Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Friday 30 July |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Solanus Casey
home iconArt & Culture
line break icon

We are all quoting Shakespeare, even if unwittingly

Everett Art Collection | Shutterstock

Daniel Esparza - published on 02/06/17

The immortal Bard’s enduring influence keeps on shaping and enriching the English language, 450 years after his death.

Even if you have never seen a Shakespeare play or read any of his sonnets, you’re likely to have quoted the English author. As Hephzibah Anderson wrote in her piece on Shakespeare’s 450th birthday anniversary (back in 2014), using Shakespearean phrases and twists to express our feelings — from hope to anger, through despair and love —“is almost impossible to avoid.” Actually, Shakespeare’s work has permeated pop culture in levels one might not dare suspect: as Anderson explains in her article, “when Mumford and Sons named their album Sigh No More, they were borrowing a phrase from ‘Much Ado About Nothing.’ As for Iron Maiden’s song ‘Where Eagles Dare,’ how many of their fans recognize it as a quote from ‘Richard III’?”

According to professor F. Max Muller, Shakespeare used around 15,000 words in his plays, many of which he invented himself by combining existing words and anglicizing some vocabulary from other languages. When compared to the Old Testament, which uses 5,642 words, one cannot be but “bedazzled” — yet another Shakespearean expression, from ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ see? To put this number into perspective, “an unschooled agricultural worker of the day would have said all he had to say in fewer than 300 words,” Anderson explains. In fact, were it not for Shakespeare, we could not be either “gloomy” or “sanctimonious,” for instance.

It is not only that we can still be deeply touched when reading Shakespeare — that is, after all, the mark of every great piece of literature — but that whenever we “gossip” (an expression first found in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’), come up with a knock-knock joke (the first one ever is to be found in ‘Macbeth’) or say somebody has “a heart of gold” (check your copy of ‘Henry V’), we are — though inadvertently– speaking “Shakespearean.”

Read more…What it took me 25 years to understand about Shakespeare

Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
HIDILYN DIAZ
Cerith Gardiner
Gold-winning Filipina Olympian shares her Miraculous Medal for th...
2
Zelda Caldwell
World-record winning gymnast Simone Biles leans on her Catholic f...
3
SIMONE BILES
Cerith Gardiner
Simone Biles leaves the Olympics with an important lesson for her...
4
ORGAN
J-P Mauro
Reconstructing a 12th-century pipe organ discovered in the Holy L...
5
PRINCESS DIANA AND MOTHER TERESA
Mathilde De Robien
Did you know Princess Di was buried with a rosary?
6
SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA
Philip Kosloski
This prayer to St. Anthony is said to have “never been know...
7
Lauren Daigle
J-P Mauro
After 3 years Lauren Daigle ousts herself from #1 Billboard spot
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.