"Hazard All He Hath": Shakespeare's Gambling World

David Schwartz, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

The video may be viewed on youtube.com or by download. The downloadable .mp4 file is 572 MB. This public lecture was delivered in the Lied Library on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, as part of a series offered in conjunction with the University Libraries Special Collections First Folio exhibit. From September 1-29, 2016, Special Collections exhibited an original 1623 First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library as part of First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare. This first-ever national tour of one of the world’s most influential books celebrated 400 years of Shakespeare and his legacy. Special Collections in the Lied Library was the only location in Nevada for the First Folio! National tour.


Gambling has a long presence in English life, a presence that grew steadily over time. By the Elizabethan era, gambling was so engrained within the English consciousness that it can be found throughout the works of William Shakespeare. Shakespeare incorporated references to specific games ranging from novum to primero into several of his plays, and, to prove that gambling was more than just a pastime, incorporated larger themes of gambling, and particularly “hazard,” into his work. This talk examines the state of English gambling when Shakespeare wrote and traces the presence of gambling action and themes throughout his plays.