“There’s Method in My Madness” and Other Shakespeare Phrases

Happy Birthday to William Shakespeare.


He invented more than 1700 common words by adding prefixes and suffixes and changing nouns into verbs. He invented such words as: amazement, addiction, excitement, flawed, fixture, drugged and green-eyed. In addition, many of his phrases have now become well-used sayings in the English language. Below find five sayings Shakespeare coined.

1. “Eaten out of house and home” is a phrase from Henry IVth. Mistress Quickly says this about Falstaff.

2. The phrase “A fool’s paradise” was used in Romeo and Juliet.

Now, afore God, I am so vexed, that every part about
me quivers. Scurvy knave! Pray you, sir, a word:
and as I told you, my young lady bade me inquire you
out; what she bade me say, I will keep to myself:
but first let me tell ye, if ye should lead her into
a fool’s paradise, as they say, it were a very gross
kind of behavior, as they say: for the gentlewoman
is young; and, therefore, if you should deal double
with her, truly it were an ill thing to be offered
to any gentlewoman, and very weak dealing.”

This is also a Buddy Holly song.

3.  In the 16th century, “Dead as a doornail” was a phrase widely used in England. Shakespeare gave Rebel leader Jack Cade in King Henry VI, Part 2, 1592 the following lines :Look on me well: I have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.

4.  Some say that The Tempest is when the Bard was at his most imaginative and magical. The phrase, “in a pickle” simply means to be drunk. Alonso and Trinculo use the expression while speaking to one another:

Alonso.And Trinculo is reeling ripe: where should they
Find this grand liquor that hath gilded ‘em? 2355
How camest thou in this pickle?
Trinculo.I have been in such a pickle since I
saw you last that, I fear me, will never out of my bones: I shall not fear fly-blowing.”

5. “In the twinkling of an eye” was used in the Merchant of Venice.  Launcelot says: “Father, in. I cannot get a service, no. I have ne’er a tongue in my head. (reading his own palm) Well, if any man in Italy have a fairer table which doth offer to swear upon a book, I shall have good fortune. Go to, here’s a simple line of life. Here’s a small trifle of wives. Alas, fifteen wives is nothing! Eleven widows and nine maids is a simple coming-in for one man. And then to ’scape drowning thrice and to be in peril of my life with the edge of a feather-bed—here are simple ’scapes. Well, if Fortune be a woman, she’s a good wench for this gear.—Father, come. I’ll take my leave of the Jew in the twinkling.”

Shakespeare has many other phrases attributed to him such as “mum’s the word” and “send  him packing.” His contribution to our language remains astounding even centuries later.



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