Posted by Masakim on February 26, 2002

In Reply to: Parsing posted by The Fallen on February 26, 2002

: : I have always found this a little confusing, especially when it's shortened just to 'needs must' because it makes it seem like 'needs' is a noun. I must go the verb below and 'needs' an unusual adverb or is 'must needs go' the verb?

: : "He must needs go that the Devil drives." Shakespeare: All's Well That-Ends Well

: : Any elucidation much appreciated.

: Hmmm. I didn't know the phrase was of Shakespearean origin - or did Bill just use a phrase that was already current?

: Today's more usual version is "needs must when the Devil drives"... I say "more usual", but it's hardly in common usage. Thanks is clearly owed to Shakespeare, because parsing the modern version of the phrase correctly would have been next to impossible.

: My bet is that Camel's first instincts are right - "needs" is some archaic form of adverb, meaning "with necessity". This does seem fractionally tautologous in the line from "All's Well That Ends Well", but maybe the repetition is done for emphasis.

: I'm probably entirely wrong on all this, but what the Heck?

Bill just used a phrase that was already current.

Hit ys oft seyde by hem that yet lyues,
He must nedys go that the deuell dryues.
--John Lydgate, _The Assembly of Gods_, c1420

He must needs go that the devil driveth.
--John Heywood, _John, Tyb, etc._, 1533

Needs must he go that the devils drive.
--Thomas Cyd, _The Spanish Tragedy_, 1592