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Speaking Like Shakespeare

Whether English is your native language or not did you know that you might be speaking like Shakespeare? Many of you had to read Shakespeare in school and for you, like for me it probably seemed like Chinese or something. I was lucky to have review books I could purchase where the explanation of each play was made simple.

Our language changed a great deal due to this ingenious writer. Here are some phrases that are commonly used in the English language which come from Shakespeare’s plays. It is not really known if he actually created these phrases or if they were already in use during his lifetime. What is known is that Shakespeare’s plays often had the earliest citations of these phrases. So the next time you use one of them remember you’re speaking Shakespeare.

A laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

A sorry sight (Macbeth)

As dead as a doornail (Henry VI)

Eaten out of house and home (Henry V, Part 2)

Fair play (The Tempest)

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

In a pickle (The Tempest)

In stitches (Twelfth Night)

In the twinkling of an eye (The Merchant Of Venice)

Mum’s the word (Henry VI, Part 2)

Neither here nor there (Othello)

Send him packing (Henry IV)

Set your teeth on edge (Henry IV)

There’s method in my madness (Hamlet

Too much of a good thing (As You Like It)

Vanish into thin air (Othello)

  • Question of

    Did you know that Shakespeare created these phrases?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Do you use some of them?

    • Yes
    • No


What do you think?

15 Points


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  1. It is unlikely that Shakespeare would have used language that his audiences would not have understood – many of them were ordinary people who wanted cheap entertainment. It is therefore probable that he picked up words and phrases that he heard from them and incorporated them into his plays.

    However, he was also a poet who was brilliant at giving new meanings to words by using them in innovative combinations. We cannot therefore he certain that he invented all these usages or that he picked all of them up from the people he mixed with. It was almost certainly a combination of the two.

    • You are most likely right. That is the problem with picking up phrases and words they stick in your head and when I write I always have to check myself on plagiarism even though I know I wrote it who knows if some of the expressions I used are not really common and I have to find ways of rephrasing

      • One thing you can be certain of with Shakespeare and all the other writers of his generation (and there were many) – he wasn’t remotely concerned about plagiarism! They were perfectly happy to steal from each other if it suited them!


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