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Shakespeare's Phrases

William Shakespeare coined many popular phrases that we still use today

Even though William Shakespeare wrote over 400 years ago, we continue to use words and phrases found in his sonnets and plays today. You could be quoting Shakespeare without knowing it! Read on to learn more phrases that we attribute to Shakespeare's plays.

Shakespeare's Phrases

Against a background of darkish blue sky and white-ish clouds a man in a straw hat, checked trousers and checked coat flapping open is being held aloft by a large bunch of yellow and dark balloons. From a production of "As You Like It".

We have seen better days
     We are in poor condition, worn out
     As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7

Too much of a good thing
   
 Even good things can hurt in excess
     As You Like It, Act 4 Scene 1

Neither rhyme nor reason
     
Without common sense or logic
     The Comedy of Errors, Act 2 Scene 2

I have not slept one wink
     
I did not sleep at all
     Cymbeline, Act 3 Scene 4

Against a dark background Ophelia, dramatically-lit, looks to the right with an open mouth. Her arms are bare, and her colouring looks highly bronzed. She is carrying a bunch of leaves.

Cruel to be kind
     Tough love, being harsh for their benefit
     Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 4

The clothes make the man
     
People are judged by the way they dress
     Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 3

In my heart of hearts
     
In my most inner, true thoughts and feelings
     Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 2

Own flesh and blood
     
Part of my family
     Hamlet, Act 1 Scene 5

Three creatures with wolves' heads on top of their visible faces surround threateningly a bare-chested Caesar wearing a helmet with a transverse crest. An armoured and helmeted legionary is in the background. (2009 production)

He hath eaten me out of house and home
     
He ate so much there was nothing left
     Henry IV Part 2, Act 2 Scene 1

A dish fit for the Gods
     
A high-quality meal
     Julius Caesar, Act 2 Scene 1

It's Greek to me
     It's unintelligible, I cannot understand
     Julius Caesar, Act 1 Scene 2

Sterner stuff
     
Strong; capable of overcoming trials
     Julius Caesar, Act 3 Scene 2

Spotlit against a dark background, a tortured Lady Macbeth with a mass of disordered curly hair hanging to her shoulders, and clad in her nightclothes, is washing her hands. (2004 production)

The be-all and the end-all
     
Of the utmost importance; the ultimate aim
     Macbeth, Act 1 Scene 7

Jealousy is the green-eyed monster
     Envy is so strong it makes one sick
     Othello, Act 3 Scene 3

What's done is done
     
 I cannot change what has happened in the past
     Macbeth, Act 3 Scene 2

Something wicked this way comes
     A person so evil, he or she is not human
     Macbeth, Act 4 Scene 1

Against the background of a classical arcade, a black Othello, wearing a crested metal helmet, a uniform coat and a sash decorated with a series of rings diagonally over his left shoulder, is pointing to something off to the left (1959 production).

Foregone conclusion
     
An inevitable result
     Othello, Act 3 Scene 3

Wear my heart upon my sleeve
     To expose my feelings, be vulnerable
     Othello, Act 1 Scene 1

All that glitters isn't gold
     
Things are not as good as they appear to be
     The Merchant of Venice, Act 2 Scene 7

A blinking idiot
     A fool
     The Merchant of Venice, Act 2 Scene 9

Against a backdrop of a windowed mediaeval wall, a very hump-backed Richard 3rd, clothed in a black tunic and black hose, leans on two crutches, his knees bent, staring intently to his (and our) left.

The world is my oyster
     I can achieve whatever I want to in life
     The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2 Scene 2

Short shrift
     
Little and unsympathetic attention
     Richard III, Act 3 Scene 4

A tower of strength
     
A person you can rely on for support
     Richard III, Act 5 Scene 3

Star-crossed lovers
     Lovers doomed by outside forces
     Romeo and Juliet, Prologue

Against a forest background, Ariel in mid movement looks to his right with a wary expression. He wears a helmet, a tunic over his upper chest with leaves to his elbows and wings behind, a belt of leaves and tight fabric shorts.

Wild-goose chase
     A hopeless search for something unattainable
     Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene 4

Break the ice
     
To reduce the awkward, initial social tension
     Taming of the Shrew, Act 1 Scene 2

Brave new world
     Used ironically to refer to a new, hopeful period
     The Tempest, Act 5 Scene 1

Melted into thin air
     
To disappear suddenly, leaving no traces
     The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1

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