phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Hold a mirror up to society

Posted by Ross Merritt on March 31, 2009 at 22:26

In Reply to: Re: Hold a mirror up to society posted by Victoria S Dennis on February 26, 2009 at 08:12:

: : I would like to know the who, what, when and where of the origin of the phrase "to hold a mirror up to society."

: : Was it Shakespeare who devised this term, which has been used by artists and film makers ever since or is it a more recent invention?

: I don't know where you got the idea that Shakespeare used the phrase "hold a mirror up to society" - he didn't! He did of course use the metaphor of "holding a mirror up to someone or something" a good deal. E.g. Hamlet tells the players to hold a mirror up to nature" - i.e. to copy natural behaviour in their acting; and later he tells Gertrude that he will "set you up a glass [mirror]/ Where you may see the inmost part of you" - i.e. she will look (figuratively) into a mirror and see her soul. This was already in Shakespeare's time an extremely old metaphor; the Cardinal Virtue "Prudence" was traditionally shown looking into a mirror - literally "reflecting", as Hamlet wants his mother to do. This metaphorical use probably dates back to the invention of the mirror in prehistory. (VSD)


I was searching for this online until I finally gave up and searched through my files of college work. I have it written down that Max Stafford-Clark said "Theatre holds the mirror up to society"

Hope this helps!