It isn’t surprising that even today Shakespeare is still relevant. Phrases and words created by the Bard abound in everyday conversation. Today whilst watching BBC news, within the space of ten minutes, two phrases were used, despite being misquoted these new phrases still owe their usage to the greatest playwright of all time. The first was “All that glitters is not gold.” From the Merchant of Venice, written in 1596, the original text read:
There is a written scroll! I’ll read the writing.
All that glisters is not gold
Often have you heard that told.
It is now universally accepted that ‘glitters’ is appropriate usage of the phrase, and some modern productions of the play now use modern counterpart, only the most pedantic of us would demand the use of the word ‘glisters’.
The second phrase was, “The be all and end all.” Again misquoted, the actual phrase, “ from Macbeth comes from his soliloquy in act one, scene 7.
If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly. If the assassination
Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
With his surcease success; that but this blow
Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come.
I was lucky enough to play Macbeth in a touring production of New Zealand back in 2007, and although this wasn’t my favourite soliloquy it was always a lovely crafted piece of dialogue to recite, unlike the horrid ‘Is this a dagger’ speech. Macbeth, the play lends itself to many phrases being misquoted, possibly the most famous being ‘lead on Macduff’ and ‘the crack of dawn’, when the actual phrases are, lay on Macduff and the crack of doom.
Another phrase in common usage is, ‘there’s method in my madness’, again it’s a misquote, this time attributed to Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, Written in 1602, in act two, scene two, Lord Polonius says:
Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?
The fact that these phrases, and many more are still part of everyday parlance is testament to the genius that was William Shakespeare, I wonder how many modern writers will coin phrases that become everyday speech hundreds of years after they have ceased to be?