When going about your everyday life, you may not think you’re quoting the great Bard, when in fact, you are. Whether you’ve had ‘too much of a good thing’, been ‘eaten out of house and home’ or you ‘wear your heart on your sleeve’, Shakespeare is to thank for his ability to turn a phrase. Check out GetPaidTo’s top 10 phrases to thank Shakespeare for, learn a little along the way, and maybe fancy seeing them spoken on the stage with our great offers!
“There’s method in my madness” – Hamlet
This phrase comes from Hamlet, uttered by Polonius. Commonly used by people who are bizarrely logical, in a way that means although what they’re doing may look chaotic or ridiculous, there is really a method here. Originally the phrase is ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in it’ but when translated to modern English the phrase is used regularly.
“Wear your heart on your sleeve” – Othello
From Shakespeare’s play Othello, said by Lago, The play’s main antagonist. In this instance the phrase is used in order for Lago to seem open, honest and faithful. Generally used for people who are transparent and open about their emotions, and can be seen as a virtue or a disadvantage.
“A wild goose chase” – Romeo and Juliet
A wild goose chase generally means a foolish and hopeless search for or pursuit of something impossible. Mentioned in the tragedy Romeo and Juliet by the character Mercutio: “Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done; for thou hast more of the wild goose in one of thy wits than, I am sure, I have in my whole five.” Used generally when describing a particularly tricky task that involves going from pillar to post.
“Too much of a good thing” – As You Like It
In As You Like It, Rosalind (disguised as a man) is trying to find out Orlando’s intentions towards her. In this instance this pun is definitely a sexual innuendo. With ‘thing’ being a common expression at the time for both male and female genitalia. So with hindsight, innocent uses of the phrase in the past could leave you with some embarrassment. Commonly used these days as an expression of over-use, be it over-doing party decorations or gorging at a buffet!
“Mum’s the word” – Henry VI, Part II
‘Mum’s the word’ is a popular English expression, related to an expression used by the character Hume in Henry VI, Part II. It means, in this sense, to keep quiet and say nothing. “Mum” in old English means silent, and is commonly thought to of been derived from the word “mummer”. A person who does pantomime and acts without their voice. Nowadays it’s used when saying you’ll keep schtum about something.
“Love is blind” – The Merchant of Venice
Meaning an inability to see shortcomings in a lover and potentially doing crazy things when in love. In 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. Used nowadays in this sense but also to describe people who may appear to be aiming under their ‘league’ as it were. Also used as a justification for doing unusual things.
“A heart of gold” – Henry V
In this instance, the saying is a compliment indeed as gold is valuable and rare. So, having a heart of gold is something that’s unusual because it’s not very often you come across a person with one. It means someone who is kind and giving, still used today to describe someone wonderful.
“The be-all and end-all” – Macbeth
Meaning “the whole thing” or “the last word”. Shakespeare coined this well-used phrase in his 1605 tragedy Macbeth. Macbeth says this while contemplating murdering King Duncan to take the throne: “That but this blow / Might be the be-all and the end-all.” Of course the murder is far from the “end-all” as the play turns out. Nowadays used when talking about something being absolute and sometimes as a justification.
“In a pickle” – The Tempest
Meaning “in a difficult position”. There were various references to pickles in the late 16th century but Shakespeare was one of the first to use “in a pickle” in The Tempest. Trinculo says: “I have been in such a pickle since I saw you last.”
“Good riddance” – Troilus and Cressida, 1606
Most people have used this phrase to express joy or relief when an annoyance disappears. Back in Shakespeare’s day “riddance” meant “deliverance from” or “getting rid of” but it is now only infrequently used outside of the saying. Portia wishes the Prince of Morocco “a gentle riddance” in The Merchant of Venice but it is thought to have been used before that in his earlier works Troilus and Cressida in 1606.
- Shakespeare wrote 37 plays and 154 sonnets during his lifetime – this works out as an average 1.5 plays a year since he first started writing in 1589
- As well as being a playwright, Shakespeare was an accomplished actor, family man, property owner and manager of an acting company and theatre
- The original theatre burnt down in 1613 because of a miss-fired cannon during a Henry VIII performance
- His plays are associated with the Elizabethan times, yet most of his popular works were written in the Jacobean era
- Although he was a famous playwright in London, in his hometown of Stratford he was a well-known businessman and property owner
- At his grave in Stratford-upon-Avon, he put a curse on his epitaph daring anyone to move his bones to give way for more grave space, as was common at the time
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