Is This Event From a Shakespeare Play or Real History?



By: Khadija L.

6 Min Quiz

Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

William Shakespeare (1564-1616), was an English poet, playwright, and actor who in total, has written over 35 plays, 150 sonnets and two narrative poems. With most of his work being translated into almost every language, he has been called one of the best playwrights in history, and his works are still being read by the masses every year. 

Most of his work was produced between 1589 and 1613. The plays were grouped into comedies, tragedies and histories, and even though quite a few of Shakespeare's characters were based on real-life people, many of the stories were exaggerations of the actual events. 

Some of those plays included "King John," "Henry VIII," "Richard II," "Richard III," Pericles," and "Henry VI," parts 1, 2, and 3. Some of his other popular works include "Merchant of Venice," "Hamlet," "Romeo and Juliet," "Anthony and Cleopatra," "Tempest," "Othello," "Macbeth" and "Midsummer Night's Dream." 

How well do you know the difference between fact and fiction? If you were given different scenarios, would you be able to tell if they are real events or events out of a Shakespearean play? Well, this quiz was designed to test just that. Take it to find out if you know what's real and what's not. 

King Leontes of Sicilia ordered the deaths of his wife and their two children.

In "A Winter's Tale," King Leontes is overcome with jealousy and is convinced that his wife Hermione is having an affair with his friend, King Polixenes. He declares her unfaithful, then declares the children illegitimate​ and orders their deaths.


General Santa Anna held a state funeral for his amputated leg.

Mexican General Santa Anna was severely injured by a grapeshot which was fired by a French cannon. In order to save his life, doctors were forced to amputate his leg. Once he assumed the role of president of Mexico, he paraded the leg around Mexico City and held an elaborate state funeral.


Sultan Ibrahim I had almost 300 of his concubines drowned because one of them slept with another man.

Sultan Ibrahim I of the Ottoman Empire had 280 of his concubines drowned in the Bosphorus after discovering that one of them had slept with another man. He later earned the name Ibrahim I the mad.


Romeo kills himself, thinking that Juliet is dead.

In the play "Romeo and Juliet," Juliet is seen lying in a tomb by her lover, Romeo,​ who does not know that she is under the influence of a sleeping potion. After mourning her death, he kills himself by drinking poison.


Helena is granted the husband of her choice after helping to cure the king of France of an illness.

In "All's Well That Ends Well," beautiful Helena follows her uninterested love interest Bertram​ to Paris, where she miraculously cures the King of France of a terminal illness. As a reward, she is granted the husband of her choice.


Animals were put on trial, where they faced the possibility of criminal charges.

Between the 13th and the 18th century, animals, including insects, were put on trial for a number of offenses, including criminal damage and murder. If convicted, they​ faced either execution or exile.


Peter the Great had his wife's lover beheaded and gave her the head to keep in her room in a jar of alcohol.

Peter the Great of Russia had his wife's lover, Willem Mons, beheaded after receiving​ a letter of the affair. He placed Mons' head in a jar with alcohol in order to preserve it and placed the decapitated head near Catherine, his wife.


King Philip of France sends a messenger to England, asking​ King John to step down as king in favor of John's nephew becoming king.

In the play "King John," King John's nephew Arthur betrays his own uncle by conducting a rebellion with the French king. As a reward, the French king writes to the English king, asking him to step down as ruler in favor of his nephew.


Brabantio learns of his daughter's elopement with Othello and tries to separate them.

In the play "Othello," Desdemona elopes with her love interest Othello, much against the wishes of her father Brabanzio. He goes to great lengths in order to separate the two, including accusing him of witchcraft in front of the assembled Senate​.


Henry II of Champagne died by falling out of a window.

Henry II of Champagne's death is still unclear to this date. Many people claim that he tripped over his dwarf servant named Scarlet, who later tried to save him but also fell out of the window. Other sources claim that the lattice window gave way after he was​ leaning on it and Scarlet, who tried to save him, also fell out. Both men died.


Roman Emperor Gaius planned to make his horse Incitatus a senator.

Rumor has it that Emperor Gaius, also known as Caligula, planned on making his beloved stallion a senator but was assassinated before doing so. People speculated that it could have been as a result of insanity or as a joke.


Lord Angelo of Vienna takes it upon himself to rid Vienna of brothels and unlawful sexual activity.

In the play "Measure for Measure," the Duke of Vienna, Vincentio, leaves Lord Angelo in charge and pretends to dress as a friar in order to observe what would go on in his absence. Lord Angelo decides that there is too much freedom in Vienna and tries to rid the city of brothels and unwanted sexual activity. He arrests people, including Claudio, to make an example of him.


In order for King Lear to divide his kingdom among his three daughters, he asked them each to say how much they love him.

In the play "King Lear," the aging king of Britain decides to step down from his throne and divide his vast kingdom among his three daughters, but​ first asks them to tell him how much they love him.


Proteus and Valentine both fall in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan.

In the play "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Proteus and his friend Valentine both fall in love with the same woman, Silvia, the daughter of the Duke of Milan. This leads to betrayal, banishment and a long lost love disguising themselves as the opposite sex.


Beautiful Bianca is unable to marry unless her older sister Katherine, who can be very brash, is married first.

In the play "The Taming of the Shrew," Baptista Minola has two daughters, Katherine and Bianca. Bianca is sweet and beautiful and has many suitors, but she is unable to marry because her older vicious and ill-tempered sister has to get married first.


Pope Gregory IX linked black cats to Satan's reincarnation and ordered the death of all cats.

One of the three things that Pope Gregory IX was remembered for was the demonization of black cats, as he believed that these cats were instruments of Satan. This event was potentially the catalyst for the Bubonic Plague, as the rat population increased.


When a pharaoh died, he was sealed in his tomb with his living pets, servants and mistresses.

Ancient pharaohs were known for taking everything from their most valuable possessions, pets and even servants to their graves. The practice was later discontinued and figurines of these servants were created instead.


King Hamlet died because his brother Claudius poured poison into his ear.

In Shakespeare's play "Hamlet," the ghost of old King Hamlet comes back to describe his death. He explains that his brother Claudius, poured a poison into his ear. Young Hamlet is tormented by this news.


Dentures were once created using teeth that were pulled from the mouths of dead soldiers.

Early dentists created dentures from a number of compounds, one of which was real teeth. Live donors were hard to find, so teeth were pulled from recently killed soldiers, many of them coming from the battlefield at Waterloo.


After making enemies of almost everyone (including his own son) the Roman commander Caius Marcius Coriolanus suggested, "Cut me to pieces."

Coriolanus is a character from the play "Coriolanus," who was best known for protecting Rome from its adversaries​. In doing so, he became disliked by the masses and many of his colleagues. In one of the riots, he suggested that they cut him to pieces.


Before becoming Pope Pius II, he was the author of a series of erotic poems.

Pope Pius II was known for his love of poetry. He himself was an author of numerous erotic poems, as well as the book "The Tale of Two Lovers."


Accused people faced a "trial by ordeal" in which they were forced to stick their arm into a vat of boiling hot water. If their arm came out unharmed, they were deemed innocent.

Trial by ordeal was an old judicial practice by which someone's guilt or innocence was determined by a painful and dangerous event. If they emerged unscathed, they were considered innocent. One of these trials was placing an arm into boiling water. Another was asking the accused to walk over hot ploughshares while holding a hot iron.


A beautiful woman named Hero pretended to be dead after her husband-to-be publicly​ denounced her at their wedding.

In the play "Much Ado About Nothing," Claudio is convinced that his fiancée, Hero is seeing someone else. In a fit of rage, he denounces her at their wedding, then the friar arranges for her to be thought dead. After Claudio regains his senses, he mourns her death and agrees to marry one of her cousins, who is later revealed to be Hero.


The practice of ingesting concoctions containing human body parts was popularly used for different ailments.

For several centuries, especially during the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including nobles religious leaders and scientists, repeatedly ingested medicines containing blood, fat ​and bones from humans. The practice was thought to cure various ailments.


The King of Navarre and his followers vowed to take up a life of celibacy for three years.

In the play "Love's Labour's Lost," The King of Navarre and his three companions swear to three years of celibacy in order to study. Not too long into their promise, they meet the princess of France and her ladies and almost immediately fall for them.


Imogen, the daughter of British King Cymbeline, disobeys her father by marrying a lowborn gentleman.

British King Cymbeline has one daughter, Imogen, who goes against his wishes and marries a lowborn gentleman named Posthumus, instead of his own stepson Cloten. The king then​ sends Posthumus into exile.


King Antiochus, who is engaged in an incestuous affair with his daughter, keeps suitors at bay by asking them a riddle. If they answer incorrectly, they die.

In the play "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," King Antiochus is engaged in an affair with his daughter. He keeps her unmarried and keeps the suitors at bay by giving them a riddle. If they are able to answer correctly, they can marry her; if not, they die​.


Emperor Commodus rounded up all of the dwarfs, disabled people ​and people who were considered freaks, then ordered them to fight to the death with meat cleavers at the Colosseum.

Emperor Commodos of Rome was known for his cruelty. One such act was collecting all of the dwarfs, cripples and people considered to be freaks in Rome and bringing them to the Colosseum where he made them fight to the death using meat cleavers.


A soothing syrup for children contained morphine.

Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup was a medication which originated in New York in 1840. It was used to regulate bowel movements and soothe pain. The pleasant tasting syrup contained morphine.


A woman named Viola disguises herself as a man named Cesario, who falls in love with her employer Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love​ with Olivia, who has fallen for Cesario.

In Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" comedy, Viola finds herself stranded in a new land after being shipwrecked. She then disguises herself as a male named Cesario who finds work as a page for Duke Orsino. She falls in love with him but his love was directed to a noblewoman named Olivia. Olivia, in turn,​ loves Cesario, who is really Viola.


Macbeth is given a prophecy by three witches that he will become the King of Scotland.

In the play "Macbeth," Generals Macbeth and Banquo are approached by a trio of witches prophesy that Macbeth will not only be made a thane of Cawdor, a rank of Scottish nobility, but he will also be made the king of Scotland, which eventually comes true.


Urine was used as a type of mouthwash and a leavening agent.

In Ancient Rome, urine was used as a mouthwash, a practice which continued into​ the Middle Ages. It was also consumed in some taverns. The urine of deer was used as a leavening agent before baking powder was invented.


Because​ of the fear of being buried alive, safety coffins were invented.

Before modern medicine could determine that people were truly dead, many people were buried alive. Because of the fear of premature burial, a series of coffins were invented which enabled a person who was incorrectly buried to signal that they had been buried alive by using either bells or whistles.


General Titus Andronicus exacts his revenge on Chiron and Demetrius for the violation of his daughter by baking them into a pie and feeding it to their mother.

In the play Titus Andronicus, Tamora, Queen of the Goths was brought to General Titus as a prize for winning a war. Her angry sons take their vengeance by raping and mutilating Titus's daughter, including cutting off her tongue so that she is unable to tell anyone. Titus finds out anyway and gets his revenge by killing the brothers, have them baked into a pie, serve it to their mother and then telling her about it as she takes the last bite.


Maria Eleonora refused to bury her dead husband, King Gustavus Adolphus, choosing instead to sleep below a​ hanging golden casket containing his heart.

Maria Eleonora of Brandenburg was a German princess who married the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus. After his death, the queen was said to have gone insane, refusing to bury his body. She mourned day and night and slept under a golden casket which contained his heart.


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