phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Heart on my sleeve

Posted by ESC on May 20, 2000

In Reply to: Heart on sleeve posted by Bob on May 20, 2000

: : Where does the phrase "I wear my heart on my sleeve" come from. I know Shakespeare quotes it in Othello but what does it mean and where does it come from?

: I don't know of any uses before Shakespeare, but there may have been. Or... Will was known to coin a phrase or two. It means I do not conceal my feelings; my emotions (usually love and devotion) are visible for all to see. The sense also includes a feeling of vulnerability: when you wear your heart on your sleeve, you risk rejection and pain.

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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