Shakespeare Photo story

Shakespeare-inspired fancy dress ideas for Halloween

    From Doctor Faustus to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, our past productions are here to provide the ultimate spookspeare fancy dress inspo

4 minute read

Macbeth, 2016. Design by Ciaran Bagnell. Photographer: Marc Brenner.

The Witches, Macbeth

Think of Shakespeare and Halloween, and the Witches from Macbeth immediately spring to mind. With their beards, potions and cauldron, and rhymed speech, they are the caricatures of the supernatural. Looking for a group inspired costume? There’s even three of them (plus you can even get your pets involved…we’re sure your cat would love to come as Graymalkin).

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Actors on stage wearing masks lift an actor in the air

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2014. Design by Jonathan Fensom. Photographer: John Hayes.

Titania, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Queen of the Fairies, Titania from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the perfect magical creature. At one with the natural environment, you could incorporate flowers, leaves and branches in to your costume, and if you’d like to pair up, why not be enchanted by everyone’s favourite mechanical, Bottom?

What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?

An actor wearing a white dress covered in blood, with their hands severed (faked).

Titus Andronicus, 2014. Design by William Dudley. Photograph: Simon Kane.

Lavinia, Titus Andronicus

More of a blood, guts and gore fan at Halloween? Well, forget Quentin Tarantino and look no further than Shakespeare’s bloodiest play, Titus Andronicus, and Titus’s daughter Lavinia. You’ll need bucket loads of fake blood for this one.

A crimson river of warm blood,
Like to a bubbling fountain stirr’d with wind,
Doth rise and fall between thy rosed lips.


As You Like It, 2019. Design by E.M Parry. Photograph: Tristram Kenton.

Touchstone, As You Like It

Batman’s Joker may be scarier, but Shakespeare’s fool Touchstone from As You Like It is just more fun. Think a typical court jester from Elizabethan England – you’ll need a brightly coloured cap with bells, pointed shoes (also with jingle bells) and a mock sceptre. If you have an array of jokes as part of your arsenal too, even better.

O that I were a fool!
I am ambitious for a motley coat.

Doctor Faustus, 2018. Design by Libby Watson. Photograph: Marc Brenner.

Good Angel, Doctor Faustus

Not all Halloween characters have to be bad. Why not go as the Good Angel from Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus? You’ll need a white dress, white feathered wings, and a halo crown. A good conscience is not necessarily required.

Gaze not on it lest it tempt thy soul!

The Tempest, 2013. Design by Max Jones. Photograph: Tristram Kenton.

Ariel, The Tempest

Servant to Prospero but magically powerful in his own right, Ariel from The Tempest is a bewitching choice this Halloween. Bold eye make-up and some peacock feathers (fake, we should add) complete this spirit look.

Hell is empty
And all the devils are here.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2016. Costume Design by Moritz Junge. Photograph: Steve Tanner.

Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Can you put a girdle around the world in 40 minutes? No? Well, nevermind. For this mischievous hobgoblin, Puck, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, you just need to be cheeky and spritely. You can even gather your friends and form a fairy band.

Are not you he
That frights the maidens of the villagery,
Skim milk, and sometimes labor in the quern
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn,
And sometime make the drink to bear no barm,
Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?

Macbeth, 2016. Design by Ciaran Bagnell. Photographer: Marc Brenner.

Banquo, Macbeth

No Halloween can be complete without a ghost, and no, we’re not referring to everyone’s neighbourhood friend, Casper. Play tricks with your nearest and dearest at the dining table this All Hallow’s Eve, and go as Banquo’s Ghost from Macbeth.

Thou canst not say I did it; never shake
Thy gory locks at me.

Anne Boleyn, 2010. Design by Michael Taylor. Photograph: Manuel Harlan.

Anne and Henry, Anne Boleyn

Theirs was a love that changed history forever. Whether you opt for happy and in love Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, or the darker moment when Henry destroys her, this power couple from Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn is a perfect choice for historical fans this Halloween. Creative types could even create their own decapitated head.

And thus I take my leave of the world and of you all,
and I heartily desire you all to pray for me.

Emilia, 2018. Design by Jo Scotcher. Photograph: Helen Murray.

Emilia Bassano, Emilia

There’s nothing more terrifying to the patriarchy than an outspoken woman, so how about three of them? Morgan Lloyd Malcolm’s Emilia lit a flame in the Globe Theatre in 2018 with its sensational portrayal of the dark lady of the sonnets, Emilia Bassano. Gather your girlfriends and form the largest feminist posse you know, quills, parchment and books at the ready.

Men, who forgetting they were born of women,
nourished of women, and if they were not of the means of women,
they would be quite extinguished out of the world.

Doctor Faustus, 2011. Design by Paul Wills. Photograph by Keith Pattison.

Mephistopheles, Doctor Faustus

The ultimate devilish demon this Halloween, Mephistopheles is a servant of Lucifer in Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, and you don’t get any badder than that. You’ll will need red clothing, perhaps some horns, and a touch or two of a wicked side.

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, but where we are is hell,
And where hell is, there must we ever be.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 2014. Design by Jonathan Fensom. Photographer: John Hayes.

Oberon, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

We’ve mentioned the Fairy Queen and the hobgoblin Puck, so how could we forget the King of the Fairies, Oberon, from this list? The instigator behind all the chaos in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon is a powerful choice for Halloween. You’ll need a commanding presence, a codpiece, and a trusty sidekick to be your servant, Puck.

Trip we after the night’s shade:
We the globe can compass soon,
Swifter than the wandering moon.

Nell Gwynn, 2016. Design by Hugh Durrant. Photograph: Tristram Kenton.

Oliver Cromwell, Nell Gwynn.

(No, not that Oliver Cromwell).

And last but not least, for everyone who is a dog lover, how about dressing up as man’s (or should we say, King Charles’s?) best friend for Halloween, and go as the delightful Oliver Cromwell, a King Charles Spaniel from Jessica Swale’s Nell Gwynn. After all, you are incredibly cute and get spoiled rotten.