• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    The HKIA brings Hong… on [788] Island and Peninsula 島與半…
    Adamos on The Master and Margarita:…
    sumithra MAE on D.H. Lawrence’s Why the…
    To Kill a Mockingbir… on [35] To Kill A Mockingbird…
    Deanna Friel on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,082,264 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,710 other followers

Some Shakespeare-Coined Expressions

Shakespeare’s impact on everyday speech is extraordinary. He introduced around 1,700 words and a multitude of phrases to the English language. You probably find yourself quoting him more often than you realize.

“A dish fit for the god” (Julius Caesar) Spoken by Caesar’s murderer Brutus, who described how his father should be elegantly and respectfully killed instead of being butchered.

“All of a sudden” (The Taming of the Shrew) Taken from the context in which how a servant marvels at how his master has fallen in love.

“As luck would have it” (The Merry Wives of Windsor) Taken from the context in which the aspiring seducer is detailing his escape from the adultress’ house in a laundry basket at the arrival of her husband.

“Brevity is the soul of wit” (Hamlet) Cutting to the chase.

“Discretion is the better part of valor” (Henry IV, Part I) Used to explain how the tactic of playing dead on the battlefield has saved one’s life.

“The dogs of war” (Julius Caesar) A vivid image taken from Mark Anthony’s speech in the play predicting the bloody conflict that will follow his friend’s assassination.

“Fair play” (The Tempest) Originates where Mrianda accuses her lover Ferdinand of cheating at chess but admits she doesn’t mind.

“Good riddance” (Troilus and Cressida) The word “riddance” was used more widely in Shakespeare’s time and you could wish someone different kinds of riddance.

“Love is blind” This expression crops up in many plays.

“Wild-goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet) Mercutio uses the phrase to refer to the fact that he and Romeo have been trading witticisms and one-upping each other in turn, a pastime clever, smart-arsed young men still enjoy today.

Shakespeare

btt button

I checked in at the Booking Through Thursday blog, which is the host for a weekly book meme or blogging prompt. Here is this week’s prompt:

Okay, show of hands … who has read Shakespeare OUTSIDE of school required reading? Do you watch the plays? How about movies? Do you love him? Think he’s overrated?

1garden

I only read Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet in high school, and I read under time’s constraint. I always thought Romeo & Juliet was very clichéd and I never cared for it. Hamlet was read as an exercise of in-depth character study in 11th grade. Taming of the Shrew was the first book I read outside of school—and it was years after high school that I picked it up.

The Taming of the Shrew has a powerful appeal for the Elizabethan audience at the time it opened because the struggle for mastery in a marriage remained a fact of existence and hot topics for writers. A true-to-life domestic scene opens the play and instantly grasps attention: Signor Baptista forbids all suitors to court his younger daughter Bianca until he finds a husband for the ill-tempered, difficult, and waspish elder daughter Katherina. It’s one of Shakespeare’s more rhetorical work.

I was concerned that A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be a reprise of Romeo & Juliet. Shakespeare nudges the story to a direction in which the style does not involve the audience too snuggly in the lovers’ emotions. The love entanglement engenders enough body and reference to larger concepts to be viewed as image of some universal human experience: one so true-to-life that it inevitably and in no time provokes sympathy.

Twelfth Night has a whimsical plot. It addresses a subtler and yet precarious issue in the situation of identical twins teetering on the risk of being mistaken. Identical twins are automatically ripped off their uniqueness, the unmistakable self. The broad appeal of Twelfth Night as a good-humored play is sharpened by its comedy of mistaken identity between the long-lost twins Sabastian and Viola. Although they are of different sexes, other characters in the play cannot distinguish them from one another when Viola disguises as a young man.

Much Ado About Shakespeare: A Meme

shakespeareGautami tagged me for a meme on Shakespeare. The timing is perfect with my Shakespeare series.

What was your first introduction to William Shakespeare? Was it love or hate?
Primary school in Hong Kong, around fifth grade. In addition to the texts on English grammar and usage, we had dreaded these progressive reader series in which some of the titles are stories adopted from Shakespearean plays, retold by editors. I read Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Romeo and Juliet. Can you imagine the school board make innocent fifth graders read the most tragic of any love story?

Which Shakespeare plays have you been required to read?
Romeo and Juliet in 9th grade, Othello in 10th, Hamlet in 11th. To my utter surprise, AP English in 12th spared us from Shakespeare. In college, I took a Shakespeare class (English 117 at Berkeley) that required As You Like It, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Tempest, and Macbeth. Readings for that class took up all my time that one semester! I’ve got a copy of Four Tragedies on my nightstand. It’s way more enjoyable to read on my own pace.

Do you think Shakespeare is important? Do you feel you are a “better” person for having read the bard?
I never thought I’m a better person just because I’m reading anything that is obscure or classics, maybe I’m more erudite and conquering as a reader. Different strokes for different folks. Nobody could dispute Shakespeare’s influence in English literature. One may find even the entire existing vocabulary of his language limiting to his creative consciousness; Shakespeare often did, and so on occasion created his own form of grammar and vocabulary, much of which has since become common use. (A few examples of these would be the words “amazement”, “dislocate”, “premeditated”, “dexterously”, “windle”,”lackluster,” using the masculine singular pronoun�”his” for “its” �now used for poetic effect, and using some nouns as verbs, such as “he childed as I fathered.”). Few modern writers have such skill as to create new words which “stick” in our language, or to write in such a way that their words become common usage centuries later. By using just the right combination of words, or by conjuring just the right image, Shakespeare authored countless passages and entire plays so powerful, poignant, comedic, tragic, and romantic that many are still being routinely memorized and performed today, nearly four centuries later.

Do you have a favorite Shakespeare play?
Macbeth for tragedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream for comedy.

How do you feel about contemporary takes on Shakespeare? Adaptations of Shakespeare’s works with a more modern feel? (For example, the new line of Manga Shakespeare graphic novels, or novels like Something Rotten, Something Wicked, Enter Three Witches, Ophelia, etc.) Do you have a favorite you’d recommend?
I haven’t read any of these books so I’m not in a position to comment.

What’s your favorite movie version of a Shakespeare play?
I have’t seen much of the film adaptation. But I like the 1996 Twelfth Night with Imogen Stubbs.

Further Reading:
Shakespeare Series (1): A Midsummer’s Night Dream
Shakespeare Series (2): Twelfth Night