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Also, today I learned that Harriet Walter and Patrick Stewart’s Antony and Cleopatra at the RSC used a real snake for Cleopatra’s suicide. I saw the production (in 2006) but I didn’t remember the live snake (I mostly remembered the wigs and the acting).

Here are some facts about the snake:

  • It was a milk snake
  • Its name was BILLY SNAKESPEARE
  • The RSC auditioned several snake actors for the part (I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP)
  • There was an understudy snake actor for when Billy Snakespeare was sloughing
  • It was fed on dead skinned baby mice, which were kept in the same fridge as the other actors’ lunches
  • They had to be very careful about when they fed it to make sure it didn’t poo on Harriet Walter in the last scene.

All these notes from ppl who saw the production and didn’t realise the part of the asp was played by Billy. Just goes to show what a consummate actor he was.

so true

I knew he was a real snake, but I thank you heartily for all these wonderful facts.



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