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Unit 1: Shakespeare Speaks
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  1. 1 Shakespeare Speaks
  2. 2 Shakespeare Speaks - the extras

Session 1

King James enjoys a bit of pickle with his dinner while he watches William Shakespeare's The Tempest. We bring you the phrase in a pickle - and lots more phrases for talking about difficult situations. Plus, pick up some great expressions to use when people are drunk! 

Session 1 score

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    Activity 1
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    Activity 2
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    Activity 3

Activity 1

Trinculo is in a pickle

A drunken jester? No good will come of it...
In Shakespeare's time, the jester had the important role of entertaining the court. He played music, did silly things and told jokes - just like a modern-day clown. William Shakespeare included jesters in many of his plays - and his audiences loved them.

To do

In this image, we can see Trinculo, the jester from The Tempest. While you watch the video, decide if Trinculo is:

a) very drunk
b) in a difficult situation
c) both a) and b)

The answer's under the video - no cheating!

Watch the video and complete the activity

Show transcript Hide transcript

It was a chilly November evening. William Shakespeare's play The Tempest, full of music, magic and monsters, is being performed for the first time. King James I and the Queen are having dinner while they watch.

King James
I do like a good play… mmm… and this meat is delicious - bring me more of that pickle… Mmmm… I love a bit of pickle with my dinner… and a nice glass of wine…

Don't you think you've had enough wine, dear?

King James
Oh do be quiet dear: I can't hear the actors. Now, Mr Shakespeare, is that a King I see on the stage?

Your Majesty, that is King Alonso of Naples. He is lost on a magical island.

King James
And who is this fellow in the jester's costume?

Your Majesty, that is Trinculo. He drinks a lot, and plans to murder people.

King James
A drunken jester? Murder? No good will come of it… does the King know about this?

Yes, your Majesty. Now, the King is going to find Trinculo - in a drunken mess. Your Majesty might care to listen…

King James 1
Ooh yes, yes, I want to hear this, be quiet everybody.

How camest thou in this pickle?

Robert Harley as Trinculo
I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.

King James 1
Hahaha! He's in a pickle! I like it, Will, very good, very good!

We'll leave them there for now. Pickles are a very messy food, made from fruit and vegetables, crushed and preserved in vinegar and spices - sometimes with alcohol too. When Trinculo says he is in a pickle, he's probably saying that he is very drunk - but he's also got himself into a mess - a very difficult situation. Nowadays, when someone has drunk a lot of alcohol, they can say: I'm pickled - and when they've got problems, they can say: I'm in a pickle. Take The Hunger Games actor Liam Hemsworth, who said:

Clip 1
Most of the time if I'm in a pickle I'll call one of my brothers. They've usually got somewhat uplifting advice.

Clip 2
Ooh, you're in a pickle with those bags aren't you? Let me help.

King James I
Now Mr Shakespeare, sit down and eat with us. Have some cold meat!

Anything with that?

Hmmm… To pickle, or not to pickle: that is the question.

The answer is c) - Trinculo has drunk too much alcohol AND he is in a difficult situation!

To do

In this episode we met King James, who was not only the King of Scotland, but also ruled England and Ireland from 1603 until his death in 1625. Try this quiz to find out what else you learnt about our version of King James. Watch the episode again first if you want.

King James' quiz

4 Questions

Answer the questions about this episode.

Congratulations you completed the Quiz
Excellent! Great job! Bad luck! You scored:
x / y

How many did you get right?
3-4 The King is pleased!
0-2 No pickle for you...


I'm in a pickle? or I'm pickled?- what's the difference? Click 'next activity' to find out.

On the next pages, we'll explore the meaning and use of in a pickle. We'll also bring you some more phrases for talking about difficult situations - and some expressions that describe drunk people! 

Session Vocabulary

  • For more great Shakespeare content visit our partner,The OU


    In a pickle

    Nowadays, when someone says they are in a pickle they mean that they are in a mess - a very difficult situation. 

    Example sentence
    Most of the time if I'm in a pickle I'll call one of my brothers. They've usually got somewhat uplifting advice.

    Nowadays, people can say I'm pickled if they have drunk too much alcohol.


    Extra vocabulary

    (here) the place where a King or Queen and their family and servants are living

    a jester
    a man whose job was to entertain people by doing silly things and telling jokes


    in a sticky situation
    in a difficult situation

    in a tight spot
    in a difficult situation

    in a bind
    in a difficult situation

    between a rock and a hard place
    in a very difficult position, often facing a difficult decision

    he's legless
    he's completely drunk

    completely drunk

    a little drunk

    a little drunk and feeling happy


    About Shakespeare Speaks

    Shakespeare Speaks is a co-production between:

    BBC Learning English

    The Open University


    More Shakespeare Speaks episodes

    Shakespeare Speaks Podcasts