Shakespeare. The Bard. His name evokes poetry, love and the terror of memorizing 10 whole lines of "To be, or not to be" for your high school English class. Sure, his plays have some action, but it's mostly tragic romance like Romeo and Juliet, or boring history like Henry VI, right?
Wrong. In addition to being the "greatest English writer in history," Billy Shakes was also one of the most insane, violent, out of left-field wackos who ever picked up a pen. For example ...
6Out of Nowhere, a Bear Eats a Guy
In A Winter's Tale, King Leontes orders the death of his own wife Hermione and the couple's two children. His subject, Antigonus, is given the unsavory job of taking the King's infant to the beach to leave her there to die. Seems like typical Shakespeare so far.
"Wait, so do I get brutally disemboweled now, or do a soliloquy?"
While Antigonus is standing on the shore, wishing he'd put his resume up on Monster.com sooner, he is dispatched with Shakespeare's most famous stage direction:
"Antigonus exits, pursued by a bear"
-- The Winter's Tale, Act III Scene iii, Line 58
Seriously, that's all we get in the way of setup or explanation. One second, our buddy Antigonus is giving a soliloquy; the next, he's chased into the wings by a gigantic ursine beast, never to be heard from again. Shakespeare abandons his minor characters without explanation all the time, but for whatever reason, Antigonus went out with a little more of a bang.
Shakespeare's Mad Libs period.
It also makes one wonder how exactly they accomplished the whole "get a bear to pursue someone off the stage" thing back in Shakespearean times. Maybe they just put out a casting call for "really hairy guy." It's not like they had CGI they could whip up, and we're assuming that even back then, you could be sued if a real-life bear ran loose in your venue and ate the audience. That's just not the sort of thing that happened back in Elizabethan England. Well, unless you count Queen Elizabeth's favorite form of entertainment: bear baiting.
Probably not The Winter's Tale, Act III Scene iii, Line 58. Probably.