Shakespeare would be a great Tweeter!

Shakespeare had an amazing gift, to convey a complex idea, or vivid image in a small number of words.  In fact many of the phrases and idioms that are part of common speech today, are sourced from Shakespeare’s work.

I attended the University of Warwick, located about 10 miles from Stratford on Avon, home of the Bard – William Shakespeare.  I was very fortunate to be able to study the plays and sonnets with the Shakespeare theatre right there, as the most amazing visual learning aid. Scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, it occurred to me that brevity is an amazing gift – in fact brevity is the soul of wit, it is the be all and end all …. ok I am getting ahead of myself. As you may know the maximum characters in a Tweet used to be 140 – Shakespeare was able to get his point across in way less than that, in many cases. For example the term sea-change, (you didn’t think I could write a blog post without referencing the coast?)

[Tweet “But doth suffer a sea-change, into something rich and strange” -(The Tempest)”]

We use sea-change to mean a metamorphosis, a complete alteration, growing into some new and unrecognizable;  that’s a lot more words than the two used by Shakespeare!

So here are some of the expressions and phrases that we use every day, that were created by  Shakespeare; if not created, then popularized by him.

“Be not afraid of greatness.  Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them” (12th Night)   ….113 characters, just saying ….

Brevity is the soul of wit” — (Hamlet)

“To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man” — (Hamlet)

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be” — (Hamlet)

“Brave new world” — (The Tempest)

“Eaten me out of house and home” — (Henry IV Part II)

“Love is blind” — (The Merchant of Venice)

“Milk of human kindness” — (Macbeth)

“More sinned against than sinning” — (King Lear)

“One fell swoop” — (Macbeth)

“Play fast and loose” — (King John)

“Set my teeth on edge” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Wear my heart upon my sleeve” — (Othello)

“Wild-goose chase” — (Romeo and Juliet)

The world’s mine oyster” – (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

[Tweet “”Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once””]

Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once”         (Julius Ceasar)

What is in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet)

If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night)

All that glisters is not gold” (The Merchant of Venice)

“All our yesterdays”— (Macbeth)

“As good luck would have it” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

“As merry as the day is long” — (Much Ado About Nothing)

“Bated breath” — (The Merchant of Venice)

“Be-all and the end-all” — (Macbeth)

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

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

“Cold comfort” — (The Taming of the Shrew / King John)

“Conscience does make cowards of us all” — (Hamlet)

“Crack of doom” — (Macbeth)

“Dead as a doornail” — (Henry VI Part II)

“A dish fit for the gods” — (Julius Caesar)

“Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war” — (Julius Caesar)

“Devil incarnate” — (Titus Andronicus / Henry V)

“Faint hearted” — (Henry VI Part I)

“Fancy-free” — (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“Forever and a day” — (As You Like It)

“For goodness’ sake” — (Henry VIII)

“Foregone conclusion” — (Othello)

“Full circle” — (King Lear)

“The game is afoot” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Give the devil his due” — (Henry IV Part I)

“Good riddance” — (Troilus and Cressida)

“Jealousy is the green-eyed monster” — (Othello)

“Heart of gold” — (Henry V)

“Hoist with his own petard” — (Hamlet)

“Ill wind which blows no man to good” — (Henry IV Part II)

“In my heart of hearts” — (Hamlet)

“In my mind’s eye” — (Hamlet)

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

“Knock knock! Who’s there?” — (Macbeth)

“Laughing stock” — (The Merry Wives of Windsor)

“Live long day” — (Julius Caesar)

What is your favorite quote or idiom? Were you surprised to learn many of these common expressions are attributed to the Bard?

If you found this informative I would greatly appreciate if you commented below, and posted on Facebook. Or share on Twitter, just keep it to 140 characters 🙂

Caro Doughty Small






Skype: carolinedoughty

PS. Download my free book, “How to Make People Fall in Love with Your Brand”  at

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2 thoughts on “Shakespeare would be a great Tweeter!

  1. Great stuff Caroline.

    As a big fan of Shakespeare it was great to read this incorporated into a blog post. I once decided to plow through all of his works and what a pleasure it was. Of course, Stratford is also one of my favorite places too. The history, the streets and the way of life. They now have a new theatre too which is great.

    My favourite quote is:

    To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.

    It expresses to me the way I want to live my own life. Following your own heart, passion and embracing authenticity.

    Look forward to reading more posts. Thanks for sharing. Tweeting this out.


    • Thanks Andrew, that is one of my favourites too! and a great code to live by – he has left us with so very many, I think another post is in the making. Well done you reading the complete works, I still have my copy from uni, I am going to dig it out and start again. Thanks for the Tweet!