9 Misquotes of Shakespeare

Everybody quotes Shakespeare, even if they don’t realize it. They may say they are “fancy free” or “in a pickle” (both of which Shakespeare used) without giving a thought to Shakespeare. But in addition to all the Shakespeare-quoting we do, there are a lot of misquotes of Shakespeare going around. I got to mention some of these in my book, The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional), but alas and alack, not all of the nine I list below:


1. The weird sisters’ incantation in Macbeth–“Double, double toil and trouble”–is sometimes misquoted as “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.”

2. Macbeth’s “Lay on, Macduff” (i.e., fight) is often misquoted as “Lead on, Macduff.”

3. “All that glisters is not gold” (from The Merchant of Venice) is often misquoted as “All that glitters is not gold.”

4. The phrase “‘bated breath” (a contraction of “abated breath”) is another that owes its origin toThe Merchant of Venice, and is often spelled, incorrectly, as “baited breath.”

5. Gertrude’s words in Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” are usually misquoted (slightly) as, “Methinks the lady doth protest too much.”

6. Also, from Hamlet, the line is, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio,” not “I knew him well.”

7. Again, in Hamlet, Shakespeare’s “to the manner born,” is often rendered “to the manor born.”

8. The line from King John, “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,” is routinely misquoted as “to gild the lily,” which completely loses the point of the original, which is that it makes no sense to try to gild that which is already gold or improve with paint the beauty of a lily.

9. “The better part of valour is discretion” (from Henry IV Part I) is typically misquoted as, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”





About writerhoss

I am a writer from southwestern Ohio, and a frequent speaker at churches, conferences, and retreats. My books include The Bard and the Bible (A Shakespeare Devotional).
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