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William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616) was an English :poet, :playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist.

Whether you’re a fan or not, you probably use many of his phrases on a regular basis — more than 400 years later. Ever been “in a pickle” or had “too much of a good thing”? Perhaps friends have “eaten (you) out of house and home” or had you “in stitches” over a joke. These are just a handful of well-used sayings that come courtesy of Shakespeare.

Here is a list of popular sayings “The Bard” coined. In fact, we say or write some of them so often they’ve become clichés.

1. “Green-eyed monster” – meaning “jealousy.”

In “Othello,” Iago describes jealousy as a monster that devours its source.

“Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!

It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock

The meat it feeds on” (Act 3, Scene 3).

2. “In a pickle” – meaning: a difficult or uncomfortable situation.

In “The Tempest,” King Alonso asks his jester, Trinculo, “How camest thou in this pickle?” (In other words, “How did you get so drunk?”)
The inebriated Trinculo responds, “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last …” (Act 5, Scene 1).

Trinculo’s drinking does cause trouble for him, which gives the modern use its meaning. Shakespeare’s original intent makes sense though, as many pickling processes require alcohol.

3. “The world is your oyster” – meaning: being in a position to take advantage of life’s opportunities.

In “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” Falstaff refuses to lend Pistol any money. Pistol retorts, “Why, then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open” (Act 2, Scene 2).
Since Falstaff won’t help Pistol financially, he vows to obtain his fortune using violent means.

4. “Catch a cold” – meaning: to get sick.In “Cymbeline,” one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, Iachimo says to Posthumus Leonatus, “We will have these things set down by lawful counsel, and straight away for Britain, lest the bargain should catch cold and starve …” (Act 1, Scene 4).

In other words, if the deal takes too long it will fall apart. This created the idea of “cold” causing an unwanted event, like illness, for the first time. Also used in police-jargon when a “case” is not solved, quickly…it “goes cold.”

5. “It’s all Greek to me.” – meaning: that something is indistinguishable or incomprehensible.

In “Julius Caesar,” when Cassius asks Casca what Cicero said, Casca responds, “But, for mine own part, it was Greek to me” (Act 1, Scene 2).

6. “Love is blind” – meaning: an inability to see shortcomings in a lover; doing crazy things when in love.

“But love is blind, and lovers cannot see
The pretty follies that themselves commit … ” (Act 2, Scene 6)

In the “The Merchant Of Venice,” Jessica disguises herself as a boy just to see her beloved, Lorenzo. Needless to say, she feels a little silly but simply has to see him.

7. “Break the ice” – meaning: to start conversation.

“And if you break the ice, and do this feat, Achieve the elder, set the younger free …” (Act 1, Scene 2).

In the “The Taming Of The Shrew,” Baptista Minola has two daughters: a sassy one and a modest, beautiful one — the younger daughter. He refuses to let any suitors even speak to his younger daughter until his older daughter marries. Tranio (as Lucentio) suggests that another man marry the older daughter, so he can try to win the younger one’s affection. But first, he must “break the ice” — maybe a reference to her heart.

8. “Laughing stock” – meaning: a person subjected to ridicule.

In “The Merry Wives Of Windsor,” Doctor Caius says to Sir Hugh Evans: “Pray you let us not be laughing-stocks to other men’s humours; I desire you in friendship, and I will one way or other make you amends” (Act 3, Scene 1).

9. “Wear your heart on your sleeve” – meaning: to express your emotions openly, especially when others notice without much effort.

In “Othello,” Iago says he’ll “wear my heart upon my sleeve.” (Act 1, Scene 1).

The phrase most likely stemmed from jousting matches in the Middle Ages. Knights would wear tokens (such as scarfs) from their ladies tucked into the sleeves of their armor. But the first recorded use appears in Shakespeare’s play.

10. “Dogs of war” – meaning: soldiers; the brutalities that accompany war.

In “Julius Caesar,” shortly after Caesar’s assassination, Mark Antony says to Brutus and Cassius, “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war …” (Act 3, Scene 1).

11. “Method to his madness” – meaning: Someone’s strange behavior has a purpose.

In “Hamlet” Polonius says as an aside, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t” (Act 2, Scene 2).

Individual words have been adopted into our everyday vocabulary that were coined by William Shakespeare, such as: Zany, Bedazzled, Assassin, Rant, Fashionable, Fair-Play, Hoodwinked, Tongue-Tied, Good Riddance, High Time;

And for good measure, here are several more familiar phrases originated by The Bard:

– “For goodness sake” – Henry VIII

– “Neither here nor there” – Othello

– “Mum’s the word” – Henry VI, Part II

– “Eaten out of house and home” – Henry IV, Part II

– “Knock knock! Who’s there?” – Macbeth

– “All’s well that ends well” – All’s Well That Ends Well

– “With bated breath” – The Merchant of Venice

– “A wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet

– “Too much of a good thing” – As You Like It

– “A heart of gold” – Henry V

– “Such stuff as dreams are made on” – The Tempest

– “What the dickens” – The Merry Wives of Windsor

– “Lie low” – Much Ado About Nothing

– “Dead as a doornail” – Henry VI, Part II

– “Not slept one wink” – Cymbeline

– “Foregone conclusion” – Othello

– “In stitches” – Twelfth Night

– “Naked truth” – Love’s Labour’s Lost

– “Faint-hearted” – Henry VI, Part I

– “Send him packing” – Henry IV

– “Vanish into thin air” – Othello

– “Own flesh and blood” – Hamlet

– “Truth will out” – The Merchant of Venice

– “Give the devil his due” – Henry IV, Part I

– “Salad days” – Antony and Cleopatra

– “Spotless reputation” – Richard II

– “Full circle” – King Lear

– “There’s the rub” – Hamlet

– “All of a sudden” – The Taming of the Shrew

– “Come what, come may” – Macbeth

– “Heart of Gold” – Henry V

I’m certain that our readers will find these lists to be incomplete. We’d love to hear from you with your own Shakespearean favorite words, phrases and/or clichés.

Sources: Wikipedia, www.businessinsider.com, www.independent.co.uk


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