Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

List, list, O, list!

shx-book-of-lists-mlWhile still teaching high school, I responded to a Call for Proposals from a publisher that had an idea for a book: a book about Shakespeare lists. I contacted them and was told to submit a Table of Contents and a sample chapter. My sample chapter was “Shakespeare’s Language,” a topic with which I felt comfortable. I included the most common words used by Shakespeare, 125 odd words used in the plays, word frequency lists for about half of the plays, and my favorite section: The Naughty Bits. I think that last section sold them, and a contract and an advance soon followed. And over the next 18 months, I spent every available moment on the book, working with my editor and designer, and having it published in 2001.

Fifteen years later, I was told that the book was out of print, but if I wanted, I could have the original files and publish a second edition. The Second Edition of The Shakespeare Book of Lists is now completed.

Here is a sampling of some of the lists:


The Bawdiest Plays

  1. Othello
  2. Measure for Measure
  3. Much Ado About Nothing
  4. Troilus and Cressida
  5. Hamlet
  6. Romeo and Juliet
  7. The Merry Wives of Windsor
  8. Timon of Athens
  9. All’s Well That Ends Well
  10. Henry V


The Most Chaste Plays

  1. Richard II
  2. Julius Caesar
  3. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  4. The Tempest
  5. Macbeth
  6. Coriolanus
  7. Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3
  8. Richard III
  9. The Comedy of Errors
  10. King John


Shakespeare’s Suicides

  1. Portia—Julius Caesar
  2. Brutus—Julius Caesar
  3. Cleopatra—Antony and Cleopatra
  4. Antony—Antony and Cleopatra
  5. Romeo—Romeo and Juliet
  6. Juliet—Romeo and Juliet
  7. Lady Macbeth—Macbeth
  8. Ophelia—Hamlet
  9. Othello—Othello
  10. Pyramus and Thisbe—A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Plays Ranked by Length


Number of Lines





Cymbeline 3707
Richard III 3667
Antony and Cleopatra 3552
Othello 3551
Troilus and Cressida 3531
King Lear 3487
The Winter’s Tale 3348
Henry IV, Part 2 3326
Henry V 3297
Henry VIII 3221
Henry VI, Part 2 3130
Romeo and Juliet 3099
Henry IV, Part 1 3081
All’s Well That Ends Well 3013
Henry VI, Part 3 2915
The Merry Wives of Windsor 2891
Measure for Measure 2891
Love’s Labour’s Lost 2829
As You Like It 2810
Richard II 2796
Much Ado About Nothing 2787
The Merchant of Venice 2701
Henry VI, Part 1 2695
The Taming of the Shrew 2676
King John 2638
Twelfth Night 2591
Julius Caesar 2591
Titus Andronicus 2538
Timon of Athens 2488
Pericles 2459
Macbeth 2349
The Two Gentlemen of Verona 2288
The Tempest 2283
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2192
The Comedy of Errors 1787


Some Common Ailments in Shakespeare (a partial list)

Ague — a fever, probably a form of malaria.Some Common Ailments in Shakespeare (a partial list)

An untimely ague stay’d me a prisoner in my chamber. (Henry VIII)

Apoplexy — a cold humour that stops the brain.

This apoplexy will certain be his end. (Henry IV, Part 1)

Consumption — tuberculosis.

I yield upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption. (Much Ado About Nothing)

Dropsy — a term used for the symptoms of scurvy, colon cancer, or liver failure.

The dropsy drown this fool! What do you mean to dote thus on such luggage? (The Tempest)

Falling sickness — epilepsy.

‘Tis very like: he hath the falling sickness. (Julius Caesar)

Flux — probably dysentery.

Civet is of a baser birth than tar, the very uncleanly flux of a cat. (As You Like It)

French pox — syphilis.

News have I, that my Nell is dead i’ the spital of malady of France. (Henry V)

Gaol fever — typhus.

Here in the prison, father, there died this morning of a cruel fever one Ragozine, a most notorious pirate. (Measure for Measure)

Green sickness — anemia from a lack of iron.

Caesar is sad; and Lepidus, since Pompey’s feast, as Menas says, is troubled with the green sickness. (Antony and Cleopatra)


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