Monday, October 15, 2012

Shakespeare Inspired Halloween Costumes

If you've run out of great Halloween costume ideas, you can always turn to classical literature for inspiration.And no one has created more colorful and memorable characters than William Shakespeare. You don't have to go full-on Elizabethan with this. Shakespearean theater was highly anachronistic, and Athenian nobles, fairies and Italian lovers all dressed in contemporary English fashions, though they were always very theatrical.

Here are just a few of my own ideas of how to make great Shakespeare-inspired Halloween.

Lady Macbeth
Probably the easiest costumes to make. All you need is a gown and a dagger, but if you want to go with something a little more recognizable I recommend Ellen Terry's green dress.

Lady Macbeth

You will need:
- Green floor-length gown
- Golden metal belt
- Crown
- Dagger
- Long red wig

The character is very dark, so dramatic eyeliner and red lips are in order. Some fake blood on your hands and a dagger, complete the look.

This is a great costume if you have a limited budget and no time. The character is very recognizable, but to make it easier for your fellow party goers to figure it out use a painting as inspiration. Pre-Raphaelites have created some of the most famous Ophelias in art.


You will need:
- White floor-length gown (check out thrift stores for some wedding dresses)
- Wreath of flowers for your head
- Garlands of flowers to hold

Ophelia drowned, so go for pale makeup with hints of blue. Using a slightly blue lipstick will give you that ephemeral look. Go barefoot or wear soft slippers. Hair doesn't need to be neatly done, and even if you have a shortcut, you can probably get away with it and avoid the wig.

This Lady of the Nile has always been a Halloween classic. And Shakespeare's Cleopatra doesn't have to be very different from any other. You can use a store-bought costume or put something together yourself.


You will need:
- White Grecian-style gown
- Leopard-printed shawl
- Lots and lots of gold and turquoise jewelry
- Toy snake    

Remember, Cleo is all about the hair and the eyes. No need to be subtle here. There's some great makeup tutorials online. And don't forget to take a toy snake to add some drama to the costume.  

What could be more fun than a costume of a girl pretending to be a boy?  You can go full-Elizabethan here, but if that's too much for your budget, you could always put together something a little more stylized.

Viola / Cesario

You will need:
- White flouncy shirt with puffy sleeves
- Dark tight pants
- High boots
- A vest (look for one that has a slightly military look)

To finish the look, make sure you have a short haircut. If you have long hair and don't want to lose it for the sake of a Halloween costume, just hide it under a cap.  

Zombie Romeo and Juliet
Romeo & Juliet is a great costume for a couple, but it's been done to death. Unless, you make your star-crossed lovers into a couple of zombies. Nothing says "Halloween is here, baby", like a pair of famous dead lovers.

Romeo & Juliet

You will need:
- Medieval/Renaissance costumes (local costume store) Extra points if they match
- Vile of poison
- Toy sword

This one is all about the makeup. Check out some videos on how to create a zombie look. If your costumes aren't too expensive give them a tattered look. Your Romeo will need to have a greenish or bluish tint to his skin, especially around the mouth, to give him a poisoned look. Get some fake blood over the chest and don't forget the bloodied sword for Juliet.

Do you have some great Shakespeare inspired costume ideas? Please share!  


  1. LOVE this idea. Unfortunately, I'm probably going to phone Halloween in with an old classic lying around the house. I hope that people use this, though!

  2. Thanks! I know for a fact that at least one of my friends is going to do an Ophelia costume. :)

    1. They're all awesome, but I would definitely do Viola / Cesario if I had the clothing. In any case, that modern interpretation kind of rocks by itself as a daily outfit. I might have to pick it out... to be myself every day, haha.

    2. Nothing says 'style' quite like a touch of androgyny! And don't forget the mustache on a stick. That's what makes the look ;)


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