Can You Name the Shakespeare Play from a One-Sentence Summary?


By: Stella Alexander

6 Min Quiz

Image: duncan1890/E+/Getty Images

About This Quiz

"To be or not to be - that is the question." With this one line, you could probably easily name this author. One of the most prolific writers of all time, William Shakespeare is known for works that live in English classes all over the world. From his most popular plays to even his most obscure, can you name the Shakespeare play from a single-sentence description?

England is known for its writers. The 1800s featured novelists like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. Agatha Christie and J. R. R. Tolkien were known for their page-turning stories in the 20th century. J.K. Rowling has dominated the 21st century with her ever-popular series Harry Potter. Even with all these popular authors from the past several hundred years, no one's resume is as expansive and recognized as William Shakespeare's. Writing and publishing in the late 1500s and early 1600s, Shakespeare has an impressive portfolio.

A writer of numerous genres, the playwright and poet is known for works like The Taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest. While he has popular comedies, his tragedies are more widely recognized. The stories of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and Julius Caesar are staples in high school English courses.

With all the works that Shakespeare wrote during his lifetime, how many of them can you name from one sentence? Enough to make your high school teacher proud? Let's find out if you and this quiz are star-crossed lovers or not!

A once-righteous general kills to become the King of Scotland and soon goes on a killing spree to protect himself.

"Macbeth" is a popular Shakespearean tragedy. After hearing a prophecy that he will become the King of Scotland, the eponymous character murders the current king and commits more murders so the crime won’t be connected to him.


The tumultuous relationship between an Egyptian ruler and Roman general ends in tragedy.

Shakespeare published the tragedy “Antony and Cleopatra” in 1623. It told the story of the relationship between historical figures Mark Antony and Cleopatra.


Two knights who happen to be cousins fall in love with the same woman and become rivals.

While the authorship of Shakespearean plays is sometimes disputed, "The Two Noble Kinsmen" is one that has always been attributed to him and author John Fletcher. The play is actually an adaptation of “The Knight’s Tale,” which is a story in Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”


A group of people are controlled by fairies.

"A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. It follows a group of people who are enchanted and controlled by fairies.


A young man travels to wed a princess before finding out that she and her father are in a relationship.

"Pericles, Prince of Tyre" follows a young man who continuously travels from place to place, seemingly in search of a wife. Some say that Shakespeare collaborated with George Wilkins to create this play.


Following the death of the Duke of Glouchester, a king’s decisions lead to his downfall.

"Richard II" is the Shakespearean play that was published in his First Folio in 1623, approximately 30 years after it was written. It is the first of Shakespeare's history plays.


A Roman general gets involved in a neverending cycle of revenge that ends in his death and the death of all involved.

Definitely not one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays, "Titus Andronicus" is known as his most violent. With a slew of murders and deaths, the play faded into obscurity at the end of the 17th century.


Two sets of identical twins are separated in a shipwreck.

"The Comedy of Errors" is an earlier Shakespearean play, in which two sets of twins are separated in a shipwreck but find each other again when they are older. Chaos ensues when the twins are constantly mistaken for the wrong person - of course.


A young girl’s father remarries and betroths her to her%0Dstepbrother, following the disappearance of his two sons.

While it is often categorized as both a tragedy and a comedy, "Cymbeline" follows a king who attempts to marry off his daughter to his stepson years after his two sons were kidnapped. Cymbeline is the king's name, by the way, not the daughter's.


A powerful general is tricked into believing his wife is having an affair with a newly appointed lieutenant.

"Othello," a popular Shakespearean tragedy, follows a general who is driven to murdering his wife and killing himself after being duped into believing she is having an affair with a colleague. Shakespeare based "Othello" on a story called "A Moorish Captain," by an Italian author, Cinthio.


Two friends vie for the affections of a woman after both are sent to Milan.

"The Two Gentlemen of Verona" is one of Shakespeare’s more popular comedies. It follows two friends, Proteus and Valentine, who end up being attracted to the same woman.


The Duke of Vienna puts his deputy in charge,%0Dand chaos ensues as the power goes to his head.

"Measure for Measure" follows the Duke of Vienna as he secretly watches what goes on in his town following his announced “departure.” The overlying theme of the play is justice.


A man attempts to “tame” a woman by putting%0Dher through mind games.

“The Taming of the Shrew” is a comedy in which a young man attempts to tame a young woman’s personality while courting her. The play has been adapted many times, the most popular probably being the 1999 film "10 Things I Hate About You," starring Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.


A young prince is called upon by the ghost of his father to avenge his death at the hands of his own brother.

"Hamlet" is one of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies. It follows a young prince, Hamlet, who is visited by his father’s ghost. Hamlet's father was murdered by his own brother, Claudius, who is now Hamlet's new stepfather, and this ghost wants revenge. "Hamlet" is Shakespeare’s longest play.


A young couple, seemingly drawn to each other during the Trojan War, are separated by betrayal.

"Troilus and Cressida" is set during the Trojan War. It follows a Trojan prince, Troilus, and his relationship with Cressida, who ultimately betrays him by having an affair with someone else. The play was written in 1602.


A rebellion forms against a king who refuses to acknowledge a debt to a family of noblemen.

"Henry IV, Part I" is one of the numerous historical plays written by Shakespeare. The play explores the relationship between King Henry IV and his son, Harry, as well as a second plot about the noblemen who want their debt to be repaid.


A young man rejects his bride at the altar after believing she’s been unfaithful.

"Much Ado About Nothing" is the Shakespearean comedy where everyone’s being manipulated by gossip. While the gossip works for Benedick and Beatrice, it causes Claudio to reject his bride at the altar. Even so, Benedick and Beatrice set about restoring the couple’s relationship.


A generous and rich man loses his fortunes by giving out money to greedy citizens.

"Timon of Athens" follows a wealthy Athenian man who squanders his fortune by giving parties and sharing money with all who ask for it. This play is a work that Shakespeare wrote in collaboration with another author, probably Thomas Middleton.


An English king’s short reign comes to an end during the War of the Roses.

"Richard III" is a historical play that is based on the rule of the eponymous character, the king of England. Richard III was crowned in 1483 and met his demise on 1485.


After being separated from her twin, a young woman disguises herself as a man and chaos ensues.

“Twelfth Night” is the Shakespearean comedy about two twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. When Viola disguises herself as a man, a love rectangle forms. The play has had many adaptations, including the 2006 film “She’s the Man,” starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum.


A dutiful father and his teenage daughter, who have survived on an island for twelve years, are joined by shipwreck victims.

"The Tempest" is an early 1600s Shakespearean play. A father and sorcerer, Prospero, who had been banished with his daughter, attempts to restore her reputation and stature in society. Many believe it to be the last play that Shakespeare wrote on his own.


A king and his three men vow to stay away from women for three years, but upon a princess’ arrival, the men fall in love.

“Love’s Labour’s Lost” is one of Shakespeare’s earlier tragedies, in which four men promise to stay away from women for three years. However, their minds and hearts are changed upon the arrival of a princess and her maidens. The play was published at the end of the 16th century, in 1598.


After being rejected by the man she loves, a woman does everything to gain his acceptance.

“All’s Well That Ends Well,” published in the First Folio in 1623, is a Shakespearean play in which a young woman, Helen, tries to win the affections of a man who has a higher social rank than her. While most of Shakespeare’s plays are broken into comedies, tragedies and histories, “All’s Well That Ends Well” is hard to categorize.


Two star-crossed lovers prove their love by paying the ultimate price - sacrificing their lives to spend eternity together.

Possibly Shakespeare’s most popular work, “Romeo and Juliet” follows the feud between Romeo Montague’s and Juliet Capulet’s families. Despite their families’ violent history, Romeo and Juliet fall in love. The play was published at the end of the 16th century, in 1597.


After being jealous of his friend and pregnant wife, a king orders his friend’s death.

"The Winter’s Tale" is the 1623 Shakespearean play that follows Leontes, King of Italy. After being consumed by jealousy, he orders the execution of his friend, Polixenes, and the imprisonment of his own wife, Hermione. Polixenes escapes, and the men are later reunited when their children fall in love.


An overweight lord attempts to seduce two wives to get access to their husbands' fortunes.

"The Merry Wives of Windsor" follows Sir John Falstaff, an overweight lord who previously appeared in Part 1 and Part 2 of "Henry IV." Falstaff attempts to seduce Mistress Ford and Mistress Page, both of whom are privy to his scheme.


An English king breaks tradition by divorcing his first wife to marry another.

"Henry VIII" is the historical play by Shakespeare that follows the early reign of King Henry VIII. He attempts to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, in order to marry his second wife, Anne Boleyn. (In the play, the wives' names are spelled as Katherine and Anne Bullen.)


A popular Roman general decides on a career in politics, which leads to his untimely death.

"Coriolanus" can be considered both a history and a tragedy, as it is based on the life of Caius Marcius Coriolanus, a Roman general. The play is considered one of Shakespeare’s last tragedies.


A Roman general is murdered under the orders of his trusted political ally and friend.

"Julius Caesar" is one of Shakespeare’s historical plays, based on the real-life story of Julius Caesar and Brutus. While one might believe the story to center on Julius Caesar, it actually focuses on the inner battle of Brutus as he plots Caesar’s death.


A king discovers that he is also the rightful heir to the crown of France.

"Edward III" is the historical play about the life of King Edward III. Since the work was published anonymously, it can’t be 100% attributed to Shakespeare, although many believe him to have written parts of it.


Following the death of his brother, a young man becomes King of England but must defend his title against his nephew.

Another historical play by Shakespeare, "King John" is based on the life of the eponymous character and how his nephew, Arthur, makes a play for the throne of England. King Philip of France supports the nephew.


Taking a loan out for a friend, a man must pay with “a pound of flesh” should he be unable to repay his debt.

"The Merchant of Venice" follows a merchant, Antonio, who takes out a loan for his friend in order to help him court a woman. The lender, Shylock, will require "a pound of flesh" from Antonio if the loan is not repaid within three months.


A young king travels to France to claim the throne and marry Princess Katherine.

"Henry V" is the Shakespearean play that follows the life of King Henry V of England. After hearing that he has a claim on the French crown, he travels to the country to secure it. He ends up marrying the current princess, Katherine. Shakespeare wrote this play towards the end of the 16th century.


With three daughters, a king hands his kingdom over to the two daughters who continuously flatter him.

"King Lear" is a Shakespearean tragedy that follows a king and father of three. After originally planning to give his kingdom to all three daughters, he decides to only give it to the two who flatter him. This decision later drives him crazy.


After being banished by her uncle, a young girl hides away in a forest and finds love.

“As You Like It” is the 1599 Shakespearean comedy that follows a young woman, Rosalind, after she’s been banished by her uncle. Rosalind is one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated heroines.


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