The Ultimate Shakespeare
Dinner Party

If you could sit next to any Shakespeare character at a dinner party, who would it be? We asked 11 experts for their picks, and the result is a table of raconteurs, rebels, and rascals. Compiled by Andy McLean.



As Twelfth Night tours Australia – providing a feast for the senses – we’re hosting a fantasy dinner party to celebrate! Eleven experts have each invited a Shakespeare character to join them. In this article, we reveal the first six names on the guest list.

Guest #1: Emilia from Othello

Bell Shakespeare’s Head of Education, Jo Erskine, says she would “without hesitation” pull up a seat next to a female character:

“Their voices receive far less stage time than the males, and I am certain they would have volumes to tell,” she explains. “I’d especially love to sit next to Emilia from Othello – she’s such a startlingly progressive voice, with a bent for divulging information and provocations behind closed doors. I’d love to pick her brain. She’d also, perhaps, be able to shed some light on the motives of her husband, Iago.”

Guest #2: Gertrude from Hamlet

For similar reasons to Jo, Emma Smith, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of Oxford, invited Gertrude from Hamlet to our dinner party:

“Gertrude is on stage tonnes of the time without saying anything,” says Emma. “All these amazing things have happened to her but she never talks about it. So she must be a woman bursting with stuff to say. If you just asked her, “How’s your day been?” after a couple of glasses of wine, I think she would start to talk and provide an amazing counter version of the Hamlet narrative, which has so shaped our culture. I wouldn’t expect her to be nice; I don’t imagine we would become great friends; but I think a couple of hours in her company would be great.”

Take a seat at our table!
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Guest #3: Mercutio from Romeo And Juliet

Dr Will Sharpe from the University of Birmingham was tempted to invite Banquo’s Ghost (“certainly if you wanted all the attention directed to your part of the table”), but in the end he couldn’t resist Romeo’s mischievous mate, Mercutio:

“I think he’s that person in your social world whose arrival causes this mix of joy and relief to secretly flood over you, because you know beyond doubt that this potentially boring evening is now going to be fun! If my place card wasn’t already next to his, I might have to do a cheeky switch myself.”

Guest #4: The Fool from King Lear

Fresh from his work as text consultant on Bell Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, Ben Crystal had some specific ideas for the seating plan at our dinner party. "Rather than sit next to Lear’s Fool at a dinner party, I think I’d prefer to sit across the table from them. Or maybe at the other end of the table. I’d want a terrific view of whatever genius-chaos they’d bring, and preferably be slightly out of reach, yet still visible enough to be a temporary target for whatever wit or wisdom they might disgorge onto me."

Guest #5: Sir John Falstaff from Henry IV Part I

When we asked American academic Professor Robert Viking O'Brien for his dinner party guest, he didn’t hesitate: “I pick Falstaff! Specifically, Falstaff from Henry IV Part I. The Falstaff of The Merry Wives of Windsor is less interesting, and the Falstaff of Henry IV Part II is as depressing as he is funny (with his constant talk of disease and death). I'd also like Prince Hal to be at the table because Falstaff is at his wittiest when he's entertaining the prince.”

  • Robert Viking O’Brien is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at California State University, Chico. He muses on Shakespeare at

Guest #6: Portia from The Merchant Of Venice

Sitting on the other side of Sir John Falstaff would be actor Garth Holcombe (who cheated slightly by requesting two dinner party guests!). “Firstly, I'd want to sit next to Sir John Falstaff,” says Garth. “I wouldn't feel so bad about taking seconds, thirds, fourths or fifths. Nor would he bat an eyelid at a sixth or seventh slice of dessert. It might be a messy experience but 'twould be filled with life and laughter. I'd then want Portia close by, to get us out of paying the bill.”

To be continued…

Stay tuned on social media in the coming days as we reveal the rest of the Shakespeare dinner party guestlist. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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