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Everyday Phrases Shakespeare Popularized

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Vintage engraving from 1878 of William Shakespeare. DUNCAN1890 / GETTY IMAGES


William Shakespeare (bapt. April 26, 1564—April 23, 1616) was a poet, playwright and actor during the Elizabethan and Jacobean ages of British theater (sometimes called the English Renaissance or the early modern period). He is widely considered the greatest writer in the English language and is referred to as England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon” (deriving from his birthplace, Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire, England).

As we fast approach the 455th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, let’s pay tribute to his prolific contributions to the English language. Here are some everyday expressions coined by him or popularized through his works.

“Refuse to budge an inch” (Measure for Measure / The Taming of the Shrew)

“Break the ice” (The Taming of the Shrew)

“For goodness’ sake” (Henry VIII)

“Full circle” (King Lear)

“Faint hearted” (Henry VI Part I)

“In my heart of hearts” (Hamlet)

“Good riddance” (Troilus and Cressida)

“In my mind’s eye” (Hamlet)

“Heart of gold” (Henry V)

“Knock knock! Who’s there?” (Macbeth)

“Kill with kindness” (The Taming of the Shrew)

“Laughing stock” (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

“Wear my heart upon my sleeve” (Othello)

“Love is blind” (King Lear)

“Wild-goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet)


SGI President Ikeda’s Guidance

You Are the Playwright of Your Own Victory

You are the playwright of your own victory. You are also the play’s hero. Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, / And all the men and women merely players” (As You Like It, act II, scene vii, line 139).

Buddhism teaches us that the individual writes and performs the script for his or her own life. Neither chance nor a divine being writes the script for us. We write it, and we are the actors who play it. This is an extremely positive philosophy, inherent in the teaching of “three thousand realms in a single moment of life.”

You are the author and the hero. To perform your play well, it is important to pound the script into your head so thoroughly that you can see it vividly before your eyes. (My Dear Friends in America, third edition, p. 260)