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William Shakespeare’s Influence on Christie’s Works

22nd April 2016

Agatha Christie was a lifelong Shakespeare fan who enjoyed reading and watching his work as well as carefully referencing it in some of her own stories. In An Autobiography, Agatha Christie recalls fond memories of taking her grandson Mathew to see Macbeth and The Merry Wives of Windsor at the theatre when he was eleven. Shakespeare’s works have inspired thousands of writers and are referenced in many novels and plays, including some of Agatha Christie’s works. In fact, Shakespeare is the writer most quoted in Christie’s stories. We’ve put together a selection of Shakespeare references which appear in Agatha Christie’s stories.

A few of Christie’s book titles were taken from Shakespeare’s works including Absent in the Spring which gets its name from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 98 which begins, ‘ From you I have been absent in the Spring.

The title of Taken at the Flood is from a speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar which begins, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’ The full speech is also used as the epigraph at the start of the book.

Also, the title for Sad Cypress was derived from a song in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night and By the Pricking of my Thumbs is from Act 4 of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

References to Shakespeare's works go beyond book titles and are often included as quotes in stories. For example, on discovery of a body in Hercule Poirot's Christmas, one of the suspects says, 'Who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?' which is a quote taken from Macbeth.

In Poirot's summation to The ABC Murders, he misquotes a line saying 'You cannot see the trees for the wood' and attributes it to Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet are a constant theme in Five Little Pigs and one of the characters, Elsa Greer, even suggests that she ought to have put a ‘knife in herself, like Juliet,’ after her lover passed away.

Which other Shakespeare references have you noticed in any of Agatha Christie's works? Tell us on Twitter by tagging @agathachristie.