‘Westworld’ Episode 1 Shakespeare Quotes Explained

Joe Otterson
‘Westworld’ Episode 1 Shakespeare Quotes Explained

(Spoiler alert: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the first episode of “Westworld”)

“Westworld” has officially begun on HBO, and this new epic might just force us to brush up on our Shakespeare.

The series is based on a Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi movie about theme park robots that begin killing visitors. And it’s also loaded with allusions to the most famous playwright in the English language. In the HBO version, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), the enigmatic father of heroine Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), is fond of quoting the Bard, as viewers will quickly realize.

For those not so familiar with Shakespeare’s work, let’s break down and explain all of the quotes from the first episode below.

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“‘Hell is empty/And all the devils are here'”–The Tempest (1.2, 215-216)

In “The Tempest,” the spirit Ariel tells Prospero, the exiled magician, that Ferdinand, the son of King Alonso, shouted this when jumping overboard during a storm Prospero had conjured. In “Westworld,” Abernathy uses the line to tell Dolores that she must be very afraid of all the guests, as they will bring death and destruction.

“When we are born, we cry that we are come/To this great stage of fools”– King Lear (4.6, 165-166)

In the play, the once-powerful Lear is explaining to Gloucester that the very people who punish others for their sins are in fact sinners themselves. He therefore contends that the reasons babies cry when they are born is that they realize they have been brought into a world of cruelty and hypocrisy.

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While he’s not a baby, the comparison makes perfect sense for Abernathy. Thanks to a photo he found in a field, he has broken through the veil of Westworld — almost like being born –and realizes that he and the other hosts are being used for the cruel amusement of the guest, which brings tears to his eyes.

“By my/Most/Mechanical and dirty hand”– Henry IV (5.5, 33-35)

“I shall have such revenges on you both/That all the world shall–I will do such things–/What they are yet I know not, but they shall be/The terrors of the earth– King Lear (2.4, 276-279)

Here Abernathy combines two quotes: one spoken by Pistol in “Henry IV” and the other spoken by Lear.

The mechanical hand reference seems to obviously refer to the fact that Abernathy realizes he is a machine. The next line, spoken by Lear after he is betrayed by his daughters, is evidence that Abernathy is done playing his part as a moving target for the guests of Westworld.

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These violent delights have violent ends”– Romeo and Juliet (2.6, 9)

This one takes a little more poetic license with Shakespeare’s word choice. In the play, Friar Lawrence is telling Romeo that the sudden joy he feels from his love of Juliet will most likely end suddenly too.

In the case of Abernathy and Dolores, he seems to be telling her that the violence the guests so relish inflicting on the hosts will eventually lead to violent reprisals from the machines.

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