Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Hamlet, the word made fresh

Jude Law, on Hamlet's “To be or not to be” and other soliloquies: “The reason they’re so famous is because they’re beautifully written and incredibly powerful pieces of dialogue. Never underestimate the power of these lines. Our language is littered with words and phrases from this play, and we use them because we have not, in 400 years, found a better way of putting things.”

Guy watches Hamlet, walks out, muttering: “It's just a bunch of clichés.” True, because what we now call clichés were, in fact, first heard in--and eventually made popular by--Shakespeare's play. “So many of the memorable expressions in Hamlet have become proverbial,” said Richard Lederer in his book The Miracle of Language. “In that one play alone were born:”

brevity is the soul of wit
there's the rub
to thine own self be true
it smells to heaven
the very witching time of night
the primrose path
though this be madness, yet there is method in it
dog will have his day
the apparel oft proclaims the man
neither a borrower nor a lender be
frailty, thy name is woman
something is rotten in the state of Denmark
more honored in the breach than the observance
hoist with his own petard
the lady doth protest too much
to be or not to be
sweets for the sweet
to the manner born
more in sorrow than in anger

Amazing fact, isn't it?

PLUS: A different breed of princes--America's only royals, now gone:

Robert, John and Ted Kennedy on the beach in Palm Beach, 1957. [Photo: Douglas Jones/Look, via John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, via NYTimes]

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