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The Millennial Shakespeare

Updated on January 31, 2018

"To be or not to be, that is the question."

It’s been a little over 450 years since these words were first written and spoken. Did William Shakespeare realise (at that time) he had created the most popular phrase on Earth? I’m guessing not. For many of us, his plays became an integral part of our school’s English literature curriculum and quite a few were happy to be done with learning the complicated scenes or even enacting them!

However, would it surprise you to know, Shakespeare is still widely popular? The Bard of Avon’s legacy is carried forward even in a generation whose vocabulary is limited to three-letter words!


Idioms Originating from Shakespearean Plays:

“Dude, your girlfriend is a piece of work, sometimes she plays fair and sometimes she plays foul, I get that love is blind, but I think she’s sending you on a wild goose chase!” There’s a lot more where those came from and as luck would have it, I have blanked out all of a sudden. I think I’ll just lie low for a while or leave with my bag and baggage and travel to all the corners of the world! Every one of the idioms (in italics) originated from Shakespeare’s plays.


Quotes by Shakespeare:

On punctuality: “Better 3 hours too soon than a minute too late.” – ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

On foul play: “Double, double, toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Though many would claim it’s from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it first appeared in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’.

On love: “If music be the food of love, play on.” – ‘Twelfth Night’

On greatness: "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." – Again, not from a movie but the play ‘Twelfth Night’

On motivation: “Let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.” – ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

On irony: "Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall." – ‘Measure for Measure’

On actions: "Action is eloquence." – ‘Coriolanus’


Shakespeare in T.V. Series or Movies:

Now I’m not talking about complete adaptations, but movies which don’t look like adaptations. Like ‘The Lion King’-1994, sounds ridiculous? Ponder over the story for a moment, ideal father and well-loved king (Mufasa) is accidentally killed, evil uncle who wants the throne (Scar), is the culprit; rightful heir (Simba) uncovers the truth. Doesn’t it sound like ‘Hamlet’? Another one we’d not expect to be a Shakespearean makeover is ‘She’s the Man’-2006, although not as big a hit as ‘Twelfth Night’, there are common plot threads too difficult to ignore. Even action-packed thrillers have subtle undertones of Shakespearean drama, viz. ‘Romeo Must Die’-2000. This Aaliyah and Jet Li starrer would probably not have been what the Bard had in mind when he wrote ‘Romeo & Juliet’.


An Adjective of Shakespearean Proportions:

You may have noticed, the word ‘Shakespearean’ seems to keep popping-up in this article, that’s because William Shakespeare’s legacy is so great, people had to create an adjective just to describe it! He’s the first author to have this privilege, Jules Verne is the second. Some use this adjective to describe an event which was either a huge disaster or a huge success.


The be all and end all is, love him or hate him, William Shakespeare’s name and work isn’t going away any time soon. Every student of the English language studies Shakespeare’s literature in some way or another, we watch movies or TV series which use his quotes or phrases. For now, I have said all I had to say, and we part with Juliet’s words to Romeo “Farewell! God knows when we shall meet again.”


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