Jonathan Franzen Blows Two Shakespeare Questions on Jeopardy!

Posted on May 20, 2016

It's been Power Players Week on Jeopardy! this week and the best episode was on Monday when novelist Jonathan Franzen competed against journalist Chuck Todd of Meet the Press and conservative commentator S. E. Cupp. They all played for charity: Franzen's charity was The American Bird Conservancy. We won't leave you in suspense: S.E. Cupp won and Franzen came in second because he totally blew two questions about Shakespeare.

Yes, Shakespeare. The question was "Part of The Taming of Shrew was set in this Tamer's country house." The answer was, of course, "Who is Petruchio?," but Franzen totally blanked. He muttered, "I should have known that" -- and proceeded to hide behind his podium in embarrassment. Todd pounced gleefully noting that the novelist had blown the Shakespeare question. Franzen also missed this question in the Shakespeare category: "This 'tale' takes place in Sicilia and Bohemia." The answer is The Winter's Tale. But given Franzen's fondness for Shakespeare, his performance was surprising -- to say the least. In all fairness to Franzen, he did nail the birds category (he's a huge bird watcher and conservationist).

In the introduction segment for each player, Franzen said about appearing on the show, "It's kind of a nightmare come true for me to be here. I'm not sure I've literally had nightmares of failing on Jeopardy!, but it's the kind of thing I would have a nightmare about." He also got an opportunity to air his feelings of total disdain for Twitter and how it is trivializing social interaction.

Franzen's other mistake was failing to bet big enough on the Daily Double. He also missed the last question which was "Officials called Tribunes sat at Rome's senate door and if they did not like what was going on, shouted this Latin word." The answer was "What is a veto?", but he wrote "non." And that was the end of that. Altogether he came across as intelligent, funny and a good sport which certainly won't hurt with readers who still have not forgiven him for the Oprah Incident.

The episode is not online yet, but here are some highlights:

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