IMG_20150605_150920_kindlephoto-398534It’s the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this year. By the end of the year we’ll all be sick to death of the old boy. So in the spirit of January – broke, suffering from SAD, looking for the divorce lawyer’s number, scraping the glitter from the end of one’s nose  for the nth time, here is my offering on what must surely be one of the worst lines in Shakespeare.

It’s near the end of King Lear and is spoken by a Gentleman – poor man:

“Tis hot, it smokes;

It came even from the heart of – O! she’s dead.”


Try saying those lines out loud in the privacy of your own home. Try saying them and not cracking a smile. Imagine rushing onto stage and belting out that line in front of an already emotionally drained audience. Just imagine. Incidentally he’s talking about a ‘bloody knife.’ Err, a smoking, bloody knife.

I saw this line delivered in Derek Jacobi’s King Lear. The audience was relatively elderly, very attentive and I would say reverential. There wasn’t a school girl or boy in sight. But when the poor unfortunate actor who had to deliver that line burst onto the stage and belted it out, the audience burst spontaneously into hysterical laughter.  Maybe that’s the point of it. After all by that stage it’s all been a bit much – elder abuse, eye-gouging, horrible curses, war, and madness. Oh, a typical Christmas, then. So maybe the audience needs to laugh and the line delivers the sort of hysteria that is never far away at funerals.

I think the line works better if it’s delivered in a horrified whisper. No, actually I think the line works best by being cut. After all you wouldn’t wish that line on your worst enemy, would you?

If you think by the above that I am immune to the joys of Shakespeare you’d be wrong. I love him. In fact tonight I’m off to see The Winter’s Tale with Judi Dench and Kenneth Branagh and I can’t wait. And I’m curious to read Jeanette Winterson’s novel, The Gap in Time – a modern day version of the play.

How about you? Are you looking forward to the following year of celebrating Shakespeare? Do you like Shakespeare? Do you have any favourite bad lines?


  1. Mrs McB’s literally bloody line “Out, damned spot”, from Act 5 Scene 1 of (as they say).the Scottish play.

    I guess this particular choice is strictly personal though. We used to have a lovely wee rapscallion of a dog called Spot, and were always saying that line to him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Mel. I was thinking about Macbeth doing the post because of the bloody dagger thing. I once saw a Macbeth when the head that’s brought on at the end was too small. Well, it looked too small to me and the whole theatre burst out laughing. That was pretty weird. There’s lots of possibility for unintentional laughter in Macbeth but it’s also one of my favourites.


    • They’ve filmed it I think and have shown it in some cinemas. I saw Gillian Anderson in Street Car that way and also the Cumberbatch Hamlet both of which I really enjoyed. Sometimes it’s better because you can see their faces in more detail! Maybe it will be coming to a cinema near you soon!


  2. It’s not in any way Shakespeare’s worst line – quite the reverse in fact – but when I was at school (an all girls school) I played Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night, complete with stuck on beard. It was terrifying because I had to open the play with one of Shakespeare’s most famous lines: If music be the food of love, play on.

    I love Shakespeare. I love the fact that so many of the expressions we use in everyday life come from his writing. I saw Branagh do Hamlet back in the 80s and it was spellbinding.
    Enjoy your Winter’s Tale!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Francesca. Yes, those well known beautiful lines can be just as tricky, especially with a stuck on beard! To be or not to be – being a classic. I saw Branagh in that Hamlet and have had an affection for him as an actor ever since. I also love the film of Hamlet he later directed. It’s got one of the few Ophelias I’ve been able to stand – played by Kate Winslet. The Winter’s Tale was wonderful – It’s a completely bonkers play in my opinion but they did a really good job of it. Judi Dench as Paulina was wonderful. There’s something about her which is absolutely extraordinary. Audiences just love her – me included!

      Liked by 2 people

      • You’re so lucky, getting to see these wonderful plays live! I just remember reading them in school, and The Merchant Of Venice is my favourite, probably as I got to play Shylock! Wasn’t so keen on Romeo and Juliet – think I was the nurse in that. I enjoyed them, but a fair proportion of the class just saw it as an opportunity to take the p***, and if you took it seriously, like I think just three (!) of us did, we were “dorks” and got slagged off after class. I was actually looking at breaks in Stratford-upon-Avon yesterday morning, but I know Mr C would never go for it!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Being taught Shakespeare in school is a tricky business because so much of it depends on the teaching and it can just seem irrelevant. I really took to it after seeing Derek Jacobi in Hamlet when I was a teenager. Hamlet is spectacularly self-absorbed and that suits a teenage sensibility! I didn’t know the play at all. I don’t think I’d even read it but I was absolutely thrilled by it. Good luck in persuading MrC!


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