let’s to billiards: come, Charmian.” The game of billiards evolved from other games about 1,400 years after Cleopatra’s lifetime.

colonnade-marienbad-bohemia-1673330-o

  1. In The Winter’s Tale (Act III, Scene 3), Shakespeare lands Antigonus’s ship “upon the deserts of Bohemia.” The country of Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic) has no coastline.

(top photo is a screenshot of a Bing map; other photos via everystockphoto.com)

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About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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