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Re: Shakespeare

Posted by ESC on April 09, 2003

In Reply to: What do these quotes mean from shakespeare??? posted by liz on April 08, 2003

: fair play
: catch cold
: dead as a doornail
: an eyesore
: lean and hungry look
: the naked truth
: what's in a name
: the game in up

Here's all I know. Maybe some of the other Phrase Folk can fill in the blanks:

FAIR PLAY - "Fair play" is used twice in King John: Act 5, scene 1, 65-69, and Act 5, scene 2, 118-119, by "Bastard," Philip Faulconbridge, the illegitimate son of Richard the Lion-Hearted. "In the first instance, he uses the phrase sarcastically, to denote cowardly courtesy." "In the second instance, however, Faulconbridge stands upon 'fair play,' seeking audience with the Pope's legate as courtesy and chivalry demand. Even here, though, there is some sarcasm in the bastard, because his mission is to reject the pact with the Pope and the capitulation to France. 'Fair play' is merely customary courtesy, a show of civility to those one detests to the point of blood shed. What has become for us a mark of civility - playing by the rules - is still for Faulconbridge an ambivalent quality, a not always necessary evil." From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" by Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999). Page 36-37.

CATCH COLD -- "Lest the bargain should catch cold and starve." Cymbeline. Act i. Sc. 4. From Bartleby.com at http://www.bartleby.com/100/138.36.1.html He uses the phrase "catch cold" several times. Try a google search: Shakespeare + catch cold. http://www.google.com/

DEAD AS A DOORNAIL - Henry VI, Part 2. "A common saying." From "Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare" selected by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson (Penguin Books, New York, 1994). Page 53. "Since ordinary nails aren't used in making doors, perhaps the 'nail' in this phrase, which can be traced all the way back to 1350, was a small metal plate nailed on a door that visitors pounded with the knockers attached to it when announcing their arrival. Life would eventually be pounded out of the 'nail' in that way. Then again the 'nail' could be the heavy-handed decorative nails outer doors were studded with, though why these doornails would be regarded as any 'deader' than say, coffin nails is a mystery. It has even been suggested that since nails weren't ordinarily used for doors, the phrase means 'dead as something that never existed.' Anyway, people are still getting good mileage out of the expression, as did Langland in 'Piers Plowman,' Shakespeare more than once, and Dickens in 'A Christmas Carol. "Dumb as a doornail' and 'deaf as a doornail' are variations on the phrase that appeared after its coining." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Fact on File, New York, 1997)

EYESORE - Eyeball, eyebeam, eyedrop (tear) and eyewink are listed as words coined by Shakespeare. But I didn't find "eyesore." An online site does list "eyesore" -- http://www.cliffsnotes.com/litnotes/shakespeare.html - but it doesn't say which play.

LEAN AND HUNGRY LOOK, A - Julius Caesar: Act 1, scene 2, 190-195. "Cassius appears a little underfed these days. His 'lean and hungry look' unsettles Julius Caesar, who prefers the company of fat, contented men - who wouldn't bite the hand that feeds them.Caesar's intuition is accurate: Cassius will spearhead the plot to assassinate him." From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" by Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999). Page 71-72.

WHAT'S IN A NAME? - Romeo and Juliet: Act 2: scene 2, 33-49. "What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other word would smell as sweet.Names in general, (Juliet) insists, ought to be separable from things they name. Romeo never does change his name, and it wouldn't have done much good anyway. Whether or not he's essentially a Montague, and Juliet essentially a Capulet, their families will continue to act that way." From From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" by Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999). Page 124-125.

THE GAME IS UP - I found two similar phrases under a subheading "Beginnings" in this reference. "The game's afoot! Henry V..A similar phrase appears in 'Cymbeline, 'The game is up.'." From From "Dictionary of Quotations from Shakespeare" selected by Margaret Miner and Hugh Rawson (Penguin Books, New York, 1994). Page 20.

THE NAKED TRUTH -- This is not an original Shakespearean phrase. "According to an old Roman fable, when Truth went swimming in the river, Falsehood stole Truth's clothes. Truth went naked rather than put on the clothes Falsehood had left behind. Such is the origin of 'nuda veritas' or the 'naked truth,' which can be traced back as far as the writings of Homer." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). John Lyly "used this phrase in his immensely popular 'Euphues' , a generation before its appearance in three of Shakespeare's plays and in 'Sonnet 103." From "Brush Up on Your Shakespeare!" By Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1999). Page 209.