Anyone who speaks English quotes Shakespeare, oftentimes without knowing it. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t mean what a lot of people think it means. Here’s another small compilation of quoted and sometimes misquoted Shakespeare:
Part One is here.
You may say: ”The game is up.” And you mean: No more tricks. And you are: right.
This is from Cymbeline, when Belarius decides to reveal the true identity of his adopted sons, because up until this point he’s been lying to everyone. People say this when they have been lying and want to confess, or when they want to call someone else out on a lie (or some kind of deceptive behavior). Not to be confused with “The game’s afoot,” which is from Henry V and means:
You may say: (“Thingamajig, thingamajig), wherefore art thou, (thingamajig)?” And you mean: Where is (thingamajig)? And you are: wrong.
As you probably know, this is from Romeo and Juliet—and as you also probably know, the real line is “wherefore art thou Romeo?” but people usually customize this when they quote it, and insert the name of something or someone they can’t find. Which is technically incorrect because wherefore doesn’t actually mean “where”, it means “why.” In this bit Juliet is not wondering where her Romeo is (surprise! he is creeping in the bushes while she’s saying this). She’s wondering why he is Romeo, rather than some more convenient lover who’s not, y’know, her family’s mortal enemy. This is the quotation that some people will really jump down your throats about if you screw it up, and get really indignant if someone jokingly quotes this. Guys. Don’t be those people. I was really close to being scared off from Shakespeare because of those people.
You may say: ”Star-crossed lovers” And you mean: a couple destined to be together And you are: wrong.
Also from Romeo and Juliet. “Star-crossed” does refer to destiny, but not a good destiny. Fate was thought to be written in the stars, so if your stars are crossed, you’re in for a bad time. Star-crossed lovers may be fated to get together—but then they’re gonna die. Or at least be tragically separated or something.
You may say: ”The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” And you mean: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. And you are: ….(um)…..
(Siiiiiiiigh) I don’t know, man. I don’t think quotations have to be 100% in context all the time, and I’ve mostly heard this as a frustrated or ironic attack on lawyers being useless or deceitful. Like, “let’s kill all the lawyers, then the world will be a better place.” Which I personally think is a fine way to use this. But keep in mind the context: in 2 Henry VI, this is said by a bad guy. Lawyers are the first line of defense against disorder; eliminating lawyers is step one of his diabolical plan that will lead to chaos and destruction, mwahahahaha.
You may say: ”Screw your courage to the sticking-place” And you mean: Be strong. And you are: right.
This is said by Lady Macbeth as she’s egging her husband on to commit murder. There’s a little debate as to what “sticking place” refers to; some people think it means a peg, others think it’s a part of a crossbow. Whatever the literal meaning of the line, the metaphorical meaning is generally agreed to be this:
Go. Confront the problem. Fight. Win! And call me when you get back, dahling, I enjoy our visits.
You may say: ”a piece of work” And you mean: a pain in the ass. And you are: R…ight…? Right.
This is an example of a quotation’s meaning doing a complete 180 over time—it’s so wrong it’s become right. I honestly have no idea how the meaning changed so much. See, originally, Hamlet says “What a piece of work is a man!” to mean “Wow, people sure are amazing!” But I have never ever heard anyone use this quotation to mean what Hamlet meant. So maybe stick with the more modern meaning of “pain in the ass” and ignore the original context. Though I guess if someone called you a “piece of work,” you could be like, “Why thank you, I am noble in reason, infinite in faculties, express and admirable in form.” Protip, though: if you actually answer like that, you probably are a piece of work. Not the good kind.
You may say: ”If you prick us, do we not bleed?” And you mean: We share a common humanity, despite our differences. And you are: Right (to a point)
This is a speech by Shylock, the villain in The Merchant of Venice. He is constantly treated as less than human because of his race and religion (he’s Jewish) and expresses his frustration in this speech about how Jews and Christians are not all that different. It’s the most often-quoted bit of the play, and very moving. Well, mostly. Shylock is the bad guy after all, the rest of the speech shows his nasty side. It gets to a part that says “and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Then it turns into a speech about how the need for vengeance is the real shared point of humanity. No one really quotes that bit though.
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