Saturday, October 28, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Common Phrases "Uncommon" Shakespeare Gave Us

In a time when some of our secondary public schools, and
so many colleges and universities, are attempting to ignore
or diminish studying history and literary classics in the
name of political correctness, I think it might be instructive
just to list some of the most notable phrases that first were
invented, read or said more than four hundred years ago
in the works of the greatest writer of all in English ---
William Shakespeare.

The “Bard of Avon” personifies why literary classics still
matter. Shakespeare, for example, dominates any book of
quotations. I simply went through his entries in Bartlett’s
Familiar Quotation
s for this little exercise and simple

The list below is not a complete one, nor is it meant to be
a list of his best lines and phrases. I have only selected
ones that have survived four hundred-plus years as
conversational commonplaces and perhaps now even
cliches. They were invented by a man who basically
created modern English, and who has no peer in our
language. No one else comes close to what he contributed
to his mother tongue:


“The golden age.” The Tempest

“To make virtue of necessity.” Two Gentlemen of Verona

“Why then, the world’s my oyster.” Two Gentlemen of Verona

“Neither rhyme nor reason.” Measure For Measure

“Comparisons are odious.” Much Ado About Nothing

“ The naked truth.” Love’s Labour’s Lost
“Lord, what fools these mortals be.” A Midsummer’s Dream

“The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”
     The Merchant of Venice

“In the twinkling of an eye.” The Merchant of Venice

“Truth will come to light.” The Merchant of Venice

“All that glitters is not gold.” The Merchant of Venice

“The sins of the father are to be laid to the children.”
      The Merchant of Venice
“A motley fool.” As You Like It

“Neither rhyme nor reason.” As You like It

“Forever and a day.” As You Like It

“I’ll not budge an inch.” As You Like It

“All’s well that ends well.” All’s Well That Ends Well
“What manner of man?”  Twelfth Night

“My purpose, indeed, is a horse of that color.” Twelfth Night

“This is very midsummer madness.” Twelfth Night

“The westward-ho!” Twelfth Night

“Laugh yourself into stitches.” Twelfth Nightt

“Not so hot.” The Winter’s Tale

“Now my soul has elbow room.” King John

“He will give the devil his due.” Henry IV

“Exceedingly well-read.” Henry IV

“The better part of valor is discretion.” Henry IV

“The oldest of sins the newest kind of ways.” Henry IV

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown” Henry IV

“There is a history in all men’s lives.” Henry IV

“Even at the turning of the tide.” Henry IV

“We are in God’s hand.” Henry V

“Men of few words are the best men.” Henry V

“Fight to the last gasp.” Henry VI

“The smallest worm will turn being trodden on.” Henry VI

“Both of you are birds of selfsame feather.” Henry VI

“A fool’s paradise." Romeo And Juliet

“Men shut their doors to a setting sun.” Timon of Athens

“But for my part, it was Greek to me.” Julius  Caesar

“Yet I do fear that your nature is full of the milk
     of human kindness.” Macbeth

“In my mind’s eye, Horatio.” Hamlet

“Brevity is the soul of wit.” Hamlet

“The lady protests too much.”  Hamlet

“Some villain has done me wrong.” King Lear

“The prince of darkness is a gentleman.” King Lear

“Ay, every inch a king.” King Lear

O beware, my lord, of jealousy; it is the green-eyed monster
which doth mock the meat it feeds on.”  Othello

“Tis neither here nor there.” Othello

“My salad days, when I was green with judgment.”
      Antony and Cleopatra

“The game is up.” Cymbeline


The above are only a selection of the phrases he invented or
introduced into English more than four centuries ago.. For
every one of these there are a hundred more lines he wrote
which still are equally or even more original and beautiful.

This is the writer that some self-appointed, self-described
“politically correct”arbiters have decided should not be a
visible image of the part of our literary literary heritage
that is taught and passed on to our young. No doubt these
literary charlatans will soon declare that Shakespeare is no
longer relevant, if not politically incorrect, and should not
even be in the curriculum.

At my own alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, to
illustrate this, a large local landmark image of Shakespeare
placed at the entrance of the building where much literature
is taught was removed to be replaced by the image of a
diversity-correct author whose writing will likely be forgotten
a few years from now --- in much less than four centuries.

My larger point is that there are reasons why some literary
works are "classics" --- including not only the skill with
which they are written, but also the fact that they resonate
beyond their own time. Humanity evolves over historical
time, and with extraordinary velocity in our time. But there
are timeless and instructive qualities in the human experience
that all art --- literature, music and the visual arts --- records
indelibly and helps nurture us through all the dangers and the
uncertainties of our own days and nights.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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