“We have seen better days,” as Shakespeare would say: Favourite Phrases from the Bard - Western Canada Theatre
In clockwise direction: The Comedy of Errors (2017), Romeo and Juliet (2000), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1992), Twelfth Night (1996). Full credits below.

 

“We have seen better days,” as Shakespeare would say

FAVOURITE PHRASES FROM THE BARD

By James MacDonald, WCT Artistic Director

“We have seen better days,” as William Shakespeare would say. But he also said it's a “brave new world”, and hundreds of other phrases that we use every day and will use while we adapt to our present new world.

April 23rd is traditionally celebrated as the birthday of Shakespeare and is also the day that he died, in 1616, at the then ripe old age of 52! So, today’s a great excuse to explore some of my favourite words and phrases that were coined or popularized by Shakespeare’s plays. Some of them are more recognizably “Shakespearean”, such as “neither a borrower nor a lender be” (Hamlet) or “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” (Romeo and Juliet). But many more are in common use without people having any idea of their origins, such as the aforementioned “we have seen better days” (As You Like It) and “brave new world” (The Tempest). There are also “break the ice” (Taming of the Shrew), “the world is my oyster” (The Merry Wives of Windsor), and “to come full circle” (King Lear), to mention just a scant few.

Some phrases have also had their meaning changed entirely. For example, the phrase “one fell swoop” has come to indicate a great accomplishment, as in “we did all of our errands in one fell swoop!” What it actually refers to is something much darker: the murder of all of MacDuff’s children by MacBeth’s henchmen, the word “fell” meaning “awful” or “terrible”.

Click here for a link to some more common phrases originating in Shakespeare, along with the plays from which they are derived. A diversion until we can say "good riddance" (Troilus and Cressida) to these COVID-19 times.

Photo Credits in Clockwise Direction:

Tess Degenstein, Jamie Robinson in The Comedy of Errors (2017)
DARYL CLORAN Director DREW FACEY Set & Costumes LOUISE GUINAND Lighting JONATHAN LEWIS Sound | Photo By BARBARA ZIMONICK

Kevin Kruchkywich, Jennifer Lines in Romeo and Juliet (2000)
JEFFREY RENN Director MICHAEL CADE Set WES D. PEARCE Costumes TIM MATHESON Slides GERALD KING Lighting | Photo by ROB LENZ

Janet Michael, Peter Duschenes, David Thomson in Twelfth Night (1996)
SUSANNE GILLIES-SMITH Director ROBERT GARDINER Set and Lights KIM NIELSEN Costumes | Photo by MIKE RIMMER

Susanne Gillies-Smith & Russell Roberts in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1992)
JANET MICHAEL Director PHILLIP TIDD Set ELIZABETH RAAP-WOLSKI Costumes GERALD KING Lighting | Photo by MIKE RIMMER

 

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