Google Doodle celebrates Shakespeare and St George's Day - but can you name the plays?

Saint George crops up a total of 18 times in Shakespeare's plays

Jonathan Gibbs
Saturday 23 April 2016 00:24
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The Google Doodle for 23 April celebrates both Shakespeare and St George's Day
The Google Doodle for 23 April celebrates both Shakespeare and St George's Day

It's no surprise that Saint George turns up a few times in Shakespeare's plays, most famously in Henry's rallying cry to his troops before the battle of Harfleur, in Henry V: "Follow your spirit, and upon this charge Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'"

The saint crops up a total of 18 times, with 16 of those being in the history plays, putting the lives of the Richards II and III and te Henrys IV, V and VI, and most of those being versions of Henry's cry. "God and Saint George, Talbot and England's right," "Saint George and victory! fight, soldiers, fight," and the rest.

You have to look harder in the comedies to find the saint whose holiday shares the national playwright's birthday, April 23. He's there in the early, and relatively obsure, Love's Labour's Lost, when the noble lord Berowne heckles a play that's being put on for the Princess of France, saying that one of the actors, Holofernes the schoolmaster, has a face like "Saint George's half-cheek in a brooch". Ouch.

Then he's in The Taming of the Shrew, a play equally rarely performed, though the reason is its inherent misogyny, rather than its rather pedantic sense of humour. Here the repartee is between Petruchio and Katherina (the 'shrew') when she dismisses him as "young one", and he replies: "Now, by Saint George, I am too young for you."

But rather than running through all the mentions of the saint in Shakespeare's plays, why not look at the celebratory image used by Google to mark their shared day. Saint George and his dragon appear at the far left and right, with the playwright in the middle, flanked by depictions of eight of his plays. Can you work out what they are?

From the left: the first is Hamlet, doubtless the easiest one, with the Prince's hand holding the skull of the former court jester, Yorick, from the gravedigger's scene: "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio; a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in my imagination it is!"

Second is Julius Caesar, with a strangely bequiffed Brutus about to stick the Roman dictator in the back with a dagger.

Third is Othello, with the villain Iago planting the virtuous Desdemona's handkerchief in the rube Cassio's lodgings, so he can fool the noble Othello into thinking his young wife is unfaithful.

Fourth is another easy one: the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Juliet seems pretty strong in the arm..

Moving to the right of Shakespeare, we have the "brave vessel" in the first scene of The Tempest, that will deposit Antonio, Ferdinand and the others on Prospero's island. That said, it could probably just as easily be the shipwreck in Twelfth Night, that lands Viola in Illyria, or the shipwreck in The Comedy of Errors. Shakespeare liked his shipwrecks.

Then there's the king on the throne. Well, there are plenty of kings in Shakespeare - more of them even than shipwrecks - but let's say for the sake of argument that this is King Lear, looking so haggard and spooked on his throne, though most people would give him a white beard, rather than such a full black one.

Next up is the witches in Macbeth, wondering when they three shall meet again. Well, in another Google Doodle in a few years' time, I should think.

Lastly, we have a donkey-headed person asleep under a tree, snoring a delightful tune. It can only be Bottom, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, though the point in the play is uncertain. Usually when he's sleeping, with his full-on ass's head, he's surrounded by fairies. When he wakes up on his own, he's been retranslated back into plain old human-headed Bottom. We must assume these Google Doodlers know of what they draw...

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