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William Shakespeare

According to historians, Shakespeare is believed to have been born on this day in 1564. He also is known to have died on April 23, 1616, making today the 400th anniversary of his death.

I am a pretty big fan of Shakespeare, despite the fact that I’ve only read a few of his plays and have never seen a live production of any of his plays. My being a word-lover and literature fan, he is one of the most fascinating and stimulating writers I’ve ever come across. I think it’s almost unbelievable how many now-common and everyday words and phrases were invented by him. We’ve all probably used several of his language inventions already today without even realizing it.

If your bed was uncomfortable last night, it’s all because of good ol’ Shaky. Did you try to dress in a fashionable style today? Are you feeling lonely or in a hurry today? You can blame it on Shakespeare. 

Our modern English-speaking society is heavily indebted to his contributions to our language and culture and we are forever and inextricably intwined with the influence of his writings.

Here are a few common (and perhaps surprising) words and phrases coined by Shakespeare:

  • “Heart of gold” (Henry V)
  • “In my mind’s eye” (Hamlet)
  • “In a pickle” (The Tempest)
  • “Vanish into thin air” (Othello)
  • “Wild-goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet)
  • “Devil incarnate” (Titus Andronicus and Henry V)
  • “Stuff that dreams are made on/of”(The Tempest)
  • “Too much of a good thing” (As You Like It)
  • “For goodness’ sake” (Henry VIII)
  • “Love is blind” (The Merchant of Venice)
  • “The fault in our stars” (Julius Caesar)
  • “Kill with kindness” (Taming of the Shrew)
  • “All that glitters is not gold”(The Merchant of Venice)
  • “Be-all and the end-all” (Macbeth)

For more complete lists of words and phrases invented or coined by Shakespeare visit this pagethis page, or this page.

Just for fun, how would you like to have a few sophisticated insults under your belt for whenever the situation arises? If you use some of these, the object of your insult might not even realize he/she is being insulted.

[Note: Personally, I don’t condone or recommend any sort of insulting of other people, but Shakespeare was a master of words, and it’s quite entertaining to read some of the highly colorful vocabulary and word pictures he used. If you do want to insult someone please first make sure that you are very comfortable with the person you are insulting and/or you know that your insult will not be taken in the wrong way.]

  • “Your brain is as dry as the remainder biscuit after voyage”
  • “I scorn you, scurvy companion”
  • “Away, thou issue of a mangy dog!”
  • “Saucy lackey”
  • “When there is nothing living but thee, thou shalt be welcome”
  • “A needy, hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch”
  • “Thou jesting monkey”
  • “Thou qualling lily-livered foot-licker!”

I totally get #1. My brain feels like that sometimes. Not that I know what a remainder biscuit after a voyage tastes like, but I can imagine it.

Some other fascinating facts related to William Shakespeare:

  • According to the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Shakespeare wrote close to a tenth of the most quoted lines ever written or spoken in English.
  • Shakespeare was a small town-educated boy who never attended university.
  • The moons of Uranus are named after Shakespearean characters.
  • In the King James Bible the 46th word of Psalm 46 is ‘shake’ and the 46th word from the end of the same Psalm is ‘spear.’ (Omitting the “Selah” at the end of verse 11.)
    This is true. Check it out for yourself! Pretty intriguing to consider, though I’m not sure what sort of significance you might attach to it.
  • There are more than 80 variations recorded for the spelling of Shakespeare’s name, but none of them are the commonly-known spelling that we use today, “William Shakespeare.”
  • Some anagrams of “William Shakespeare” are “I am a weakish speller”, “I’ll make a wise phrase”, “Lame Swahili speaker” and “Hear me as I will speak.”

The short and the long of it is that people have wide and varied opinions of the Bard, but before I go on a rant or get too critical of those of you who are not fans of his, I’ll just end here:

To be or not to be, that is the question.