SparkNotes Blog

How to Solve Literally Any Problem, According to Shakespeare

Not to be a bummer, but there are lots of problems in the world. Just so many problems. I myself encounter at least twelve problems per day, most of which are minor but incredibly irksome. (My car is making a noise. My elbow hurts. I can’t find my good earbuds. As problems go, they’re certainly not up there with global warming or famine, but they do make my life difficult for approximately 2 minutes daily and that’s nothing to scoff at.)

In literature, problems are how you make the plot happen. William Shakespeare, for instance, introduces problems in his plays like they are going out of style. He then has only five acts to solve them, necessitating the use of some rather unconventional methods. I have compiled them here. So if you, too, have at least twelve problems per day, try the old Billy Shakespeare approach to problem-solving:

1. Make the problem go away by pretending to die.

2. Make the problem go away by actually dying.

3. To avoid the problem, wear an airtight disguise, like maybe a hat or something.

4. Instruct your lady-in-waiting to take care of the problem.

5. Stab the problem through a curtain like a lunatic and act shocked when this only creates more problems.

6. Hatch a really elaborate revenge scheme to strip the problem of its political power, making use of no fewer than seventeen disguises and twenty-four willful misunderstandings.

7. Fix the problem by sending a letter that could be easily lost or misinterpreted.

8. Become a magician and simply magic the problem away.

9. Get married. Once you are married, there will be no more problems to speak of.

10. Duel the problem in the town square in direct opposition to the Prince’s wishes.

11. Reunite with your long-lost twin, thus redirecting the problem’s affections so that you are free to marry the Duke.

12. Reel off an incredibly involved pun about the problem.

13. Set the problem adrift at sea and just hope this doesn’t ever come back to bite you.

14. Ask your servant for advice about the problem, and proceed to ignore his counsel.

15. Panic at a critical moment and force your wife to solve the problem for you.

16. Dress as a member of the opposite sex. This will solve the problem.

17. Poison the problem.

18. Go to war with the problem.

19. Suggest that the problem’s wife may have been unfaithful.

20. Have an eerily prophetic dream about the problem, but do not alter your course of action in the slightest.

21. That’s it! All the problems are gone.