Translation musings: coined by the Bard

Nov 14, 2013 | Language

All the world's a stageLast night I was lucky enough to see the RSC performance of Richard II, with the wonderful David Tennant, beamed live into my local cinema. I won’t review the play (but here is the Guardian review if you’re curious), except to say it was fantastic and I would heartily recommend both the play, and indeed the whole concept.

Shakespeare is, of course, the King of Quotes. And Richard II offers them a’plenty, including the memorable “This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,” speech. “Such is the breath of kings and The ripest fruit first falls” also started life here.

But Shakespeare doesn’t just offer quotes, he is the author of many of our most common phrases. One of my family’s favourites, though possibly not that commonly in use, is from Macbeth – thou cream-faced loon! Always makes us smile.

Keep reading for a few more you maybe didn’t know were coined by the Bard.

A foregone conclusion comes from the tragedy Othello, spoken by the Moor himself:

But this denoted a foregone conclusion:
‘Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.

Macbeth and his bloody wife first used a sorry sight:

Macbeth: This is a sorry sight. [Looking on his hands]
Lady Macbeth: A foolish thought, to say a sorry sight.

Henry IV Part II’s Mistress Quickly first used the phrase eaten me out of house and home – a cry oft heard from the parents of teenage boys:

It is more than for some, my lord; it is for all, all I have.
He hath eaten me out of house and home;
he hath put all my substance into that fat belly of his:
but I will have some of it out again, or I will ride thee o’ nights like the mare.

Lastly for today, where do you think to hoist on his own petard first came from? None other than that Great Dane himself, Hamlet:

For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar.

Do you have a favourite Shakespearean phrase?


Image credit: <a href=’’>laracold / 123RF Stock Photo</a>