I love Shakespeare (doesn’t everyone?). The comedies more than the tragedies, I do enjoy Puck so much more than Romeo. But it occurs to me that I haven’t actually read any of the plays in years. I think I will have to change that, probably starting with Puck. But meanwhile, I thought I would get in the mood with more cliches spawned by Shakespeare’s writing. Starting with one from A Midsummer’s Night Dream….
fancy free: without commitments, able to move on at will. More popularly known as “footloose and fancy free” these days. From Oberon–
That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
and thereby hangs a tale: meaning there is a real story behind this. Often used by someone as a lead in to a story behind an event or object. From the play As You Like It, written in 1599. Another comedy by Shakespeare, it has been debated critically whether the pastoral comedy was worthy of Shakespeare’s normal high quality. I guess that should be second on my list to make my own informed decision. The play also featured one of the most famous of Shakespeare’s lines:
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
a fool’s paradise: being happy for false reasons, and blind to the truth. An early phrase, first used in print in 1462, that is still popular today. Shakespeare used it in Romeo and Juliet in the nurse’s speech. I believe this phrase is used more commonly than the other, more famous, phrase from Romeo and Juliet, “a rose by any other name…”
it’s all one to me: doesn’t matter much one way or the other, neither choice is particularly appealing. This from one of Shakespeare’s less read plays, Troilus and Cressida, written in 1606. Proof that no matter what the popularity, each of his plays has spawned phrases that carried down the centuries.
Because she’s kin to me, therefore she’s not so fair
as Helen: an she were not kin to me, she would be as
fair on Friday as Helen is on Sunday. But what care
I? I care not an she were a black-a-moor; ’tis all one to me
bag and baggage: all of one’s earthly possessions. This is another phrase that predates Shakespeare that he made a bit more popular. Originally found in print in 1422, it was a military phrase:
‘Bag and baggage’ referred to the entire property of an army and that of the soldiers in it. To ‘retire bag and baggage’ meant to beat an honourable retreat, surrendering nothing.*
Jon Berner used it in 1525 for the first time in an English country. Shakespeare then used it in 1600 when he wrote As You Like It and the rest, as they say, is history…wait, was that one of his too?