“All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players...”
Hell yeah, player! You may believe William Shakespeare's plays are boring homework assignments, but read them with an open mind and you'll find countless lessons on "Guy Code" (and "Girl Code") that still apply today. Here are 12 ways dramatic d-bags broke the laws of manhood...
Rejecting a girl because she’s poorCulture Club/Getty Images
The Play: "All's Well That Ends Well"
The Code Breaker: Bertram
When a lowborn Spanish ward named Helena sets her romantic sights on Count Bertram, he's a total snob about it: "A poor physician's daughter my wife! Disdain / Rather corrupt me ever!" The king himself lectures Bertram on how status has nothing to do with virtue, and orders him to wed Helena; Bertram immediately goes into battle rather than go to bed with a commoner.
The marriage is only consummated when Helena pretends to be someone else -- which finally earns Bertram's love, because it's such an extreme move. Turns out, net worth doesn't matter between the sheets; Guy Code crisis averted. (You know what isn't impoverished? Dat ass!)
Paranoia that you're being cheated onRobert Alexander/Getty Images
The Play: “The Winter’s Tale”
The Code Breaker: Leontes
If you catch your partner going behind your back, then sure, don’t stand for it -- but a lot of insecure guys make groundless accusations, which are ironically guaranteed to push a girl away.
Just take King Leontes, who invites his best friend King Polixenes over to his castle for an extended guys' night out. Nine months later, Polixenes wants to return to his own pad; Leontes’s pregnant wife Hermione convinces Polixenes to stay longer.
Because of this, Leontes obsessively worries they're having an affair ("Is whispering nothing? / Is leaning cheek to cheek ... laughing with a sigh?") He goes crazy with rage, imprisons Hermione and tries to have Polixenes killed.
When Leontes discovers the truth -- he was never cheated on -- from an all-knowing oracle (kinda like Google way back in the day), it's obvious that he's been a sh-tty husband and an even sh-ttier friend. If you don't trust your loved ones, then you don't know what love is, homie.
Ending your friendship over a romantic triangle
The Play: “The Two Noble Kinsmen”
The Code Breakers: Palamon and Arcite
These two guys wind up in prison together (as all true bros do at some point), and see a beautiful princess through the cell's window. They immediately bicker: "I saw her first." "That’s nothing ... I saw her too." "Yes, but you must not love her."
Eventually they fight to the death over it. C'mon, guys, it's her choice, not yours. Work out your differences ... a friendship can't survive a fatal duel, but it can survive an awkward Eiffel Tower.
Weaseling out of a debtGetty Images
The Play: "The Merchant Of Venice"
The Code Breakers: Bassanio and Antonio
Bassanio, like a college freshman with his first credit card, wastes his money and needs more to impress a girl. He borrows cash from Shylock, a Jewish moneylender / walking stereotype.
Bassanio's friend (and Shylock's enemy) Antonio signs as the guarantor, on the condition that -- if the debt isn't paid back -- Shylock will receive a pound of Antonio's flesh. Fair deal, right? Well, Antonio loses all of his assets in a shipwreck.
Shylock demands what's legally his, but some tricky legal maneuvering gets Antonio off the hook. The moral of the story is that forgiveness is better than greed, but here's a better moral: A man is only as good as his word. You don't go to Vegas, make extravagant bets at the tables and then try to sweet-talk casino security -- trust us, they're not going to be Christian about it.
Encouraging a guy to date someone you know is bad newsTouchstone Pictures
The Play: "The Taming Of The Shrew"
The Code Breakers: Hortensio and Gremio
If you've seen "10 Things I Hate About You," then you know the basic plot: Bianca's father forbids her to marry until her hot-tempered sister Katherina finds a man. So Bianca's suitors Hortensio and Gremio conspire to convince a poor sap that Katherina is a real catch ... and the relationship is one long dysfunctional screaming match. If a guy is boarding the crazy train, you warn him that he'll be handling baggage!
Changing your image to whatever you think people will like
The Play: "Twelfth Night"
The Code Breaker: Malvolio
You've heard it over and over: Be yourself! The right girl will like you for you! Since time immemorial, however, guys have ignored this advice and taken shortcuts, which never age well. (This is why all your photos from the '00s feature tasteless striped shirts and skinny jeans.)
Take Malvolio, a buttoned-up steward who has a thing for his boss, the countess Olivia. Pranksters drop off a letter for him -- forged to look like her handwriting -- explaining that "she" would go wild for a man in yellow stockings with crossed garters so tight they almost cut off his circulation. Oh yeah, and he should never stop grinning idiotically.
When Malvolio shows up looking and acting like a clown, it just makes Olivia think he's a psychopath ("Why, how dost thou, man? what is the matter with thee?") and he's taken away to the loony bin. To thine own self be true!
Assuming gossip is true
The Play: "Julius Caesar"
The Code Breaker: Brutus
The Roman leader Caesar has been amassing power, and the Senate isn't happy about it. A group of corrupt politicians convince Caesar's pal Marcus Brutus that he's a tyrant, not a champion of the people. ("I love him well," Brutus tells the conspirators, but "[w]hat you have said / I will consider.")
Brutus is further manipulated into hating Caesar, and slips him the knife ... only to realize too late that Caesar's will gave money away to every Roman citizen. Friends have each other's backs; they don't stab each other in the back (literally). Et tu, Bruté? Et tu broke Guy Code?
Losing your mind over a girl you've known for less than a week
The Play: "Romeo And Juliet"
The Code Breaker: Romeo
Yeah, it's the most tragic story in all of English literature and an eternal testament to love at first sight. Still, you know what? It transpires between SUNDAY AND THURSDAY.
Geez, Romeo, maybe you would've met some other hottie next week? There are other fish in the sea, dude, and their families probably don't have vicious blood feuds against yours.
Buying your friendsGetty Images
The Play: "Timon of Athens"
The Code Breaker: Timon
Ever throw a party and tons of cool people show up, and you're like, "Whoa, I'm so popular now," and then they never actually approve your Facebook friend request the next day?
Well, Timon would understand. He spends his fortune on wining and dining a bunch of hangers-on, but they all disappear as soon as his money and booze run out. Timon winds up a bitter hermit in the woods, cursing mankind for its shallowness: "Most smiling, smooth, detested parasites / Courteous destroyers, affable wolves..." Real friendship doesn't have a price tag.
Joining the enemy in battleGetty Images
The Play: "Coriolanus"
The Code Breaker: Coriolanus
The Roman war hero Coriolanus is elected to the government, but he's incompetent at politics, openly expressing contempt for the very people ("rabble") who elected him and proclaiming that democracy is a foolish idea. He's charged "as a traitorous innovator" and forced to leave Rome in disgrace.
Taking the "traitorous" accusation to heart, Coriolanus joins forces with Rome's enemies in order to destroy it ... and gets a knife in the back for trying to play both sides.
Criticizing your government's policies and leaders is what democracy's all about -- especially in wartime -- but to actually fight for the other side? That's been a Guy Code violation ever since we started drawing invisible lines on maps and then killing each other over them.
Inability to make up your damn mindGetty Images
The Play: "Hamlet"
The Code Breaker: Hamlet
There are so many Guy Code violations in this play -- Claudius kills his brother for the throne; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern spy on their friend instead of tipping him off; Hamlet and Laertes fight inside an open grave at a funeral -- but perhaps the most pathetic is Hamlet's chronic indecisiveness. He agonizes over every tiny decision in monologue after monologue. "To be or not to be"? Gahhhhh, just pick one already!
A guy should go (and stick) with his gut, whether he's making dinner plans or ordering at the bar. And if some of us require 55 minutes to select a Netflix movie every weeknight, melting into a tapioca-like puddle of uncertainty, we'd never admit to it in a post such as this one.
Telling a guy that his girl is cheating, just to mess with him
The Plays: "Much Ado About Nothing," "Othello"
The Code Breakers: Don John, Iago
Don John, played (sorta hilariously) by Keanu Reeves above, is furious with his brother, and thus ruins his brother's friend's wedding by convincing the groom -- a guy named Claudio -- that the bride is sleeping with other dudes. Claudio calls off the wedding mid-ceremony, insults his would-be wife in front of all their loved ones and storms off. He later realizes his error and the couple lives happily ever after, but that's the difference between comedy and tragedy.
On the other hand, Iago, the villain of "Othello," might be the biggest Guy Code violator in all of Shakespeare, because he tricks the titular Moorish general into smothering his own wife over a series of perceived slights, including a rumor that Othello slept with Iago's wife. Which brings us back to Assuming Gossip Is True, Paranoia That You're Being Cheated On and Ending Your Friendship Over A Romantic Triangle. Quadruple whammy, Iago! #GTFOH
Guy Code always evolves with the times, but some violations are unforgivable in any century.
Watch new episodes of “Guy Code” Wednesdays at 11:30/10:30c on MTV2!