References to Boggle, Cards Against Humanity and even Hungry, Hungry Hippos all discovered in some of The Bard's most popular work.

Iconic board games discovered in the works of Shakespeare

Popular industry gaming evening, Board Game Club is to change its name in honour of new research that discovered the works of Shakespeare to be littered with board game references.

An Oxford University professor has discovered the iconic literary figure’s corpus to feature numerous references to the likes of Boggle, Cards Against Humanity and even Hungry, Hungry Hippos.

Most obvious, says professor Ian Rallksop – author of The Name of The Game: Board Game Names Hidden in Literature’s Great Works, Part I: Shakespeare’s Secrets – is the strategy game Othello, which took its name directly from the Bard’s renowned tragedy.

Less apparent though, he discovers, are uses of the words Mousetrap, Guess Who, Boggle and Draughts, from Hamlet, Richard III, All’s Well That Ends Well, and Timon of Athens respectively.

However, perhaps most surprising is the inclusion of modern games.

“When the game Cards Against Humanity came out, I knew the name was familiar,” said Rallksop. “It’s from Henry IV. Hotspur tells the king ‘He call’d them untaught knaves; unmannerly, Slovenly cards; against humanity, Betwixt the wind and his nobility.’”

Somewhat staggeringly, Rallksop suggests that marble-grabbing game Hungry, Hungry Hippos even features in a passage from Midsummer Night’s Dream, albeit as part of a name.

“Yes, it’s a bit of a cheat,” he explained. “But when an incredulous Theseus impels Hippolyta, he tells her: ‘That nature, being sick of man’s unkindness, Should yet be hungry; hungey Hippolyta, Whose wombe unmeasurable and infinite breast, Teems and feeds all…’ and so on.

“It amuses me to think that Shakespeare might have invented all these games and made coded reference to them in his extraordinary works.”

Furthermore, the study also uncovered a nod toward a well-known piece of game-play in Monopoly.

Rallksop continued: “In Romeo & Juliet, arguably one of Shakespeare’s most famous works, we unearthed the line: ‘But look thou stay not till the watch be set, For thou canst not pass go to Mantua, Where thou shalt live, till we can find a time…’ – so not only was he including mentions of game names, he inadvertently referenced actual game play.”

Board Game Club’s Lesley Singleton and Peter Jenkinson have been left baffled by the news.

“When the Professor contacted us regarding his research, we just couldn’t believe it”, commented Singleton. “But it’s there in black and white.”

In honour of Prof. Ian Rallksop’s discovery, Board Game Club will be running a special ‘Bard Game Club’ event to showcase only the games mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.

To register for the guest list for this one-off special, please email

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