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The meaning and origin of the expression: The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on

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The smallest worm will turn, being trodden on

Origin

From Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part III, 1592:

CLIFFORD: My gracious liege, this too much lenity
And harmful pity must be laid aside.
To whom do lions cast their gentle looks?
Not to the beast that would usurp their den.
Whose hand is that the forest bear doth lick?
Not his that spoils her young before her face.
Who 'scapes the lurking serpent's mortal sting?
Not he that sets his foot upon her back.
The smallest worm will turn being trodden on,
And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood.

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare.