When given a list of celebrities, US Presidential hopeful, Donald Trump, is the British public’s top choice (28%) as representing the modern day equivalent of King Lear, the Shakespeare character who through false flattery led his country into war(1). The British public’s other modern equivalents of Shakespeare characters were Ed Sheeran, Jennifer Lawrence, Hilary Clinton and Lady Gaga.
The international development organisation VSO, as part of its engagement with the Shakespeare Lives(2) campaign - which is marking the 400th anniversary of the British playwright’s life and work today (23rd April 2016) - commissioned the polling company YouGov to identify, out of 18 (9 for each gender) prominent politicians, musicians, actors and TV personalities, who were the modern day equivalent of six prominent Shakespeare characters.
British public’s most popular choices:
- King Lear (the central character in the play King Lear, unable to see beyond false flattery his country descends into war) – Donald Trump (28%)
- Juliet (falls in love with Romeo in the play Romeo and Juliet) – Jennifer Lawrence (23%)
- Romeo (falls in love with Juliet in the play Romeo and Juliet) – Ed Sheeran (23%)
- Iago (the villain in the play Othello) – Donald Trump (23%)
- Lady Macbeth (to gain power she conspires with her husband to murder Duncan in the play Macbeth) – Hillary Clinton (23%)
- Rosalind (the central character of As You Like It, she spends the bulk of the play in exile in the Forest of Arden disguised as a boy) – Lady Gaga (15%)
[EDITORS NOTE: Full results here]
VSO, the official charity partner of the Shakespeare Lives campaign, is engaging in a global programme of events and activities celebrating the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s work, with the aim of raising funds that will allow the organisation to improve access to quality education for over 50,000 children from some of the world’s poorest countries(3).
According to a separate 2011 poll commissioned by the British Council and the Royal Shakespeare Company, over half the world’s school children study Shakespeare today(4), yet there are still 250 million children who cannot read or write(5).
Philip Goodwin, the Chief Executive of VSO said:
“Every child deserves a good quality education wherever they may be born. It is one of the most direct ways to break the chains of poverty, disease and misery. But 400 years on from the life and work of the world’s most important writer it’s shocking to think that hundreds-of-millions of children will grow up not able to read even read a single line from his plays and sonnets.”
Using the money raised from the partnership with the Shakespeare Lives campaign, VSO will provide tens of thousands of children access to quality education that allows them to learn to the best of their ability.
Last year, VSO, through their network of volunteers, trained 50,800 teachers with the knowledge and skills they need to be able to address every child’s needs in 16 of the poorest countries in the world(6).
While in Ghana alone, the international organisation reached 13,700 children and trained 2,700 education workers - focusing on the education and empowerment of girls and children with disabilities. The charity also increased numeracy and literacy skills using the power of tablet-based learning for over 30,000 children in Malawi.
VSO has also produced a short 30 second film, with students and volunteers from around the world reciting the line “let's go hand in hand, not one before another” from the Shakespeare play, ‘A Comedy of Errors’(7).
Other interesting results from the opinion poll include:
- Men and women were split on who would be the modern day equivalent of Romeo, with over a fifth of men (21%) opting for Ed Sheeran while 1 in 4 women opted for Justin Bieber (25%).
- The British nation was split on whom the modern day equivalent of Juliet is, with England opting for Jennifer Lawrence (24%) while Wales and Scotland both went for Katy Perry at (34% and 26% respectively), who was also the second favourite overall (20%) as compared to Jennifer Lawrence (23%).
- British men and women were also split on Lady Macbeth, with a quarter of men opting for Hillary Clinton (25%) while women voted for Katie Hopkins (22%) as there most popular choice.
- Wales was the only region of the UK not to opt for Donald Trump being their top choice as the modern day equivalent of the villain Iago from Othello, instead opting for Simon Cowell (16%) who came joint second nationally alongside United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage (both at 12%).
- Fundraising link to support Shakespeare Lives appeal: www.vsointernational.org/donate/playyourpart
***Please do consider publishing or embedding this link alongside online coverage***
- A permanent link to Shakespeare Lives Hand in Hand video can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mliUYA2GrNQ
For spokespeople requests, more information about the poll, the Shakespeare Lives partnership and VSO’s education work, please contact:
- All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2050 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between the 15th - 18th April 2016. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Full results available here: www.vsointernational.org/sites/vso_international/files/vso_shakespeare_yougov_poll160420.pdf
- Shakespeare Lives is run by the British Council and the GREAT Britain campaign, they were not involved in the commissioning of this opinion poll - www.shakespearelives.org
- More information on VSO’s engagement with the Shakespeare Lives campaign can be found at http://shakespeare.vsointernational.org
- According to a poll conducted by the British Council and the Royal Shakespeare Company in 2011, with more information here www.britishcouncil.org/london-2012/inspiring-generation/world-shakespeare-festival-education
- Figure as published in a 2014 UNESCO report www.unesco.org/new/en/media-services/single-view/news/global_learning_crisis_is_costing_129_billion_a_year
- More information about how money raised from Shakespeare Lives will be used to support VSO’s education work here http://shakespeare.vsointernational.org/our-work-in-education.html
- For a permanent link to the Shakespeare Lives Hand in Hand video, please visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=mliUYA2GrNQ and broadcast quality embeds available upon request.