In the 2020 remake of The Witches, when the Grand High Witch gives Charlie the Number 86 Delayed Action Mouse Maker potion, Charlie refuses to open his mouth and the Grand High Witch says

Open his trap.

Open it.

[croakily] Okay.

That’s how you wanna play, we’ll play the Shakespeare way.

The Witches the proceed to pour the potion into Charlie's ear.

What specifically is 'the Shakespeare way'? I assume it's a reference to Macbeth and its witches, but I'm unsure how.

1 Answer 1


It's presumably a reference to Hamlet, not Macbeth. Hamlet's father was killed by Claudius pouring poison in his ear.

Upon my secure hour thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment;
whose effect
Holds such an enmity with blood of man

  • In Machbeth, 'spirits' are administered by ear, but those spirits are ill feeling rather than literal poison. Than wishest should be undone. Hie thee hither, That I may pour my spirits in thine ear.
    – Valorum
    Jan 6 at 11:25
  • 4
    @Valorum I feel as if this is more famous in Hamlet -- I mean, The Simpsons Hamlet shows Moe pouring a drop of poison in Homer's ear. Jan 6 at 18:55
  • @OwenReynolds - Indeedly. "Poison being administered by ear" is so synonymous with Hamlet that I can't think of any other major work where it happens, other than where they're parodying or referencing Hamlet.
    – Valorum
    Jan 6 at 19:00
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor - If memory serves, the story is a retelling of an older monomyth. Shakespeare rarely invented plots.
    – Valorum
    Jan 6 at 20:02
  • 2
    @Valorum Hamlet is one of the plays that doesn't have a clearly identifiable precursor, although the good folks of Lit.SE have done a lot of research about the hypothesised Ur-Hamlet that was Shakespeare's source.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Jan 6 at 20:04

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