phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Old Bill used it

Posted by ESC on January 14, 2002 at

In Reply to: Old Bill used it posted by R. Berg on January 14, 2002

: : I believe I understand the meaning of this phrase (to show one's emotions openly, particularly longing or adoration for another person) but I wonder about its origin.

: The earliest quotation in the OED for this phrase is from "Othello," 1604:
: 'Tis not long after But I will weare my heart vpon my sleeue for Dawes to pecke at. (I. i. 64)

From "Brush Up Your Shakespeare!" by Michael Macrone (Gramercy Books, New York, 1990):
"Heart on My Sleeve.
It is sure as you are Roderigo,
Were I the Moor, I would not be Iago.
In following him, I follow but myself;
Heaven is my judge, not I for love and duty,
But seeming so, for my peculiar end;
For when my outward action doth demonstrate
The native act and figure of my heart
In complement extern, 'tis not long after
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve.
For daws to peck at. I am not what I am.
Othello, Act 1, scene 1, 56-65

.when your heart is displayed so openly, as if upon your sleeve, the 'daws' (jackdaws) will accept the invitation to pick away at it. By admitting to his treachery, Iago would seem, in effect, to 'wear his heart on his sleeve' for Roderigo. Yet, while Iago tells the truth, he doesn't tell all of it, and keeps hidden his true 'native act and figure' - his intention to dupe Roderigo out of even more jewels and cash."

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