Shakespeare an references in modern English idioms
As You Like It
All the world’s a stage
Too much of a good thing
We have seen better days
Blow, blow, thou winter wind / Thou art not so unkind / As man's ingratitude Here wind is pronounced /wAInd/ to rhyme with unkind.
The Comedy of Errors
Neither rhyme nor reason
A hit, a very palpable hit
A ministering angel
Alas, poor Yorick
And it must follow, as the night the day
Brevity is the soul of wit
Conscience does make cowards of us all;
Cruel to be kind
Cudgel thy brains
Diseases desperate grown By desperate appliance are relieved
For this relief much thanks
Frailty, thy name is woman
Get thee to a nunnery
Go, bid the soldiers shoot The depressing last line of Hamlet.
Hoist with his own petard A petard is an old word for an explosive. This is used of someone who has suffered because of a trick they were preparing for someone lse.
I must be cruel, only to be kind:
In my heart of hearts
In my mind’s eye
it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than the observance. This refers to the British custom (in Shakespeare’s day too) of getting very drunk. It means that this custom deserves more honour if it is not obeyed. However, the words are now often used with reference to something that should be done but is not done.
It smells to heaven It smells very bad.
Method in the madness
More in sorrow than in anger
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so
Screw your courage to the sticking-place
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark Used with reference to other countries, places or situations.
The lady doth protest too much Someone who protests their innocence a lot may be subconsciously compensating for guilty knowledge.
The primrose path A course of action that seems pleasant and right but can lead to disaster. A primrose is a flower, Primula vulgaris.
The rest is silence. Hamlet’s last words.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio
There’s the rub There’s the problem or difficulty
Though this be madness, yet there is method in ’t. Usually: There’s method in his madness
To be, or not to be
The full selection of Shakespearean quotations is available to registered users of DIPLOTAXIS.
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