Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

"You are [mis]quoting Shakespeare"

I’m a big fan of BBC America and one of their latest shows is State of Play. But on Episode Three  last night, Idris Elba, (you may remember him as Stringer Bell on The Wire), the host on what the network refers to Dramaville, introduced that episode by saying, “Oh what a tangled web we weave, When first we practise to deceive! and attributed it to Shakespeare. Wrong! It was actually Sir Walter Scott in his epic poem, Marmion.

Shame on you, BBC America.

So that got me thinking of other quotes falsely attributed to Shakespeare. Here are just a few:

“No man is an island.” – John Donne Meditation 17

“Come live with me and be my love.”– Christopher Marlowe  The Passionate Shepherd to his Love

“For you suffer fools gladly, seeing yourself as wise.” – II Corinthians 11:19.

“Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” – Tennyson In Memoriam

“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.” – 14th-Century proverb

“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast.”  William Congreve The Mourning Bride

“Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”
 – William Congreve The Mourning Bride

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach.”
 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning Sonnets from the Portuguese

Can you think of any more? If so, please add a comment below.

But since today–December 22–is the first day of Winter, here are a few things Shakespeare had to say about that season:

Thou knowest, winter tames man, woman, and beast. The Taming of the Shrew

Thus sometimes hath the brightest day a cloud;
And after summer evermore succeeds
Barren winter, with his wrathful nipping cold:
So cares and joys abound, as seasons fleet.  2 Henry 6

Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons’ difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile. As You Like It

What freezings I have felt, what dark days seen,
What old December’s bareness everywhere! Sonnet 97

Winter’s not gone yet, if the wild geese fly that way.  King Lear


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