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June 1, 2016

Happy Talk Like Shakespeare Day!

It’s silly to imagine people talking like Shakespeare. But April 23rd is the anniversary of the Bard of Avon’s birthday, which, at least for the time being, encourages us to try:

Shakespeare, oh Shakespeare!…If thou were here in the fleshly present, wouldst thou blow birthday candles, and what would be thy wish? Wouldst thou sing like a bird the muse of Birthday Song? Would thy birthday cake leave a foul taste, or sweet? Wouldst thou capture the moment in a self-portrait? Perhaps then post it to Instagram? Mayhap many fingers would fly to like thy likeness!

Kind of silly, right? Well, methinks talking like Shakespeare isn’t as strange as you imagine. In fact, we all talk like Shakespeare sometimes. Some of his language has found a home in modern-day English, so maybe you’ve already spoken like Shakespeare unknowingly.

Here are some common phrases and idioms that—lo and behold—have us all talking like Shakespeare. Many of these phrases find their earliest uses in Shakespeare’s works. For the others, if he did not invent them outright, his works popularized them.

Neither rhyme nor reason (Comedy of Errors, 1590)

Mum’s the word (Henry VI, Part 2, 1591)

As dead as a doornail (Henry VI, Part 2, 1591)

Off with his head (Henry VI, Part III, 1591)

Wild goose chase (Romeo and Juliet, 1592)

Night owl (Richard II, 1595)

Fight fire with fire (King John, 1595)

Good riddance (Merchant of Venice, 1598)

Lie low (Much Ado About Nothing, 1599)

The short and the long of it (The Merry Wives of Windsor, 1600)

Woe is me (Hamlet, 1602)

All’s well that ends well (All’s Well That Ends Well, 1604)

Vanish into thin air (Othello, 1604)

Wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello, 1604)

One fell swoop (Macbeth, 1606)

Sorry sight (Macbeth, 1606)

In a pickle (The Tempest, 1610)

Have not slept one wink (Cymbeline, 1611)


Additional books, resources, and ideas on Shakespeare can be found online. Just log in at scholastic.com/clubs and search for “Shakespeare.”



About the Authors:  Jamie Turak and Dana Shaked are Reading Club Staffers who both enjoy dropping saucy Shakespearian lines (well, insults mostly).

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April 22, 2016