1st October 2021 | news

Quoting Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s influence on the English language has stood the test of time. Those who say they ‘don’t do Shakespeare’ may be surprised to know they have probably quoted the Bard hundreds, if not thousands, of times without realising it.

Many of these words and phrases were already in existence in Shakespeare's lifetime, but there is clear evidence he certainly contributed to the English language with some of his own invention. 

So, if you’ve had ‘too much of a good thing’ or you know someone who has ‘a heart of gold’, then you’re quoting Shakespeare. 

Here is a selection of Shakespeare’s words and quotes, still in common usage today:

"Eaten out of house and home" - Henry IV, Part II
"Own flesh and blood" - Hamlet
"The world's mine oyster" - The Merry Wives of Windsor
"Lie low" - Much Ado About Nothing
"Foregone conclusion" – Othello
"Spotless reputation" - Richard II
"Puking" - As You Like It
"Dead as a doornail" - Henry VI, Part II
"Give the devil his due" - Henry IV, Part I
"Salad days" - Antony and Cleopatra
"A wild goose chase" - Romeo and Juliet
"What the dickens" - The Merry Wives of Windsor
"Neither here not there" - Othello
"A heart of gold" - Henry V
"Fashionable" - Troilus and Cressida
"Too much of a good thing" - As You Like It
"Faint-hearted" - Henry VI, Part I
"There's the rub" - Hamlet
"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
"Assassination" - Macbeth
"There's method in my madness" - Hamlet
"Wear your heart on your sleeve" - Othello
"Full circle" - King Lear
"Swagger" - Henry V
"Truth will out" - The Merchant of Venice
"Zany" - Love's Labour's Lost
"Obscene" - Love's Labour's Lost
"Such stuff as dreams are made on" - The Tempest
"Not slept one wink" – Cymbeline
"Bedazzled" - The Taming of the Shrew
"Rant" - Hamlet
"For goodness sake" - Henry VIII
"Mum's the word" - Henry VI, Part II
"In stitches" - Twelfth Night
"Addiction" - Othello
"All of a sudden" - The Taming of the Shrew
"Come what, come may" – Macbeth
"Send him packing" - Henry IV
"Naked truth" - Love's Labour's Lost
"Vanish into thin air" – Othello

I love this piece written by English journalist Bernard Levin CBE. The playful way he connects Shakespeare’s phrases shows us how often we quote Shakespeare in our everyday spoken language without even realising it. 

“If you cannot understand my argument, and declare "It's Greek to me", you are quoting Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned against than sinning, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you act more in sorrow than in anger; if your wish is farther to the thought; if your lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you have ever refused to budge an inch or suffered from green-eyed jealousy, if you have played fast and loose, if you have been tongue-tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fool's paradise -why, be that as it may, the more fool you , for it is a foregone conclusion that you are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it is high time and that that is the long and short of it, if you believe that the game is up and that truth will out even if it involves your own flesh and blood, if you lie low till the crack of doom because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop) without rhyme or reason, then - to give the devil his due - if the truth were known (for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a door-nail, if you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate, a stony-hearted villain, bloody-minded or a blinking idiot, then - by Jove! O Lord! Tut tut! For goodness' sake! What the dickens! But me no buts! - it is all one to me, for you are quoting Shakespeare.”

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