William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was the Elizabethan playwright and poet behind such enduring works as Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III, Julius Caesar, The Taming of the Shrew, and Hamlet. The latter in particular has often been spoofed or referenced by the Muppets. Shakespeare himself was caricatured as one of the Schoolroom Busts in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
In addition to the named plays above, which have been referenced many times, there have been assorted references to Shakespeare himself, his work as a whole, or one-shot references to other works.
The Muppet Show
- In the At the Dance sketch in episode 101, Miss Piggy asks her male pig dancing partner if he prefers Shakespeare to Bacon. Naturally, he prefers anything to bacon.
- The Panel Discussions for episode 107 of The Muppet Show poses the question, "Was William Shakespeare, in fact, Bacon?"
- Episode 213's Veterinarian's Hospital involves a series of puns on the writer and his famous plays. Statler is offended at the lack of respect, claiming to be a student of Shakespeare. Waldorf notes that he was a student with Shakespeare.
- When Spike Milligan assists Sam the Eagle in episode 317, Sam gets so frustrated that he says he wishes they had gotten Lawrence Olivier instead. Milligan quotes Shakespeare to point out that Olivier, a Brit, only spoke as clearly as he did so that Americans could understand him.
- Christopher Reeve, Fozzie Bear, Link Hogthrob, and a skull named Yorick sing "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" as part of a "Hamlet" sketch in episode 418. After the number, Waldorf comments that he always regretted not studying Shakespeare as a boy. Statler replies that he could have at least talked to Shakespeare.
- Several Monsterpiece Theater sketches parody Shakespeare plays, including "The Taming of the Shoe" (by William Shoespeare), "The Monsters of Venice" and "Much Ado About Nothing" (by Wilma Shakespeare).
- In Sesame Street: 25 Wonderful Years, Big Bird tells Telly and Prairie Dawn a quote his Granny Bird told him, "The whole world is a stage", paraphrased from a quote by William Shakespeare: "All the world is a stage."
- In a 1992 episode, Sir John Feelgood states one of his many acting credits is appearing in the play, "Two Grouches of Verona", playing both Grouches.
- In The Muppet Show Diary 1979, Link Hogthrob appears as Hamlet to celebrate Shakespeare's birthday (listed as April 23 along with his date of death, although the date is disputed).
- Kermit and Miss Piggy portray Titania and Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream in The Miss Piggy Calendar 1982.
- Shakespeare, played by Joey Mazzarino, appears in the Muppet Meeting Film, "Great Salespeople in History" pitching Romeo and Juliet as a "West Side Story without the music." Yorick says he'd buy it.
- Garth Brooks and Miss Piggy try to perform the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet in episode 102 of Muppets Tonight, but Piggy's nephews, Andy and Randy Pig (playing "The Two Men from Bologna"), ruin the number. Statler notes that Shakespeare would've hated the performance. Waldorf says that Statler should know about that, because he dated one of Shakespeare's sisters. Statler responds "Boy, was she ugly."
- Bear quotes William Shakespeare in the episode "Words, Words, Words", and comments "I hear he was pretty good with words." The lines quoted by Bear are from Shakespeare's Sonnet 18.
- Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona is spoofed in episode 205 of Muppets Tonight with the sketch "The Two Homies of Verona".
- Beginning in Season 2 of Muppet Babies, a photo of a young Uncle Deadly can be seen on the walls of the Nursery. The character is dressed in Shakespearean garb, holding up a bee-colored letter B, as if to recite his own take on the famous Hamlet quote: "A bee, or not a bee, that is the question!"
- A 2011 West End production of Much Ado About Nothing filmed for distribution by Digital Theatre featured David Tennant as Benedick and Catherine Tate (The Office) as Beatrice set in the present day. The masquerade ball is staged as a costume party in which all the attendees are dressed as modern pop culture characters and celebrity personalities (i.e. Super Mario, Darth Vader, Indiana Jones, Princess Diana, etc). Benedick attends the party dressed in female clothing; a blonde, curly wig; bright, red lipstick; and a pig snout (and speaking in an over-the-top falsetto). Given the recognizability of the other characters, it's implied that Benedick is dressed as Miss Piggy.
Several actors who have worked with the Muppets have also performed in Shakespeare (on stage, film, or elsewhere).
- Kenneth Branagh has acted in numerous Shakespearean productions, and for a time ran his own theatre company, The Renaissance Theatre Company which specialized in putting on Shakespeare plays and toured all over the world. His roles include Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Edgar Son of Gloucester (both for Renaissance). He also worked with the RSC where he appeared in Henry V, and,Love's Labours Lost, other Shakespearean credits include Twelfth Night. He has also acted and directed numerous films including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet.
- Louise Gold has played Kate in a production of The Taming Of The Shrew at The Nuffield Theatre in Southampton in 1993, and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream at The Open Air Theatre in Regents Park in 1991.
- Glenda Jackson played Lady Macbeth in the 1988 Broadway production.
- Ben Kingsley has performed with The Royal Shakespeare Company including playing the title role in Othello. His Shakespearean credits also include: Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Claudio in Measure For Measure, Ariel in The Tempest (for which he also composed music), and, Ford in The Merry Wives Of Windsor. He has also appeared in MacBeth.