If you prick us, we do not bleed: Shakespeare’s plays need more zombies, survey finds

The plot of Hamlet is all well and good. But, frankly, it’s a bit tame.

There are plenty of declarations of love, but no sex scenes at all. When was the last time anyone really laughed at the gravediggers? And, honestly, if Hamlet’s father wanted to make an effective post-mortem reappearance, surely he would have been better coming back as a zombie.

This is the public perception of Shakespeare, according to a new survey. The poll of 1,000 adults was commissioned as part of this year’s commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

It revealed that 93 per cent had studied Shakespeare’s plays at school. Of those, 92 per cent said that this classroom experience encouraged them to read more Shakespeare in later life.

The vast majority – 87 per cent – believed that Shakespeare was the greatest playwright of all time.

And 89.1 per cent said that they plan to read a Shakespeare play in the near future – a finding indicating either that many people were inspired by what they studied at school, or that Britain is a nation of procrastinators.

Nine per cent said that they intended to read all of Shakespeare’s plays, though they did not specify a time frame.

Lord, what fools these mortals be

However, 15 per cent said that they had read no Shakespeare at all since school. The most common reason given was that the plays were too hard.

Many respondents also indicated that a few simple changes might have made all the difference, in terms of their willingness to engage with the Bardic text. Forty-eight per cent – perhaps unamused by the antics of a fairy queen besotted with a donkey – suggested that the plays could do with better jokes.

Others, meanwhile, thought that Romeo and Juliet was all very romantic, but could have done with a little more action: 27 per cent wanted more sex scenes.

And 9 per cent felt that the plays were shamefully lacking in any zombie reference whatsoever.

Helen Trayler, managing director of publishers Wordsworth Editions, which commissioned the survey, said: “Pride and Prejudice has recently been the subject of a zombie adaptation. Maybe these survey results will lead to the movie Romeo and Juliet and Zombies.”

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