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The world's mine oyster

Posted by ESC on December 28, 2000

In Reply to: WORLD IS MY OYSTER? posted by marcus on December 28, 2000

: : : : What does it mean?

: : : 1. The Oyster may contain a pearl
: : : 2. The pearl has great value
: : : 3. I will seek my fortune in the world
: : : 4. I consider the world to be my Oyster
: : : 5. I work on the principle that the world contains a 'virtul' pearl

: : : Or in short form The World is my Oyster

: : THE WORLD IS AN (ONE'S) OYSTER - "If you have a lot of money, you can have anything you want. The proverb first appears in Shakespeare's play 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' .'Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny. Pistol: Why, then, the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open.' Act II, Scene II." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

: : A second reference says the phrase means: "All the pleasures and opportunities of life are open to someone because he is young, rich, handsome, successful, etc. Shakespeare invented or popularized this expression." From Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: : OK. I'm confused. Does "the world is my oyster" mean:
: : a. I have money, therefore all the good things of the world are available to me.
: : b. I don't have money, therefore the world is my oyster and I'm going to look for the pearl. OR
: : c. I'm young and good-looking and my mama loves me, therefore even though I don't have money, all the good things of the world are available to me.

: : The world is yours for the taking; whatever you make of it.

Yep. I think you've got it. Here, I think, is a better explanation (of the original Shakespeare and the current usage) than those from the two previous references.

Falstaff: I will not lend thee a penny.
Pistol: Why then the world's mine oyster,
Which I with sword will open.
Falstaff: Not a penny.

If you boast that 'The world's my oyster' nowadays, you are claiming that the world's riches are yours to leisurely pluck from the shell. The braggart ensign Pistol, however, utters the phrase as sort of a threat -- of the aggressively bombastic kind he's known for. Sir John Falstaff, a baggart almost the equal of Pistol, refuses to lend him a penny; Pistol promises to use his sword, if not on Falstaff, then on other helpless victims, to pry open their purses. Pistol's thievish intentions have largely been forgotten, and 'The world's my oyster' has become merely a conceited proclamation of opportunity."

From "Brush Up Your Shakespeare" by Michael Macrone (Random House, New York, 1998).