Shakespeare’s Legacy

27th August 2014

Shakespeare’s works have long been a source of pride for the UK, as well as frustration (when first trying to understand what is going on in one of his plays as a school child) and boredom (when understanding and enjoyment are lacking).

But for modern readers, some of Shakespeare’s lines will actually be easier for us to understand than they would have for his contemporary audiences. That’s because Shakespeare loved to invent new words and phrases which are, today, well-known but at the time would have been completely original.

Here is a list of 10 phrases which you have probably used yourself at some point:

1. “Lay it on with a trowel”

As You Like It (1600), Act 1, Scene 2, 106

2. “Hot-blooded”

The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600), Act 5, Scene 5, 1

3. “Eaten out of house and home”

Henry IV Part II (1597), Act 2, Scene 1, 72

4. “The better part of valor is discretion”

Now more commonly: “discretion is the better part of valor”

Henry IV Part I (1596), Act 5, Scene 4, 120-121

5. “Brevity is the soul of wit”

Hamlet (1602), Act 2, Scene 2, 90

6. “As good luck would have it”

The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600), Act 3, Scene 5, 76

7. “Fair play”

The Tempest (1610), Act 5, Scene 1, 175

8. “Green-eyed monster”

The Merchant of Venice (1596), Act 3, Scene 2, 110

9. “The be all and end all”

Macbeth (1605), Act 1, Scene 7, 5

10. “Truth will out”

The Merchant of Venice (1596), Act 2, Scene 2, 80

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