Shakespeare’s Phrases

by | Last updated Jan 21, 2024 | English Learning

Explore the enduring impact of Shakespearean phrases that continue to echo in contemporary English, and understand their significant contributions to the language we use today. Continue reading to delve into this topic.

Shakespeare’s impact on the English language is unmatched, and his contributions continue to hold significance today. In this article, we will examine eight of the most renowned phrases coined by Shakespeare that have endured over time and are still part of contemporary discourse.

These expressions not only have enhanced the language’s complexity and texture but have also played a pivotal role in influencing how we communicate and articulate our thoughts. Let’s delve into the lasting legacy of Shakespeare’s language.


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While Shakespeare’s impact on the English language extends beyond phrases listed below, these expressions encapsulate some of the most memorable and enduring aspects of his plays. Shakespeare’s inventive language usage and his skill in capturing the core of human emotions and experiences have played a pivotal role in molding how we communicate and convey ourselves in English today.

All that glitters is not gold

Originating from “The Merchant of Venice,” this expression implies that items that seem valuable or appealing might not possess the qualities they outwardly exhibit. Frequently employed to convey prudence or skepticism, it serves as a warning against accepting things that seem excessively advantageous or enticing at face value.

Fair play

Derived from “The Tempest,” this phrase conveys the notion that individuals should be treated with integrity and fairness. It is commonly utilized to emphasize the importance of adhering to ethical standards and playing by the rules in one’s actions and decisions.

Et tu, Brute?

This statement, taken from “Julius Caesar,” conveys a feeling of astonishment and betrayal by someone previously regarded as trustworthy. It is frequently employed to articulate a sense of disappointment or being let down.

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All the world’s a stage

Originating from the play “As You Like It,” this expression suggests the concept that life resembles a theatrical production, and we all play roles on a stage. It is commonly employed to characterize the dramatic or performative elements of ordinary life.

To be or not to be

Arguably one of the most famous Shakespearean phrases, this statement from “Hamlet” delves into the existential quandary of deciding between life and death. It is frequently employed to convey a sense of uncertainty or indecision.

A rose by any other name

This expression from “Romeo and Juliet” implies that a name is merely a designation and does not alter the fundamental nature of a person or thing. It is commonly used to convey the idea that the essence of a thing or person remains unchanged irrespective of the name it carries.

Something wicked this way comes

This statement from “Macbeth” conveys the idea that something threatening or malevolent is drawing near. It is commonly employed to depict a feeling of foreboding or imminent danger.

The lady doth protest too much

This expression from “Hamlet” implies that an individual vehemently denying something may be concealing the truth. It is frequently utilized to convey skepticism or doubt regarding someone’s motives.

The expressions we’ve examined in this article represent only a fraction of the numerous contributions Shakespeare made to the language. These phrases have become deeply embedded in our language, often used without awareness of their origins.

For those intrigued by delving further into Shakespeare’s language and writing style, several reputable websites provide captivating insights into his works. Here are a couple of recommended sites to explore:

  1. Open Source Shakespeare is a freely accessible online tool providing various resources for delving into Shakespeare’s language and writing style. It includes features such as concordances, word frequency lists, and the capability to search and analyze his works.
  2. The Shakespeare Resource Center is a website providing an extensive array of materials related to Shakespeare’s life, works, and language. In their language section, they furnish in-depth explanations and examples of the linguistic techniques employed by Shakespeare in his plays and sonnets, making it a valuable asset for both students and enthusiasts.

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