Tag Archives: Shakespeare

‘What light through yonder window breaks?’


This image is a development of early morning sunlight highlighting reflections and textures

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‘The whirligig of time’ (Shakespeare)

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December 31, 2018 · 8:00 am

‘The rain it raineth every day’

It hasn’t really rained every day  –   but the breaks have been few and far between.  (In the UK 2012 was officially the second wettest year since records began in 1912).  But, in any case, the title of this post seemed very appropriate for twelfth night!!  Besides, I like the patterns.

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More Clichés and Everyday Expressions from Shakespeare

In an earlier entry I listed a selection of clichés and everyday expressions taken from Hamlet.  Below are a few from other plays by the bard:

A fool’s paradise          Romeo and Juliet
A foregone conclusion          Othello
 A tower of strength          Richard III
All the world’s a stage          As You Like It
An eye-sore          Taming of the Shrew
As white as driven snow          Winter’s Tale
Bated breath          Merchant of Venice
Budge an inch          Taming of the Shrew
Cold comfort          King John
Come full circle          King Lear
Devil incarnate          Henry V
Dead as a doornail          Henry VI part 2
Done to death          Much Ado About Nothing
 Eaten out of house and home          Henry IV part 2
Elbow room          King John
For goodness sake          Henry VIII
Good riddance          Troilus and Cressida
Hold a candle to          Merchant of Venice
I have not slept one wink          Cymbeline
Into thin air          The Tempest

For a more comprehensive list see http://www.lomonico.com

See also Shakespeare’s Clichés in Hamlet

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Shakespeare’s Clichés in ‘Hamlet’

Our recent visit to Stratford brought to mind the story of the fellow who, after seeing Hamlet for the first time, commented, ‘I don’t know why they say Shakespeare was our finest writer.  That play was full of clichés.’

Of course, there is an element of truth in his observation.  Such was Shakespeare’s extraordinary understanding of human kind that, coupled with his command of language, he was capable of capturing the essence of a situation and expressing his thoughts in language that was apt, succinct, elegant and musical.

Many, many of the playwright’s phrases, and sometimes longer passages, have become part of our everyday language.  Shakespeare didn’t quote chichés, he was their originator!

Here are a few taken from Hamlet:
Brevity is the soul of wit.
Conscience does make cowards of us all.
Dog will have his day.
Hoist with his own petard.
In my heart of hearts.
In my mind’s eye.
More in sorrow than in anger.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Primrose path.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
The lady doth protest too much, me thinks.
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends.
To be, or not to be: that is the question.
To the manner born.
To thine own self be true.

We’ll add examples from other plays on another occasion.

See also More Clichés and Everyday Expressions from Shakespeare

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To hear or not to hear: that is the question.

A few weeks ago my wife and I visited Stratford to see a production of Hamlet.  As so often happens on such occasions, my mind was taken back to my school days and my first encounter with the play as a set text.

One of the things that baffled me at the time was, what I felt to be, the unfair criticism of Polonius.   He is, afterall, a caring father of Laertes and Ophelia, and to describe him as a ‘tedious old fool’ and a ‘busy-body’ is somewhat unkind.

Polonius’ ‘fault’ is that he is over-protective.  His advice to Laertes, prior to his son leaving for France, is a long catalogue of do’s and dont’s  –  all very sound but far, far too long.  We can well imagine Laertes ‘listening’ but ‘hearing’ nothing as the words pass in one ear and out of the other.

This typifies the relationship between advice given and advice received.  As parents we feel a responsibility for giving advice, whether or not it is sought.  At the receiving end we only hear advice when the situation and the advice match  –  when we need help.

From childhood days on, two pieces of advice have influenced my behaviour and actions on many occasions:

  • Remember, you’re as good as any man; better then none (my grandmother);
  • Never spoil a ship for a ha’porth of tar (my father).

The first was important because, by temperament, I am naturally reserved and somewhat short on self-confidence.  As a consequence I have needed to recall my grandmother’s words.

The second, I had always assumed, had something to do with keeping the ship watertight and seaworthy.  Only recently have I discovered that ship is a dialectal pronunciation of sheep.  Tar was used to protect sheep’s sores and wounds from flies.  Whichever  –  don’t scrimp, don’t cut corners!  That is false economy.

I have to confess that over the years this second injunction has cost me money.  Too often I have used it as an excuse for being extravagant or over-indulgent!

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