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WHEN WIFE DOTTIE was a kid, she and her friend Gracie Watts would perform plays for their parents. When she asked her dad which part he liked best, he’d invariably say, “the last act.”

Similarly, Jeannie Maizels Pop-Up Shakespeare suggests “If someone asks, ‘What’s your favorite Shakespeare play?’ just say, ‘The Comedy of Errors.’ Because it’s the shortest.”

These cogent comments got me thinking about bard stats of one sort or another. Of which there are a lot. Here are tidbits gleaned from various Internet sources as well as The Annotated Shakespeare Complete, edited by A.L. Rowse, Greenwich House, 1988.

Longest and Shortest. Measured by word count, George Mason University’s OpenSourceShakespeare cites that Hamlet has the most at 30,557 words. The shortest, Comedy of Errors, has less than half this at 14,701 words. 

This website developed by Eric M. Johnson as part of his M.A. in English at George Mason University also analyzes the plays in terms of speech count, a speech consisting of either words spoken by a character or a stage direction. Hamlet rates only fourth, with 1250 speeches, behind Troilus and Cressida (1301 speeches), Othello (pipping T&C with 1309), and winner Antony and Cleopatra’s 1361.

Loquacious Roles. Joshua Engel, director and actor, The Rude Mechanicals,, is cited at Quora: “We usually talk in terms of lines, rather than words. A line is a more meaningful unit of counting, since they’re all (more or less) the same length. It’s hard to count words, since there are lots of tiny words that bump up a word count without really adding much.”

Sarah Bernhardt portrays Hamlet, Alephi Theatre, London, 1899. This and the following images from The Annotated Shakespeare.

Engel says that “Hamlet has about 1500 lines (depending on the edition you use)…. The largest female leads, Rosalind [in As You Like It] and Cleopatra, have just shy of 700.” 

Above, Rosalind masquerading as Ganymede; illustration by Arthur Hopkins, 1918. Below, Cleopatra portrayed by Lily Langtry, Princess’s Theatre, London, 1890.

Gender Inequality. Elizabethan acting was a male-only profession; females didn’t appear on the stage until Restoration Theater in the middle 1600s. Thus, the plot idea of female roles masquerading as men had a certain theatrical practicality. 

Nevertheless, as cited in “What’s in a Number? William Shakespeare’s Legacy Analysed,” by Peter Yeung, Pablo Gutiérrez, Glenn Swann, and Cath Levett, The Guardian, April 22, 2016, “Shakespeare may have been widely championed as a visionary, but this description can’t be applied to his record on gender equality.” 

As You Like It ranks first in women’s speeches, at 42.5 percent. Julius Caesar is 96.1-percent male-loquacious. The Guardian authors note, “And yet the population of Shakespeare’s England was roughly 53.5 percent male and 46.5 percent female.”

Shakespearean Gore-Porn. These Guardian authors cite Julius Caesar saying “Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.”

By the way, for a title character Julius Caesar utters only 130 lines before getting killed off in Act III Scene 1.

The Guardian article cites that more than half of Shakespeare’s character deaths “are by stabbing—and two by being baked in a pie.”

What with such revengeful cuisine, Titus Andronicus holds the record for Shakespearean gore-porn. As described here at SimanaitisSays, Queen of Rome Tamora’s two sons Chiron and Demetrius torture Titus’s daughter Lavina, and Titus gets revenge. 

The Pop-Up Shakespeare summary of Titus Andronicus.

As a counter to Titus Andronicus mayhem, Shakespeare’s plays feature the word “love’ a total of 1640 times. “Hate” gets only 163 hits.  

“To Be or Not to Be”—in Klingon. On March 19, 2015, the British Council posted “Fun International Facts About Shakespeare,” by Laura Estil and Eric Johnson (he, of the OpenSourceShakespeare M.A.).

Hamlet has been translated into 75 languages, including Esperanto, Interlingua, and Klingon. Estil and Johnson write that Romeo and Juliet “has been performed in multiple languages, including English, German, Spanish, Korean, French, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Finnish, Russian, Dutch, Estonian, Czech, Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Romanian. These performances include musicals, ballets, and puppet shows.”

As You Like It in Urdu.

As Jaques says in As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage.” ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021

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