The Zeroth Law of Trope Examples

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Shakespeare Did It First!

He may not have been the Trope Maker or even the Ur Example, but you can bet your bottom dollar that he did it before you! Whatever great invention, character or plot device you come up with, Shakespeare is always the guy who has already done it and done it better than you could ever hope to. Note that he wasn't the first to use a lot of these conventions, however he's the earliest writer most people know who used so many of them.

His fans have been aware of this long before the Internet. Horace Walpole, widely recognized as the inventor of the Gothic Horror genre, proudly admitted he borrowed most of the ingredients for the Gothic recipe from his idol.

Shakespeare was not only the first to use many a trope, but the first troper. That is, the first to comment on it. Some examples:

"He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man;"

"So, oft it chances in particular men,
That for some vicious mole of nature in them...
Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,
Being nature's livery, or fortune's star,
Their virtues else -- be they as pure as grace,
As infinite as man may undergo --
Shall in the general censure take corruption

From that particular fault."
"But this denoted a foregone conclusion: 'Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream."
"Nor do not saw the air too much with your hands, but suit the action to the word, the word to the action."
"If this were acted upon the stage I would condemn it as an improbable fiction."

"Do not infest your mind with beating on

The strangeness of this business"
"Out, damned spot! out, I say!"

Puck: If we shadows have offended / Think but this, and all is mended
That you have but slumbered here / While these visions did appear
And this weak and idle theme, / no more yielding, but a dream

take my hand, if we be friends / and Robin shall restore amends
"How many times shall this our lofty scene be acted o'er? In states unborn and accents yet unknown".

Demetrius: Villain, what hast thou done?
Aaron: That which thou canst not undo.
Chiron: Thou hast undone our mother.

Aaron: Villain, I have done thy mother.

Painter: Y'are a dog.

Apemantus: Thy mother's of my generation. What's she, if I be a dog?

Quite possibly the ultimate proof of the truth of this law: Shakespeare has an example of a Sock Puppet in Julius Caesar. Yes, a character uses a made-up persona in a play set in ancient Rome and written in Elizabethan England. It's also used as an early example of Astroturfing.

  1. Yes, Shakespeare did your mom first.