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Full text of "Shakespeare proverbs; or, The wise saws of our wisest poet, collected into a modern instance. Edited with introd. and notes by William J. Rolfe"

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THIS little book was first published 
in 1847, when I happened to see 
a copy of it among some young friends 
at a summer hotel. Some years after 
ward, I tried to get a copy of it, to 
replace one that had disappeared from 
my library; but though an edition of 
the book, printed in England, was 
brought out here in 1847 by Wiley & 
Putnam (New York) it was already 
out of print on both sides of the At 
lantic. Later I became acquainted 
with Mrs. Cowden-Clarke, and in 1890 
(in a notice in The Critic of the 
Shakespeare Key, compiled by her and 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

her husband) I referred to the Pro 
verbs and my early interest in it, and 
added that it ought to be reprinted. I 
also wrote to her, suggesting that a 
new edition might include additions 
from Shakespeare's Poems, from which 
she had not drawn in the original 
selection. The idea pleased her, and 
she at once gave me permission to edit 
the book with the proposed additions 
whenever I might find it convenient 
to do so. The book was then so scarce 
that the only copy she could send me 
was one she had given in 1847 to a 
friend, who was then (1890) dead, but 
whose family consented to return it 
to the donor. 

At that time I was too busy with 
other work to take up this labour of 
love; and other tasks, including the 
complete remaking of my edition of 


Sbafceapeare'0 proverbs 

Shakespeare, have kept me very busy 
until a few months ago, when I wrote 
to Messrs. Putnam, offering to prepare 
a new edition of the Proverbs if they 
would publish it. This they promptly 
consented to do, and the present vol 
ume is the result. 

I may add that the first American 
edition, mentioned above, was pub 
lished through the influence of Mr. G. 
P. Putnam, then of the firm of Wiley 
& Putnam, who also brought out the 
first American edition of Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke's Girlhood of Shakespeare's 
Heroines, the first fifteen tales being 
issued serially here as they appeared 
in London (1850-52) before being col 
lected into volumes. 

In the original edition of the pres 
ent book no references were given to 
the plays from which the " proverbs " 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

were taken. These have now been 
inserted; and to the few explanatory 
" notes " referred to in the original 
preface (seven in all) I have added 
some of my own that I thought likely 
to be useful, not only to the younger 
readers but also to such of their elders 
as may not be critical students of 
Shakespeare. As Mrs. Cowden-Clarke 
reminds us in one of her notes, it is 
sometimes necessary, in order to un 
derstand a passage separated from the 
context, to know who says it, or to 
whom, or when or how he says it. 
Good critics, indeed, though they had 
the context to guide them, have often 
erred in ascribing to Shakespeare him 
self opinions and sentiments that are 
in no sense his own, but merely those 
of the persons into whose mouth he 
puts them. 

Sbafcegpeare's proverbs 

In the quotations from the Poems 
I have endeavoured to follow the plan 
of my predecessor. In some cases I 
have given passages of five or six lines 
or more, as she occasionally does, in 
stead of picking out a single " pro 
verb," or more than one, from it. In 
the poems oftener than in the plays a 
passage of half a dozen lines forms 
a cluster of as many one-line pithy 
expressions, figurative or other, of 
the same idea. In other instances, 
the single line or couplet to which the 
quotation might be restricted is aptly 
enforced or illustrated by the lines 
that follow. The reader can clip or 
chop up such passages at his discretion. 

w. J. R. 










NOTES 277 




MARY VICTORIA, eldest of the 
eleven children of Vincent No- 
vello, was born in London, June 22, 
1809, and died at the Villa Novello in 
Genoa, January 12, 1898. 

One might carelessly assume that she 
was named for Queen Victoria, but that 
august lady was not born until ten 
years later. In My Long Life (pub 
lished late in 1896) Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke tells us that she got her second 

bahespeare'0 proverbs 

name from her godfather, the Rev. 
William Victor Fryer of the Portu 
guese Embassy Chapel, where her 
father was organist for twenty-six 

Vincent Novello's house in Oxford 
Road was the resort of many eminent 
literary men and artists. The even 
ing parties there seem to have been 
delightfully informal, and his daugh 
ter (in the book just mentioned, to 
which I am indebted for much of my 
material in this sketch of her life) 
tells us that " the supper refection was 
of the simplest." She adds: "Elia's 
' Chapter on Ears ' eloquently records 
the ' friendly supper- tray ' and draught 
of ' true Lutheran beer ' which suc 
ceeded to the feasts of music provided 
by the host's playing on the small but 
fine-toned chamber organ which oc- 

Sbafcespeare's proverb* 

cupied one end of the graceful draw 

Besides Charles and Mary Lamb, 
Leigh Hunt and John Keats were often 
present : 

" My enthusiasm child as I was 
[she could not have been more than 
ten years old] for these distinguished 
visitors was curiously strong. I can re 
member once creeping round to where 
Leigh Hunt's hand rested on the back 
of the sofa upon which he sat, and giv 
ing it a great kiss because I heard he 
was a poet. And I have even now full 
recollection of the reverent look with 
which I regarded John Keats, as he 
leaned against the side of the organ, 
listening with rapt attention to my 
father's music. Keats's favourite posi 
tion one foot raised on the other knee 
still remains imprinted on my mem- 

Sbaftespeare's jproverbs 

ory, as also does the last time I saw 
him, half-reclining on some chairs that 
formed a couch for him when he was 
staying at Leigh Hunt's house just be 
fore leaving England for Italy. An 
other poet reminiscence I have of 
jumping up to peer over the parlour 
window-blind to have a peep at Shel 
ley, who I had heard was leaving, after 
a visit he had just paid to my father 
up-stairs. Well was I rewarded, for, 
as he passed before our house, he gave 
a glance up at it, and I beheld his 
seraph-like face, with its blue eyes, 
and aureoled by its golden hair." 

Later Mary Lamb offered to give the 
girl lessons in Latin and in reading 
English verse. " Her reading of poet 
ry," her pupil says, " was beautifully 
natural and unaffected; so that her 
mode of beginning Milton's Paradise 

Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

Lost still remains on my mind's ear." 
Miss Lamb appears to have had an 
ear for music, which her brother hon 
estly confessed to lacking. It may 
not be generally known that his Free 
Thoughts on Some Eminent Compo 
sers was written in Vincent Novello's 
album, and he alludes to his musical 
friends in the closing lines: 

"Of Doctor Pepusch old Queen Dido 
Knows just as much, God knows, as I do. 
I would not go four miles to visit 
Sebastian Bach or Batch which is it? 
No more I would for Bononcini. 
As for Novello, and Rossini, 
I shall not say a word to grieve 'em, 
Because they 're living. So I leave 'em." 

Beneath, on the same page, Mary 
Lamb wrote these lines, which are not 
so familiar: 

" The reason why my brother 's so severe, 
Vincentio, is my brother has no ear! 


Sbaftespeare'0 proverbs 

And Caridori her mellifluous throat 
Might stretch in vain to make him learn 

a note. 

Of common tunes he knows not anything, 
Nor ' Rule Britannia * from ' God save the 


He rail at Handel! He the gamut quiz! 
I '11 lay my life he knows not what it is. 
His spite at music is a pretty whim- 
He loves it not ; because it loves not him." 

In Mrs. Cowden-Clarke's account of 
her visit to the Lambs after her mar 
riage in 1828, she tells many capital 
stories of Charles's love of fun and his 
practical jokes, which often involved 
most preposterous mendacity. She 
says : " I have often heard him say 
that he never stammered when he told 
a lie." His " hospitality " was char 
acteristically shown one day " by his 
starting up from dinner, hastening to 
the front garden gate, and opening it 
for a donkey that he saw standing 

Sbafcespeare's proverte 

there and looking, as Lamb said, as if 
it wanted to come in and munch some 
of the grass growing so plentifully be 
hind the railing." 

After Shelley's death his widow came 
back to England and was a frequent 
visitor at the Novello house: 

" It was while we lived at Shackle- 
well that my father and mother re 
ceived letters from Leigh Hunt (who 
was then in Italy), introducing the 
widowed Mrs. Shelley and Mrs. Wil 
liams, who were returning to England 
after their terrible bereavement. He 
described Mrs. Wollstonecraft's daugh 
ter as ' inclining, like a wise and kind 
being, to receive all the consolation 
which the good and kind can give her ' ; 
adding : < She is as quiet as a mouse, 
and will drink in as much Mozart and 
Passiello as you choose to afford her.' 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

Accordingly, many were the occasions 
when delicious hours of music and 
quiet but animated and interesting 
talk were planned for the two beauti 
ful young women, able and willing to 
enjoy such ' delights/ and choosing 
not unwisely to * interpose them oft.' " 

Mrs. Cowden-Clarke gives us not a 
few interesting reminiscences of the 
famous composers and musicians whom 
she met at her father's house and else 
where. She was present at the first 
performance of Carl Maria Weber's 
opera of O'beron, when he himself con 
ducted the orchestra. The following 
account of a memorable musical even 
ing is worth quoting : 

" It was just after Malibran's mar 
riage with De Beriot, and they both 
came to a party at our house. De 
Beriot played in a stringed quartet by 

Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

Haydn, his tone being the loveliest I 
ever heard on the violin not except 
ing that of Paganini, who certainly 
was a marvellous executant. Then 
Malibran gave, in generously lavish 
succession, Mozart's <Non piu di fio- 
ri/ with Willman's obligate accom 
paniment on the corno di bassetto; 
a ' Sancta Maria ' of her host's com 
position (which she sang at sight with 
consummate effect and expression) ; a 
tenderly graceful air, ' Ah, rien n'est 
doux comme la voix qui dit je t'aime ' ; 
and lastly a spirited mariner's song, 
with a sailorly burden, chiming with 
their rope-hauling. In these two lat 
ter she accompanied herself; and when 
she had concluded, amid a rave of ad 
miring plaudits from all present, she 
ran up to one of the heartiest among 
the applauding guests Felix Men- 

Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

delssohn and said in her own win 
ning and playful manner (which a 
touch of foreign speech and accent 
made only the more enchanting), 
' Now, Mr. Mendelssohn, I never do 
nothing for nothing; you must play 
for me now I have sung for you/ He, 
6 nothing loath/ let her lead him to 
the piano, where he dashed into a won 
derfully impulsive extempore mas 
terly, musician-like, full of gusto. In 
this marvellous improvisation he in 
troduced the several pieces Malibran 
had just sung, working them in with 
admirable skill one after the other, and 
finally in combination, the four sub 
jects blended together in elaborate 
counterpoint. When Mendelssohn had 
finished playing, my father turned to 
a friend near him and said, ' He has 
done some things that seem to me to 


Sbahespeare'e proverbs 

be impossible, even after I have heard 
them done.' . . . My father was 
so enchanted with this young musi 
cian's genius that one of his friends 
said to him, < Novello, you '11 spoil that 
young man.' The reply was, ' He 's too 
genuinely good to be spoiled.' " 

Later she heard Mendelssohn play 
on the organ in St. Paul's, and on an 
other occasion she had the rare pleas 
ure of hearing him sing at a morning 
rehearsal in Dtisseldorf, " when he 
wanted to give the artist who was to 
sing the song in the evening a precise 
idea of how he wished a particular 
passage to be rendered." His voice 
was " small " but expressive. 

Of the great actors and actresses of 
the day there are also many reminis 
cences and anecdotes Edmund Kean, 
Munden, Liston, the elder Mathews, 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

Miss Kelly, Mrs. Davenport, Charles 
and Fanny Kemble, and others. Mrs. 
Cowden-Clarke was present at many 
" first nights," including several of 
Douglas Jerrold's plays; and she saw 
the author himself in the principal 
character of The Painter of Ghent, 
which he took for the first few nights. 
She also saw Li ston's first appear 
ance in Paul Pry, one of his 
greatest " hits." She was at the Olym 
pic " when Madame Vestris appeared 
as Orpheus, clad in the smallest 
amount of clothing I had ever then 
seen worn upon the stage." This cele 
brated danseuse seems to have been 
the Trilby of the time. " In a shop 
window in Oxford Street there used 
to be seen a sandal of Madame Ves- 
tris's, her foot being renowned for its 
small size and great beauty." 


Sbafcespeare'0 proverbs 

These evenings at the theatre 
brought our author into frequent com 
panionship with Hazlitt, who was then 
dramatic critic for The Times. She 
adds: "At the theatre we frequently 
beheld Godwin, with his eyes fixed upon 
the stage, his arms folded across his 
chest, while his glistening bald head 
which somebody had said was en 
tirely without the organ of veneration 
made him conspicuous even at a 
distance; and similarly beheld was 
Horace Smith, whose profile bore a re 
markable resemblance to that of 
Socrates, as known to us through tra 
ditional delineation." 

Coleridge she saw but once, while he 
was with the Colmans at Highgate. 
Her husband, who was acquainted 
with Mr. Colman, took her there on a 
call. " When I was introduced to him 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

as Vincent Novello's eldest daughter, 
Coleridge was struck by my father's 
name, knowing it to be that of a musi 
cian, and forthwith plunged into a 
fervid and eloquent praise of music, 
branching into explanation of an idea 
he had that the creation of the universe 
must have been accompanied by a 
grand prevailing harmony of spheral 

Among other noted persons whom 
Mrs. Cowden-Clarke met, were Edwin 
and Charles Landseer, Owen Jones, 
Samuel Lover, Noel Humphreys, Wil 
liam Jordan, Mrs. Gaskell, Richard 
Cobden, and some Americans " serene- 
spirited Emerson," Prof. F. J. Child, 
Celia Thaxter, Mrs. J. T. Fields, Miss 
Sarah Orne Jewett, and others, to 
say nothing of scores of authors, 

editors, and critics whom she knew 


Sbafcegpeare's proverbs 

by correspondence, though never see 
ing them face to face. 

Her literary career began at seven 
teen, when she sent an article anony 
mously to Hone's Table Book, which 
was promptly accepted. The record 
of her Long Life was published seventy 
years later. Is there any parallel to 
this in English or any other litera 
ture? There may be, but I cannot 
at the moment recall an instance. 
Tennyson published his first poems in 
1827, and continued to bring out books 
until his death in 1892, but that pe 
riod falls five years short of this. 

Mrs. Cowden-Clarke refers briefly 
and modestly in her book to her mag 
num opus, the Concordance to Shake 
speare, to which she gave sixteen years 
of continuous labour, and which, after 
half a century of service to students 

Sbahespeare's proverbs 

of the dramatist, was but recently 
superseded by a new work on the same 
general lines. The stupendous un 
dertaking was begun when she was 
barely twenty, just a year after her 
marriage. Her Girlhood of Shake 
speare's Heroines, which has been sev 
eral times reprinted, is a classic for 
the young folk, like the Lambs' Tales. 
The Shakespeare Key, compiled in 
partnership with her husband, an oc 
tavo volume of more than 800 pages, 
that involved hardly less patient la 
bour than the Concordance, is less 
known to teachers and students than 
it ought to be. The fully annotated 
edition of Shakespeare, in which also 
her husband had a share, is one of the 
best of the " standard " editions ; but 
this too is comparatively unknown to 
some good scholars. After I had 


Sbafceepeare's proverbs 

quoted it freely in my first edition, 
one of the most eminent of English 
Shakespearian critics wrote to me to 
inquire who was the " Clarke " to whom 
I gave credit for so many admirable 
comments. The list of Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke's works in the English edition 
of My Long Life (omitted in the Ameri 
can reprint) fills nearly three pages. 
She justly felt an honest pride in be 
ing " the first (and as yet, only) woman 
editor of our great poet." 

The lady, moreover, distinguished 
herself in amateur theatricals. After 
playing Mrs. Malaprop in The Ri 
vals in 1847 and 1848, she was in 
vited by Dickens to join his well-known 
company in their performances at the 
Haymarket in London and laj;er at 
Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, 
and Glasgow. She played Dame 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

Quickly in the Merry Wives, Tib in 
Ben Jonson's Every Man in his 
Humour, Mrs. Hilary in Kenny's 
Love, Law, and Physic, and other 
characters. She played Mrs. Mala- 
prop again when seventy-two years 

I had known Mrs. Cowden-Clarke by 
correspondence for more than twenty 
years, but never had the pleasure of 
meeting her until September, 1896. 
She had often written to me about her 
plans for summer travel, and a few 
years earlier I missed seeing her in 
Lugano only by the delay in getting 
a letter informing me that she was to 
be there. I passed through the town 
without suspecting that she was a few 
rods away at another hotel. In 1896, 
learning that she was staying at Lu 
cerne, I wrote her that I expected to 

Sbafceapeare's proverbs 

be there on the 1st or 2d of September. 
I received a reply at Venice that she 
should remain at Lucerne until the 
5th of that month, and I found an 
other note from her to the same effect 
on my arrival at the Hotel de Lucerne. 
When I called with my wife at her 
hotel the next afternoon, the portier 
assured me that there were no such 
persons as Mrs. Cowden-Clarke and 
Miss Sabilla Novello (her youngest 
sister) staying there. I insisted that 
they were in the house, and finally 
said, " We will wait in the salon, and 
do you hunt them up." On entering 
the room we found both ladies sitting 
there. After we had been chatting 
half an hour or so, the portier came 
in and said to me, " The ladies are 
certainly not at this hotel." " Why, 
here we are, John ! " (if that was the 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

name) exclaimed Miss Novello. The 
bewilderment of the man, who knew 
them well by sight (they had been in 
the house several weeks) but not by 
name, can be imagined. If I had not 
been absolutely certain that they were 
there, I should have gone away with 
out seeing them, as I once did when 
trying to find a friend at a Paris hotel 
in somewhat similar circumstances. 

We spent a delightful hour or two 
with the ladies, and the experience was 
one of the most memorable and en 
joyable of our two months abroad. 
Mrs. Cowden-Clarke appeared to be in 
excellent health and spirits. A girl 
of eighteen could not have been more 
vivacious in manner or conversation 
than she was at eighty-seven.. She knew 
how to preserve the youth of the heart 
in spite of increasing years. In our 


Sbafte0peare'0 proverbs 

talk with her she referred to the book 
from which I have quoted at such 
length (it had then gone to press) ; 
and as we parted from her we could 
not but hope that her " long life " was 
yet far from reaching its limit, and 
that we might have the pleasure of 
seeing her again. But before our next 
visit to Europe in 1898 she had joined 
her beloved Shakespeare in that better 
land farther away. 

The Villa Novello in Genoa, where 
Mrs. Cowden-Clarke died, was bought 
in 1860 by her brother (who had lived 
at Nice after his retirement from 
business in London in 1856), and 
from 1861 was also the home of his 
sisters, Mary and Sabilla, though they 
usually spent the summer in Switz 
erland, Germany, or England. The 
mansion had been known as the 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

Palazzo Massone, and with its exten 
sive grounds occupied a commanding 
site overlooking the harbour and the 

Vincent Novello, who had lived at 
Nice in quiet retirement from 1849, 
died there in 1861, a month before he 
would have been ninety years old. A 
beautiful window to his memory, ap 
propriately representing St. Cecilia, 
was placed in the north transept of 
Westminster Abbey in 1863. 

His daughter Clara, long a distin 
guished singer in operatic and other 
music, was married to Count Gigl- 
iucci on St. Cecilia's day (November 
22d) in 1843, and they have since had 
their home in his ancestral mansion at 
Fermo, on the shores of the Adriatic. 
Their married life has been a happy 
one, and blest with four children, two 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

sons and two daughters, who inherit 
their mother's love and talent for 

Charles Cowden-Clarke was born in 
England in 1787 and died at Nice in 
1877. He made a brilliant reputation 
as a lecturer on Shakespeare and other 
poets in London and elsewhere between 
1834 and 1852. Mr. Sam Timmins, the 
well-known Shakespeare scholar and 
critic, founder of the noted Shake 
speare Library at Birmingham, says 
of his lectures : " They were careful 
essays, the result of long and patient 
study, full of acute and subtle criti 
cism, and always throwing new light 
on the subject at hand. ... His 
good taste secured audiences who never 
entered a theatre, and to whom the 
drama generally was a sealed book. He 
lectured on Shakespeare his fools, his 

Sbaftespeare'g proverbs 

clowns, his kings, on special charac 
ters, on plays; and every library soon 
found an increased demand for 
Shakespeare's works. It is no exag 
geration to say that very much of the 
increased interest in the dramatist 
among English readers is to be traced 
to the lectures of Cowden-Glarke. . . . 
He was not a mere rhetorician, elocu 
tionist, or actor. He never attempted 
to personate the characters, but only 
to read with such interest and power 
as to realise the very ' form and fash 
ion' of each. He was, in fact, as 
dramatically successful as a * reader > 
of the highest class as Dickens when 
reading his own stories; and Cowden- 
Clarke's range was wider and his 
characters more varied." 

In 1830 and 1834 he was a frequent 
contributor to Leigh Hunt's Tatler and 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

London Journal; in 1872 he wrote fif 
teen papers on the " Comic Writers of 
England " and four on " Shakespeare's 
Philosophers, and Jesters" for the 
Gentlemen's Magazine, to say nothing 
of much other matter scattered through 
other periodicals, for many years. In 
1863 he collected some of his lectures 
in a volume entitled Shakespeare 
Characters, chiefly those Subordinate, 
and others in 1865 as Holier e Charac 
ters. Among his other books were 
The Riches of Chaucer (1885), 
Tales from Chaucer (1833), Car- 
mina Minima: a volume of Poems 
(1859), etc. He had prepared the 
manuscript for another volume based 
on his Shakespeare lectures, which, 
after his death, Mrs. Cowden-Clarke 
presented to me with liberty to use 
any of the material in my first edition 

Sbafcespeare'0 proverbs 

of Shakespeare, then in course of pub 
lication a privilege of which I availed 
myself in the introductions to the vol 
umes afterwards issued. To the joint 
work of husband and wife on the 
copiously annotated Shakespeare of 
1869 and The Shakespeare Key 
(1879) I have referred above. They 
had made an earlier edition of the 
dramatist, with preface, glossary, etc., 
in 1864. The edition prepared by the 
wife alone (for the Appletons, New, 
York) was published in 1860. 

The marriage of the Cowden-Clarkes, 
though childless, was an ideally happy 
one; and the Centennial Biographic 
Sketch of his life published by her 
in 1887 is an affectionate tribute to 
his memory which is supplemented by 
many tender passages in My Long Life. 

In the closing paragraph of that de- 


lightful book the author remarks: 
" My sister Sabilla laughingly says I 
might have taken for the motto of this 
book the words on the sun-dial in 
front of our Italian dwelling here, 
Englished thus : i I denote [mark] only 
the hours of sunshine.' But I am 
thankful for the ' rose-coloured spec 
tacles ' I am said to wear." Else 
where she shows that she can view 
even publishers through these glasses. 
She says (p. 242) : " Contrary to the 
prejudiced opinion sometimes ex 
pressed, that authors and publishers 
are often antagonistic in their trans 
actions, I have invariably met with 
courtesy and kindness." After re 
ferring to her personal relations with 
English firms, she adds : " I must not 
omit to record that from American 

publishers I have likewise received 

Sbafceepeare's proverbs 

tokens of marked regard. Messrs. 
Munroe and Messrs. Roberts of Boston, 
Mr. G. P. Putnam and Messrs. Apple- 
ton of New York, have each and all 
shown me much that proved the cour 
tesy of publishers to authors. My 
dear Mr. James T. Fields was noted 
for his goodness to authors." Through 
out the book she is generally true to 
the motto from Shakespeare that she 
puts on the title-page: 

"I count myself in nothing else so happy 
As in a soul remembering my good 

In 1851 some of the friends of Mrs. 
Cowden-Glarke determined to send 
her a testimonial in recognition of the 
great service rendered to Shakespear 
ian study and research by her Con 
cordance. The idea was first suggested 

by Mr. Kobert Balmanno, of Brook- 


Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

lyn, N. Y., who had long known her, 
and who, a few years ago, published a 
volume of selections from their cor 
respondence. On the 23d of April, 
1851, Mr. W. H. Burton, the famous 
comedian, gave his annual New York 
banquet in honour of the dramatist's 
birthday, and Mrs. Cowden-Clarke's 
health was enthusiastically drunk by 
the brilliant company of actors, 
authors, and other notable people gath 
ered on the occasion. The same even 
ing, or soon afterward, a subscription 
was started (it being stipulated that 
no single gift should exceed five dol 
lars) for sending the lady a carved 
rosewood library chair, with a read 
ing-desk attached, and the plan was 
promptly carried out. In the centre 
of the top of the chair was an ivory 

head of Shakespeare copied from the 


Sbafeespeare'0 proverbs 

monumental bust in the Stratford 
church. It was encircled with a 
wreath of oak and laurel carved in the 
wood, and over it was a canopy formed 
by the spread wings of two swans 
meeting in the centre. On the lower 
rail, below the cushion, were masks 
of Tragedy and Comedy, and all 
the other woodwork was elaborately 
carved. Under the head of Shake 
speare was a plate of silver-gilt with 
this inscription: 


This Chair is Presented 

By a Few Ladies and Gentlemen of America 

As a Tribute of Gratitude for the 

Unequalled Industry 
Which gave the Readers of English 

Throughout the World 

Her Concordance to Shakespeare. 

New York. 15 July, 1851. 

Among the sixty-four subscribers 


Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

was Daniel Webster, who sent as his 
contribution a five-dollar gold piece, 
and that particular coin was sent to 
Mrs. Cowden-CJarke. In a letter to 
Mr. Balmanno she referred to it thus: 
" Do you ktiow what touched me to 
the heart? it was the sentiment of 
your sending me that identical gold 
coin that hacl passed through the hands 
of that great man. It seemed hardly 
a piece of money, but rather some valu 
able medal and token of national and 
individual kindness and esteem. . . . 
Looking at Mr. Webster's golden gift, 
and reading his letter and those of the 
other subscribers who have taken such 
kind interest in an unknown stranger, 
quite overpowered me. ... I was 
obliged to pause several times to re 
gain my voice as I read them to my 
dear Charles, just now an invalid." 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

Among the other subscribers were 
Longfellow, Bryant, George Ticknor, 
Lewis Gaylord Clark, Washington 
Irving, Charlotte Cushman, Richard 
Grant White, N. P. Willis, Henry J. 
Eaymond, George P. Putnam, S. A. 
Allibone, and William Gilmore Simms. 

The gift was forwarded to Mrs. 
Cowden-Clarke through the Hon. Ab 
bott Lawrence, then our minister to 

The frontispiece to the present vol 
ume is from a photograph never before 
reproduced, which was presented by 
Mrs. Cowden-Clarke to the writer. It 
represents that lady as Mrs. Malaprop, 
a role she enacted in amateur theatri 
cals in 1881, being then in the 
seventy-third year of her age. 


WHAT is a Proverb? Archbishop 
Trench in his Lessons in Pro 
verbs to my thinking, the best popu 
lar book on the subject (first published 
in 1858, in a seventh revised edition in 
1879, and often reprinted since, both 
in England and in this country) says: 
" Few things are harder than a defini 
tion. While on the one hand there is 
generally no easier task than to de 
tect a fault or flaw in the definitions 
of those who have gone before us, no 
thing on the other is more difficult than 
to propose one of our own which shall 
not also present a vulnerable side." 
He adds that " Some one has said that 
33 f/rHtU 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

these three things go to the constitut 
ing of a proverb shortness, sense, and 

The " some one," as the Archbishop 
appears to have forgotten for the mo 
ment, was James Howell, whose Epis- 
tolcs Ho-Eliance, the most famous of 
his many books, is an English classic 
(first brought out in three volumes in 
1645, 1647, and 1650, often reprinted 
down to 1737, but not again until 1890, 
when two editions appeared), which 
Thackeray coupled with Montaigne's 
Essays as his "bedside books," adding: 
" If I awake at night, I have one or 
other of them to prattle me to sleep 
again. They talk about themselves for 
ever, and don't weary me. I like to 
hear them tell their own stories over 
and over again." The elder Disraeli 
(possibly the Archbishop's authority), 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

remarks, in his Curiosities of Litera 
ture: " The pithy quaintness of old 
Howell has admirably described the 
ingredients of an exquisite proverb to 
be sense, shortness, and salt." 

Trench, however, says that HowelPs 
definition " errs alike in defect and ex 
cess ; " in the latter, because though 
" brevity, the soul of wit, is eminently 
the soul of a proverb's wit," and 
though the proverb, as Fuller tells us, 
is " much matter decocted into few 
words," it " need not be absolutely 
very short." HowelFs definition errs 
in defect because it omits one quality 
of the proverb, " and that the most es 
sential of all, and indeed almost the 
only essential one popularity, accept 
ance and adoption on the part of the 
people." Without this popularity, 
" no saying, however brief, however 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

seasoned with salt," can be regarded 
as a proverb. 

Howell himself, however, elsewhere 
recognises this quality of the proverb. 
In a sonnet with which he prefaces his 
collection of proverbs (Proverbs or 
Old Said Saws and Adages), he says: 

" The people's voice the voice of God we 

And what are proverbs but the people's 


Coined first and current made by com 
mon choice? 

Then sure they must have weight and 
truth withal." 

Add this idea of popularity to the 
" sense, shortness, and salt," and, 
though we cannot keep up the allitera 
tion, we get perhaps the best possible 
concise definition of the proverb. 

Among the longer lexicographical 

definitions of the proverb, that of the 

Sbafcespeate's proverbs 

Century Dictionary seems to me among 
the best, if not the very best : " A short 
pithy sentence, often repeated col 
loquially, expressing a well-known 
truth, or a common fact ascertained 
by experience or observation; a popu 
lar saying which briefly and forcibly 
expresses some practical precept; an 
adage; a wise saw; often set forth in 
the guise of metaphor and in the form 
of rime, and sometimes alliterative." 

This, however, would be better 
without the reference to the syn 
onyms, adage and saw. Under apho 
rism the same dictionary mentions and 
discusses at considerable .length the 
following dozen of synonyms: "Apho 
rism, axiom, maxim, precept, dictum, 
apothegm, saying, adage, proverb, 
truism, byword, saw," all of which 
"concur in expressing 'a pithy general 


Sbaftespeare'0 proverbs 

proposition, usually in one short sen 
tence." I need not quote the entire dis 
cussion, as the work is generally ac 
cessible and the precise meaning of 
some of the words will be obvious to 
every intelligent reader without con 
sulting it. Of course the special " note " 
of the adage is that it is old as well as 
wise (" Necessity knows no law," and 
the like) ; the byword is " commonly 
used in disparagement " ; the dictum 
is " an opinion given with authority." 
The saw is said to be " a contemptu 
ous term for an expression more com 
mon than wise; often a trite or foolish 
saying reiterated to wearisomeness." 
The word is seldom used nowadays ex 
cept in formal or familiar quotations 
from old writers. They sometimes re 
fer to it, or make their characters 
refer to it, more or less contemptu- 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

ously; like Chaucer's Wife of Bath, 
who, when her husband has been quot 
ing proverbs from the Bible to her, 

" But all for nought, I sette not an hawe 
Of his proverbes, ne of his olde sawe." 

But Piers Plowman refers to " Salo- 
mones sawes " (Solomon's proverbs); 
and one of the medieval York Plays 
addresses God thus : " And all thi 
sawes thou will maynteyne" (thy 
promises or decrees). Spenser, in 
Colin Clout, says: 

" So love is Lord of all the world by right, 
And rules the creatures by his power- 
full saw." 

Shakespeare employs the word in a 
distinctively complimentary sense in 
his quotation from Marlowe (As You 
Like It, iii. 5. 32) : 


Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw of 

'Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first 

sight? ' " 

In 2 Hen. VI. i. 3, 61, we find " holy 
saws of sacred writ." Shakespeare 
uses the word^ight times, and I shall 
allude to the other instances in the 
Notes at the end of the book. He also 

has adage (twice), maxim (once), and 

proverb (eighteen times), besides the 
verb proverb (once), which is also used 
by Chaucer (Troilus, iii. 293) : 

" For which these wise clerkes that ben 


Han ever this proverbed to us yonge, 
That the firste vertu is to kepe tonge;" 

and Milton (8. A. 203),: 

"Am I not sung and proverbed for a fool 
In every street?" 

Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

Proverb occurs twenty -eight times in 
the Bible (four in Proverbs) , in seven 
with the sense of byword; as in 
Jeremiah, xxiv. 9 : " to be a reproach, 
a proverb, a taunt, and a curse 
in all places whither I shall drive 
them." Proverbs are quoted in 1 
Samuel, xxiv. 13: "Wickedness pro- 
ceedeth from the wicked ; " Ezekiel, 
xviii. 2 : " The fathers have eaten sour 
grapes, and the children's teeth are 
set on edge;" Luke, iv. 23: "Physi 
cian, heal thyself;" and 2 Peter, ii. 
22 : " The dog is turned to his own 
vomit, and the sow that was washed 
to her wallowing in the mire." 

" Brevity is the soul of wit," as that 
garrulous old fool Polonius observes; 
and, as we have seen, it is the soul 
of many proverbs, which consist of 
two, three, or four words, and those 

Sbafcespeare'0 proverbs 

sometimes monosyllables : " Extremes 
meet ; " " Forewarned, forearmed ; " 
" ill got, ill spent," and hundreds of 
others. Trench tells us that the short 
est he knows of is " the German ' Voll, 
toll/ which sets forth very well the 
connection between fulness and folly, 
pride and abundance of bread." Most 
of these very short proverbs are anti 
theses, as longer ones also often are. 

Rhyme (or rime, as the Century 
Dictionary more correctly spells it) 
and alliteration are frequent in pro 
verbs, and often combined ; as in " Fast 
bind, fast find" ("A proverb never 
stale in thrifty mind," as Shylock re 
minds us with an added rime) ; " Birds 
of a feather flock together," which 
also illustrates the fact that proverbs 
are often expressed in a striking 

metaphor sometimes the more strik- 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

ing from its homely origin. They may 
be exquisitely poetical, like the Indian 
proverb, " The sandal tree perfumes 
the axe that fells it." Trench re 
marks : " There is a French proverb, 
' One can go a long way after one is 
weary ; ' which presents itself to me as 
having the poetry of an infinite sad 
ness about it. ... How many are 
the wayfarers utterly weary of the task 
and toil of life who are still far off 
from their journey's end ! " It strikes 
me as a proverb that applies with pe 
culiar pathos to many a woman bend 
ing under the burden of daily cares 
and anxieties long after she feels too 
weak and weary to bear it. 

As Mrs. Cowden-Clarke notices in 
her preface, Shakespeare has para 
phrased some of our common proverbs 
in poetic diction; and other poets have 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

done the same. Trench remarks that 
Chaucer thus "works up that rule 
of natural equity, ' First come, first 
served/ in < Whoso first cometh to the 
mill, first grist ' ; " and many less 
homely examples of the kind might 
be cited. 

The homeliness of many of our fa 
miliar proverbs has led some fastidi 
ous critics to disparage them. Chester 
field said, " No man of fashion ever 
uses a proverb ; " and Shakespeare 
with a happy touch of nature makes 
the patrician Coriolanus sneer at the 
plebeians thus: 

"Hang 'em!'- 
They said they were an hungry, sigh'd 

forth proverbs : 
That hunger broke stone walls; that dogs 

must eat ; 
That meat was made for mouths; that the 

gods sent not 


Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

Corn for the rich men only! With these 

They vented their complainings." 

But Jesus often quoted the proverbs 
current among the people of his time: 
" Physician, heal thyself ; " "A pro 
phet is not without honour but in his 
own country ; " " One soweth and an 
other reapeth," etc. Aristotle, who 
has been said to be the first who did 
it, made a collection of proverbs, and 
has been followed by eminent men in 
many lands ever since. How freely 
and frequently they have been em 
ployed by the best philosophers, poets, 
orators literary men of every class, 
indeed it would be a waste of time 
and ink to tell. 

Proverbs, however, are often only 
half-truths, and are liable to be used 
sophistically. As already stated, they 


are often expressed in figurative or 
metaphorical language; and a meta 
phor is not unfrequently mistaken for 
an argument, an illustration of one 
phase of a truth for a logical state 
ment of the whole of it. Shakespeare 

" The evil that men do lives after them; 
The good is oft interred with their 

Lowell says: 

" Evil springs up, and flowers, and bears 

no seed, 
And feeds the green earth with its 

swift decay, 
Leaving it richer for the growth of 

But good, once put in action or in 

Like a strong oak, doth from its boughs 

shed down 
The ripe germs of a forest." 

Which is true? Both are true; for 

both evil and good live in their in- 
4 6 

Sbafeespeare's proverbs 

fluence and their consequences long 
after those who did them are in their 
graves. There are times when we are 
disposed to look on the dark side, and 
to agree with Shakespeare, or Mark 
Antony, who utters these despondent 
words; but when we are in a more 
healthy and hopeful frame of mind we 
believe, with the later poet, that in the 
long run good will outgrow and out 
last evil. 

I wrote to this effect substantially 
in a familiar lecture to young peo 
ple more than thirty years ago (in 
1877, to be exact) and I continued as 
follows : 

" This one-sidedness, so to speak, of 
figurative language is well illustrated 
by many of our popular proverbs, 
which are a kind of popular poetry. 
They are frequently expressed in a 


Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

striking figure, and to many minds 
they carry the force of indisputable 
truths. They are true on their face, 
and in many of their possible applica 
tions; but that they are not the whole 
truth, or not truths of universal ap 
plication, is evident from the fact that 
for each proverb you can often find 
one of exactly the opposite import. 
Thus we find i Look before you leap ' 
balanced by < Nothing venture, nothing 
have ; ' i A rolling stone gathers no 
moss ' by ' A sitting hen never gets 
fat ; ' ' Take care of the pence, and the 
pounds will take care of themselves' 
by ' Penny-wise and pound-foolish ; ' 
and so on. i Look before you leap ' 
is good advice against rash and hasty 
action; but it may be used to restrain 
one from yielding to the inspiration 

of a generous and noble impulse. ' No- 

4 8 

Sbaftespeare'0 proverbs 

thing venture, nothing have' may be 
aptly quoted to one who is too timid 
and cautious, afraid to take the inevit 
able risks of a legitimate enterprise; 
but it may also be sophistically em 
ployed to incite one to foolish or reck 
less speculations. ' Take care of the 
pence, and the pounds will take care 
of themselves/ which, rightly inter 
preted, teaches a good lesson, is made 
by the miser an excuse for petty 
parsimony; and the opposite maxim, 
6 penny -wise and pound-foolish ' is sus 
ceptible of similar wise and unwise 

Moreover, certain proverbs a com 
paratively small proportion of the im 
mense number are cynical, selfish, or 
distinctly immoral; while others, not 
necessarily immoral, but perhaps quite 
the contrary, may admit of an appli- 

4 49 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

cation that is mean, unworthy, or self 
ish. Some of the best proverbs, 
indeed, are liable to such abuse or 
perversion. Trench enlarges on this 
misapplication in his chapter on " The 
Morality of Proverbs." Among his 
illustrations is the familiar saw, 
" Charity begins at home," which is 
" often made the plea for a selfish 
withholding of assistance from all but 
a few, whom men may include in their 
6 at home/ while sometimes it re 
ceives a narrower interpretation still, 
and self, and self only, is accounted 
to be * at home.' " As some one has 
said, " charity should begin at home, 
but not stay there forever." Similarly, 
proverbs like " As he has sown, so must 
he reap," " He has made his bed, and 
must lie on it," which, rightly under 
stood, are homely statements of the 

Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

" law of divine retaliations in the 
world," may be employed to justify a 
hardhearted refusal to pity or relieve 
those who suffer from their own folly 
or imprudence. " Honesty is the best 
policy " is a proverb which may be 
taken as limited to what Coleridge 
called " prudential morality ; " but it 
was not intended to supersede the 
" higher law " which it omits to ex 
press. " Wordly wisdom," which is 
the basis of so much proverbial and 
aphoristic lore, has its proper sphere 
and its pertinence and value within 
that sphere, but woe to the man who 
makes it the one law of his life and 
knows no other! 

The aphorism is the only other form 
of this ethical popular wisdom which 
can be considered here. It is to be dis 
tinguished from the proverb, but, like 

Sbahespeare'0 proverba 

the proverb, it is not easy to define it 
briefly and precisely, as distinguished 
from the apothegm, the maxim, and 
certain other forms among the dozen 
discussed in the Century Dictionary 
synonyms. The New English Dic 
tionary (Oxford), after referring to 
its original scientific meaning, ex 
plains it thus : " Any principle or 
precept expressed in few words; a 
short pithy sentence containing a 
truth of general import; a maxim." 
The first illustrative quotation under 
this head is from Marlowe (Faustus, 
i. 9), 1590: "Is not thy common talk 
from aphorisms ? " and the second is 
from Howell (Foraine Travel, 1642) : 
" 'T is an old Aphorisme, Oderunt 
omnes quern metuunt" [All hate 
whom they fear]. The next is from 
Henry More (App. Antidote, 1687) : 

Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

" That sensible aphorism of Seneca, 
Better is a living Dog than a dead 

John Morley, in his admirable es 
say on "Aphorisms" (included in his 
Studies in Literature, 1891) asks 
"What is wisdom?" and answers the 
question thus : " That sovereign word 
... is used for two different things. 
It may stand for knowledge, learning, 
science, systematic reasoning; or it 
may mean, as Coleridge has defined it, 
common sense in an uncommon de 
gree; that is to say, the unsystematic 
truths that come to shrewd, penetrat 
ing, and observant minds, from their 
own experience of life and their daily 
commerce with the world, and that is 
called the wisdom of life, or the wis 
dom of the world, or the wisdom of 
time and the ages." And this second 

Sbafceepeare's proverbs 

kind of wisdom naturally " embodies 
itself in the short and pregnant form 
of proverb, sentence, maxim, and aph 
orism. The essence of aphorism is 
the compression of a mass of thought 
and observation into a single saying. 
It is the very opposite of dissertation 
and declamation; its distinction is 
not so much ingenuity as good sense 
brought to a point; it ought to be 
neither enigmatical nor flat, neither a 
truism on the one hand, nor a riddle 
on the other. These wise sayings 
. . . are the guiding oracles which 
man has found out for himself in that 
great business of ours, of learning 
how to be, to do, to do without, and 
to depart. Their range extends from 
prudential kitchen maxims, such as 
Franklin set forth in the sayings of 
Poor Kichard about thrift in time and 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

money, up to such great and high mo 
ralities of life as are the prose maxims 
of Goethe just as Bacon's essays ex 
tend from precepts as to building and 
planting up to solemn reflections on 
truth, death, and the vicissitudes of 
things. They cover the whole field of 
man as he is, and life as it is, not of 
either as they ought to be; friendship, 
ambition, money, studies, business, 
public duty, in all their actual laws 
and conditions as they are, and not 
as the ideal moralist may wish that 
they were." 

Many of the shrewdest of these " mo 
ralities of human nature " are very 
ancient, dating back to Solomon, .ZEsop, 
Homer, and the Greek dramatists and 
orators. Erasmus collected four or 
five thousand of them from all ancient 
literature in his Adagia. " As we turn 

Sbafce0peare'0 proverbs 

over these pages of old time," says 
Morley, " we almost feel that those are 
right who tell us that everything has 
been said, that the thing that has been 
is the thing that shall be, and there 
is no new thing under the sun." 

We are admonished, however^ that 
few of these maxims are to be taken 
without qualification. " They seek 
sharpness of impression by excluding 
one side of the matter and exaggerat 
ing another, and most aphorisms are 
to be read as subject to all sorts of 
limits, conditions, and corrections." 
(I may remind the reader that this 
was written ten years or more after 
what I have quoted above from my 
lecture of 1877.) 

" Grammarians," as Morley re 
marks, " draw a distinction between a 
maxim and an aphorism, and tell us 

Sbafcespeare'g proverbe 

that, while an aphorism only states 
some broad truth of general bearing, 
a maxim, besides stating the truth, en 
joins a rule of 'conduct as its conse 
quence ; " but, as he adds, the dis 
tinction is one without much dif 
ference, and not worthy of further 

The Century Dictionary, in dealing 
with the synonyms, makes a similar 
distinction by saying that the aphor 
ism " relates rather to speculative 
principles . . . than to practical mat 
ters ; " while the maxim " suggests a 
lesson more pointedly and directly ; " 
and the precept is " a direct injunc 
tion." Yet, in its definition of the 
aphorism, it is said to be " a precept 
or rule expressed in few words." It 
distinguishes the apothegm as being 
" in common matters what the aph- 


orism is in higher/' while some au 
thorities make the distinction the 
exact opposite of this. The New Eng 
lish Dictionary states that the apo 
thegm " embodies an important truth 
in few words," or is " a pithy or sen 
tentious maxim;" while the aphorism 
(as quoted above) is "any principle 
or precept" in few words, or "a 

If the reader chooses to look up other 
definitions of this group of words, he 
will find the confusion only the worse 
confounded. The lexicographers treat 
the terms as loosely as common folk 
do or the cultivated and literary, for 
that matter. Have done with all such 
" tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee " word- 
mongering ! 

" Aphorism or maxim," as Morley 
says after his page of comment on the 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

definitions, " let us remember that this 
wisdom of life is the true salt of lit 
erature; that those books, at least in 
prose, are most nourishing which are 
most stored with it; and that it is 
one of the main objects, apart from the 
mere acquisition of knowledge, which 
men ought to seek in the reading of 

Elsewhere he says : " It is right that 
the poets, the ideal interpreters of life, 
should be dearer to us than those who 
stop short with mere deciphering of 
what is real and actual. The poet has 
his own sphere of the beautiful and 
the sublime. But it is no less true 
that the enduring weight of historian, 
moralist, political orator, or preacher 
depends on the amount of the wisdom 
of life that is hived in his pages. They 
may be admirable by virtue of other 

Sbaftespeare's proverbs 

qualities, by learning, by grasp, by 
majesty of flight; but it is his moral 
sentences on mankind or the State 
that rank the prose writer among the 

Morley goes on to refer to great 
authors who belong to this class: to 
Plutarch, whose Lives " are i the pas 
ture of great souls/ as they were called 
by one who was herself a great soul ; " 
to Thucydides, because of " the wise 
sentences that are sown with apt but 
not unsparing hand through the pro 
gress of the story ; " to Horace, whose 
Epistles are " a mine of genial, 
friendly, humane observation ; " to 
Seneca, who, notwithstanding his 
faults and defects, " touches the great 
and eternal commonplaces of human 
occasion friendship, health, bereave 
ment, riches, poverty, death with a 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

hand that places him among the wise 
masters of life," and to whom the mod 
ern moralists Montaigne, Bacon, and 
others are more indebted than to any 
of their ancient predecessors. 

Aside from the great names just 
mentioned, our own literature is rich 
in this wisdom of life; not merely in 
Shakespeare, so well represented in 
this book, whose mighty soul, as Hal- 
lam remarks, was " saturated with 
moral observation," nor in the bril 
liant verse of Pope, but in Burton and 
Fuller and Sir Thomas Browne, and 
in Addison, Johnson, and the rest of 
the Essayists, to say nothing of others, 
earlier or later, hardly less eminent. 

In German literature, which is par 
ticularly prolific in proverbs (Trench 
thinks that something like a hundred 
thousand have been collected), Goethe 


bafcespeare's proverbs 

and Schiller, and especially Goethe, 
" the strong much-toiling sage, with 
spirit free from mists, and sane and 
clear," combine the higher and the 
lower wisdom, and " have skill to put 
moral truths into forms of words that 
fix themselves with stings in the 
reader's mind." Goethe's Sprache, or 
aphorisms in verse and prose from his 
collected works, is comparatively fa 
miliar to students of German; but, as 
Morley remarks, " some of his wisest 
and finest are to be found in his plays " 
like the one in his Tasso, " In still 
ness Talent forms itself, but Character 
in the great current of the world." 

France " excels in the form no less 
than in the matter of aphorism." 
Though the Moral Reflections of La 
Kochefoucauld are largely " a faithful 

presentation of human selfishness " 


Shakespeare's proverbs 

an " odious mirror that has its uses by 
showing us what manner of man we 
are or may become " the book was 
not meant to be a picture of human 
nature as a whole. Pascal's Thoughts 
" concern the deeper things of specu 
lative philosophy rather than the wis 
dom of daily life." Moreover, he saw 
the darker side, viewing man, to quote 
his own words, as " a confused chaos ; 
the great depository and guardian of 
truth, and yet a mere bundle of un 
certainty; the glory and the scandal 
of the universe ! " After citing these 
and similar sayings of Pascal, Morley 
remarks : " Shakespeare was wiser 
and deeper when, under this quintes 
sence of dust, he discerned what a 
piece of work is man, how noble in rea 
son, how infinite in faculty, in form 
and moving how express and admir- 

5bafte0peare's proverbs 

able! That serene and radiant faith 
is the secret, added to matchless gifts 
of imagination and music, why Shake 
speare is the greatest of men." 

I must deny myself the pleasure of 
more than a passing reference to our 
critic's discussion of La Bruyere, " by 
far the greatest, broadest, strongest, 
of French character- writers ;" and of 
others, especially Vauvenargues, who 
left us a little body of maxims which 
" for tenderness, equanimity, cheerful 
ness, grace, sobriety, and hope, are not 
surpassed in prose literature." 

Morley thinks that recent times in 
Great Britain have been singularly 
unfortunate in the literature of aphor 
ism : " One too famous volume of 
proverbial philosophy had immense 
vogue, 1 but it is so vapid, so wordy, so 

x My younger readers may need to be 

Sbafcespeare's proverbs 

futile, as to have a place among the 
books that dispense with parody. 
Then, rather earlier in the century, a 
clergyman [Caleb C. Colton], who 
ruined himself by gambling, ran away 
from his debts to America, and at last 
blew his brains out, felt peculiarly 
qualified to lecture mankind on moral 
told that this was Tupper's Proverbial 
Philosophy, of which more than a million 
copies are said to have been sold. It was 
first published in 1838 (a second series in 
1842, and a third in 1867). The 30th Eng 
lish edition appeared in 1857, the 115th 
in 1865, and many others afterward; and 
perhaps as many in this country, at New 
York, Philadelphia, Boston, and elsewhere. 
The book was generally commended by the 
critical journals on both sides of the At 
lantic; but the London Athenaeum took a 
different view of it from the very first 
(1838) and was not led to change its opin 
ion afterward. In 1867 it called the third 
series " weak, twaddling, and insincere." 
Of its " proverbs " it said : " They are not 
short; they are not sharp; they are not 
5 65 

Sbafteepeate'g proverbs 

prudence. He wrote a little book in 
1820, called Lacon; or Many Things 
in Few Words, addressed to those who 
think. 1 It is an awful example to any 
body who is tempted to try his hand 
at an aphorism. . . . Finally, a 

clear." On the contrary, they were de 
clared to be " serpentine, flabby, and ob 
scure." The London Literary Gazette, on 
the other hand, in a notice of the 21st 
edition (1855) said: "The popularity of 
the Proverbial Philosophy is a gratify 
ing and healthy symptom of the present 
taste in literature, the book being full of 
lessons of wisdom and piety, conveyed in 
a style . . . irresistibly pleasing by its 
earnestness and eloquence." See also a no 
tice in the N. A. Review for July, 1864, etc. 
1 Lacon also had a great "run," the 6th 
edition appearing in 1821, and Colton 
brought out a second volume in 1822. I 
remember that in my freshman days (1845- 
46) it was extremely popular among the 
students. It was not a " little " book, but 
a large one, and, with all its faults, was 
decidedly better than Tupper's. 

Sbafcespeare'0 proverbs 

great authoress of our time [George 
Eliot] was urged by a friend to fill up 
a gap in our literature by composing 
a volume of Thoughts: the result was 
that least felicitous of performances, 
Theophrastus Such" 

Of a popular book of the Baconian 
age, Sir Thomas Overbury's Charac 
ters, our critic remarks : " For my own 
part, though I have striven to follow 
the critic's golden rule, to have pre 
ferences but no exclusions, Overbury 
has for me no savour." Macaulay's 
remark that he finds La Bruyere 
" thin " provokes this sharp comment : 
" But Macaulay has less ethical depth, 
and less perception of ethical depth, 
than any writer that ever lived with 
equally brilliant gifts in other ways; 
and thin is the very last word that de 
scribes this admirable writer. If one 

Sbafeespeare'0 proverbs 

seeks to measure how far removed the 
great classic moralists are from thin 
ness, let him turn from La Bruyere 
to the inane subtleties and meaningless 
conundrums, not worth answering, 
that do duty for analysis of character 
in some modern American literature " 
an allusion which the curious reader 
may trace if he will. 

In these rambling remarks on the 
aphorism no formal dissertation on 
the subject would be possible in this 
brief introduction to Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke's little book I have drawn 
mainly from Morley's interesting and 
suggestive essay, because I know of 
nothing better as a concise yet 
scholarly treatise on the subject; but 
I have given only the merest fragments 
of it as appetizers to the feast which 
they should tempt the gentle reader to 


Sbafcespeare'g proverbs 

enjoy in full.. And for the special field 
of the proverb, strictly so called, I be 
lieve he can find no more attractive 
primary " lessons " for such the title 
of the book implies that they are 
than Trench has furnished him. Both 
the book and the essay will be alike 
enjoyable and helpful as companions 
to these selections from Shakespeare, 
which comprise not only " proverbs," 
but aphorisms, maxims, precepts, and 
every other type of " wise saws " and 
pithy moral sayings forming, in short, 
a compact manual of " good counsel 
as to the ordering of character and 
of life." 

6 9 










The First Wit of the Present Age, 

These Proverbs 


the first wit of any age, 

are inscribed by 


of a certain age, and no wit at all. 



IT has been thought that the wisest 
and wittiest of Shakespeare's say 
ings, collected into such a form as to 
be readily carried about in the pocket, 
would furnish the means of employing 
the otherwise idle half-hour that some 
times occurs in the life of the busiest 
person, who might thus beguile the 
tedium of expectation, the listlessness 
of waiting, the annoyance of delay, OP 
even alleviate the feverishness of sus 
pense and anxiety, by committing to 
memory these reflections of the great- 



est human intellect, and so making 
their elevating influence a part of 
everyday life. 

Among these Proverbs will be found 
some of the axioms of Shakespeare 
which have actually become proverbial ; 
and this may account for some sen 
tences appearing here, which, strictly 
speaking, come rather under the lat 
ter than the former denomination. 

It is curious to notice how Shake 
speare has paraphrased some of our 
commonest proverbs in his own choice 
and elegant diction. Thus : " Make 
hay while the sun shines" becomes 

" The sun shines hot; and if we use delay, 
Cold biting winter mars our hop'd-for 
hay; " 

and in " Lightly come, lightly go " we 




" Too light winning 
Makes the prize light." 

Again, " Let bygones be bygones " 
grows into 

" Let us not burden our remembrances 
With a heaviness that 's gone ; " 

whilst " There 's many a true word 
spoken in jest" reappears in 

" Jesters do oft prove prophets ; " 

and some old proverbs he has even 
given verbatim ; as " The weakest goes 
to the wall," and "They laugh that 

So congenial to the mind of Shake 
speare was the proverbial form, with 
its mixture of ideality and matter-of- 
fact worldly wisdom, that he has fre 
quently repeated the same maxims, 
couched in varied terms. 


Such quintessentialised drops of wis 
dom are surely not ill stored up to 
support and strengthen us along " the 
steep and thorny way " that lies be 
fore us; and the poor, who need these 
consolatory aids even more than the 
rich, will find the price of this 
small volume to be such as will enable 
them also to make it their pocket- 

In venturing to put an explanatory 
note here and there, the object in view 
was, of course, the convenience of the 
younger portion only of the public, to 
whom the peculiarly condensed use 
which Shakespeare has made of cer 
tain words may not be familiar. 

Craven Hill Cottage, 1847. 


A man is never undone till he be 


T. G. of Ver. ii. 5. 

An old cloak makes a new jerkin. 
Merry Wives, i. 3. 

A woman sometimes scorns what best 
contents her. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

A true-devoted pilgrim is not weary 
To measure kingdoms with his feeble 


T. G. of Ver. ii. 7. 


Sbahespcarc proverbs 

A man is never welcome to a place 
till some certain shot be paid, and the 
hostess say, " Welcome." 

T. G. of Ver. ii. 5. 

A justice of peace sometimes may 
be beholding to his friend for a man. 
Merry Wives, i. 1. 

A withered serving-man makes a 
fresh tapster. 

Merry Wives, i. 3. 

A sentence is but a cheveril glove to 
a good wit. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

A drunken man 's like a drowned 
man, a fool, and a madman: one 
draught above heat makes him a fool; 
the second mads him; and a third 
drowns him. 

T. Night, i. 5. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

A murderous guilt shows not itself 

more soon 
Than love that would seem hid ; love 'a 

night is noon. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

As surfeit is the father of much fast, 
So every scope by the immoderate use 
Turns to restraint. 

Meas. for Meas. i. 2. 

When, after execution, judgment hath 
Repented o'er his doom. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Authority, though it err like others, 
Hath yet a kind of medicine in itself 
That skins the vice o' the top. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

A victory is twice itself when the 
achiever brings home full numbers. 
Much Ado, i. 1. 

6 Si 

Sbafcespeare jproverbs 

A man loves the meat in his youth 
that he cannot endure in his age. 

Much Ado, ii. 3. 

An two men ride of a horse, one 
must ride behind. 

Much Ado, iii. 5. 

All pride is willing pride. 

L. L. Lost, ii. 1. 

A giving hand, though foul, shall 
have fair praise. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 1. 

A lover's eyes will gaze an eagle 

L. L. Lost, iv. 3. 

A light heart lives long. 

L. L. Lost, v. 2. 

A jest's prosperity lies in the ear 
Of him that hears it. 

L. L. Lost, v. 2. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

All things that are 
Are with more spirit chased than 
enjoy 'd. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 6. 

A golden mind stoops not to shows 
of dross. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 7. 

A light wife doth make a heavy 

Mer. of Ven. v. 1. 

All that glisters is not gold. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 7. 

As all is mortal in nature, so is all 
nature in love mortal in folly. 

As You Like It, ii. 4. 

All the world 's a stage, 
And all the men and women merely 

As You Like It, ii. 7. 


Sbahespcarc proverbs 

All 's brave that youth mounts and 
folly guides. 

As You Like It, iii. 4. 

Certainly a woman's thought runs 
before her actions. 

As You Like It, iv. 1. 

Aged honour cites a virtuous youth. 
Airs Well, i. 3. 

A young man married is a man 
that's marr'd. 

All's Well, ii. 3. 

A good traveller is something at the 
latter end of a dinner; but one that 
lies three thirds, and uses a known 
truth to pass a thousand nothings 
with, should be once heard, and thrice 

Airs Well, ii. 5. 

All's well that ends well; still the 

fine's the crown; 


Sbaftegpeare proverbs 

Whate'er the course, the end is the 

All f s Well, iv. 4. 

All impediments in fancy 's course 
Are motives of more fancy. 

All 's Well, v* 3. 

A lady's "Verily" is 
As potent as a lord's. 

W . Tale, i. 2. 

A sad tale's best for winter. 

W . Tale, ii. 1. 

A merry heart goes all the day, 
Your sad tires in a mile-a. 

W . Tale, iv. 3. 

Affliction may subdue the cheek, 
But not take in the mind. 

W. Tale, iv. 4. 

Angels are bright still, though the 

brightest fell. 

Macbeth, iv. 3. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

As a little snow, tumbled about, 
Anon becomes a mountain. 

K. John, iii. 4. 

All places that the eye of heaven visits 
Are to a wise man ports and happy 


Richard II. i. 3. 

At hand, quoth pick-purse. 

1 Henry IV. ii. 1. 

A habitation giddy and unsure 

Hath he that buildeth on the vulgar 


2 Henry IV. i. 3. 

A good heart 's worth gold. 

2 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

A rotten case abides no handling. 
2 Henry IV. iv. 1. 

Against ill chances men are ever 

merry ; 

But heaviness foreruns the good event. 
2 Henry IV. iv. 2. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

A peace is of the nature of a conquest; 
For then both parties nobly are 

And neither party loser. 

2 Henry IV. iv. 2. 

An honest man is able to speak for 
himself, when a knave is not. 

2 Henr^y IV. v. 1. 

Advantage is a better soldier than 

Henry V. iii. 6. 

A fool's bolt is soon shot. 

Henry V. iii. 7. 

A surfeit of the sweetest things 
The deepest loathing to the stomach 

M. N. Dream, ii. 2. 

A good leg will fall, a straight back 
will stoop, a black beard will turn 
white, a curled pate will grow bald, a 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

fair face will wither,] a full eye will 
wax hollow; but a good heart is the 
sun and the moon; or, rather, the sun 
and not the moon, for it shines bright 
and never changes, but keeps his course 

Henry V. v. 2. 

An evil soul, producing holy witness, 
Is like a villain with a smiling cheek; 
A goodly apple rotten at the heart. 
Mer. of Ven. i. 3. 

A friend i' the court is better than 
a penny in purse. 

2 Henry VI. v. 1. 

They say " a crafty knave does need 
no broker." 

2 Henry VI. i. 2. 

A staff is quickly found to beat a 

2 Henry VI. iii. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

A subtle traitor needs no sophister. 

2 Henry VI. v.. 1. 

A little fire is quickly trodden out; 
Which, being suffered, rivers cannot 

3 Henry VI. iv. 8. 

An honest tale speeds best being 
plainly told. 

Richard III. iv. 4. 

A beggar's book out-worths a noble's 

Henry VIII. i. 1. 

Anger is like 
A full-hot horse, who being allow'd his 

Self-mettle tires him. 

Henry VIII. i. 1. 

All hoods make not monks. 

Henry VIII. iii. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

A stirring dwarf we do allowance give 
Before a sleeping giant. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

All, with one consent, praise new-born 

Though they are made and moulded of 

things past, 

And give to dust, that is a little gilt, 
More laud than gilt o'er-dusted. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

A woman impudent and mannish grown 
Is not more loath'd than an effeminate 

In time of action. 

T. and C. iii.. 3. 

A plague of opinion! a man may 
wear it on both sides, like a leather 


T. and C. iii. 3. 

A noble nature may catch a wrench. 
T. of Athens, ii. 2. 

Sbaftegpeare {proverbs 

A prodigal course 

Is like the sun's; but not, like his, 

T. of Athens, iii. 4. 

A very little thief of occasion will 
rob you of a great deal of patience. 

Coriol. ii. 1. 

A friend should bear his friend's 


/. Caesar, iv. 3. 

A lower place, note well, 
May make too great an act. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 1. 

The soldier's virtue, rather makes 

choice of loss 
Than gain which darkens him. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 1. 

A woman's fitness comes by fits. 

Cymbeline, iv. 1. 
9 1 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

All solemn things should answer 
solemn accidents. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

A fish hangs in the net like a poor 
man's right in the law, 'twill hardly 
come out. 

Pericles, ii. 1. 

An thou canst not smile as the wind 
sits, thou 'It take cold shortly. 

Lear, i. 4. 

A good man's fortune may grow out 
at heels. 

Lear, ii. 2. 

All that follow their noses are led 
by their eyes, but blind men. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the 

They kill us for their sport. 

Lear, iv. 1. 

Sbahcspeare proverbs 

" Ay " and " no " too is no good 


Lear, iv. 6. 

A man may see how this world goes 
with no eyes; look with thine ears. 

Lear, iv. 6. 

A dog's obeyed in office. 

Lear, iv. 6. 

At lovers' perjuries, they say, Jove 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

An old man is twice a child. 

Hamlet, ii. 2. 

Assume a virtue, if you have it not. 
Hamlet, iii. 4. 

A knavish speech sleeps in a foolish 


Hamlet, iv. 2. 

Black men are pearls in beauteous 

ladies' eyes. 

T. G. of Ver. v. 2. 


Sbafcegpeare iproverbs 

Better have none 

Than plural faith, which is too much 
by one. 

T. G. of Ver.. v. 4. 

By love the young and tender wit 
Is turn'd to folly. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 1. 

Better a little chiding than a great 
deal of heartbreak. 

Merry Wives, v. 3. 

Back-wounding calumny 
The whitest virtue strikes. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 2. 

Better a witty fool than a foolish 


T. Night, i. 5. 

Best men are moulded out of faults. 
Meas. for Meas. v. 1. 

Beauty is bought by judgment of the 


Sbafcespcare proverbs 

Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's 


L. L. Lost, ii. 1. 

Beauty provoketh thieves sooner 

than gold. 

As You Like It, i. 3. 

Be able for thine enemy 
Rather in power than use. 

AU'8 Well, i. 1. 

Be checked for silence, 
But never tax'd for speech. 

AU'a Well, i. 1. 
Blood will have blood; 
Stones have been known to move, and 

trees to speak ; | 
Augurs, and understood relations, 


By magot-pies, and choughs, and 
rooks, brought forth 

The secret'st man of blood. 

Macbeth, iii. 4. 

Sbakespearc proverbs 

Before the curing of a strong disease, 
Even in the instant of repair and 

The fit is strongest. 

K. John, iii. 4. 

By bad courses may be understood 
That their events can never fall out 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Beggars mounted run their horse to 

3 Henry VI. i. 4. 

Blunt wedges rive hard knots. 

T. and C i. 3. 

Bounty being free itself, thinks all 
others so. 

T. of Athens, ii. 2. 

" But yet " is as a gaoler to bring forth 
Some monstrous malefactor. 

Ant. and Cleo* ii. 5. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Better leave undone than by our deed 

Too high a fame when him we serve 's 


Ant. and Cleo. Hi. 1. 

Bid that welcome 
Which comes to punish us, and we 

punish it, 
Seeming to bear it lightly. 

Ant. and Cleo. iv. 14. 

Breach of custom is breach of all. 
Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

By medicine life may be prolong'd, yet 

Will seize the doctor too. 

Cymbeline, v. 5. 

Bondage is hoarse, and may not 

speak aloud. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

Borrowing dulls the edge of 


Hamlet, i. 3. 

7 97 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Brevity is the soul of wit, 
And tediousness the limbs and out 
ward flourishes. 

Hamlet, ii. 2. 

Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as 
snow, thou shalt not escape calumny. 
Hamlet, iii. 1. 

By and by is easily said. 

Hamlet, iiL 2. 

Base men, being in love, have then 
a nobility in their natures more than 

is native to them. 

Othello, ii. 1. 

Care 's an enemy to life. 

T. Night, i. 3. 
Could great men thunder 
As Jove himself does, Jove would ne'er 

be quiet; 
For every pelting, petty officer 

Would use his heaven for thunder. 
Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Sbafcespcare proverbs 

Care killed a cat. 

Much Ado, v. 1. 

Cupid's buttshaft is too hard for 

Hercules' club. 

L. L. Lost, i. 2. 

Calumny will sear 

Virtue itself. 

W. Tale, ii. 1. 

Courage mounteth with occasion. 
K. John, ii. 1. 

Covering discretion with a coat of 

As gardeners do with ordure hide those 

That shall first spring and be most 


Henry V.. ii. 4. 

Civil dissension is a viperous worm, 
That gnaws the bowels of the common 

1 Hen. VI. iii. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Care is no cure, but rather corrosive, 
For things that are not to be remedied. 
1 Hen. VI. iii.. 3. 

Corruption wins not more than 

Henry VIII. iii. 2. 

Checks and disasters 
Grow in the veins of actions highest 

rear'd ; 
As knots, by the conflux of meeting 

Infect the sound pine, and divert his 

Tortive and errant from his course of 


T. and C.. i. 3. 

Ceremony was but devis'd at first 
To set a gloss on faint deeds, hollow 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Recanting goodness, sorry ere 'tis 

shewn ; 
But where there is true friendship, 

there needs none. 

T. of Athens, i. 2. 

Common chances common men could 


Coriol. iv. 1. 

Cowards die many times before their 

deaths ; 
The valiant never taste of death but 


J. Csesar, ii. 2. 

Celerity is never more admir'd 
Than by the negligent. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 7. 

Cowards father cowards, and base 

things sire base; 
Nature hath meal and bran, contempt 

and grace. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Sbafcespeare pro\>erb0 

Court holy-water in a dry house is 
better than rain-water out o' door. 

Lear, iii. 2. 

Care keeps his watch in every old 

man's eye; 
And where care lodges, sleep will 

never lie. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Conceit, more rich in matter than in 

Brags of his substance, not of orna 

Rom. and JuL ii. 6. 

Conscience does make cowards of us 


Hamlet, iii. 1. 

Conceit in weakest bodies strongest 


Hamlet, iii. 4. 

Duty never yet did want his meed. 
T. G. of Ver. ii. 4. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Dumb jewels often, in their silent 

More than quick words, do move a 

woman's mind. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness 
Wherein the pregnant enemy does 


T. Night, ii. 2. 

Drones suck not eagles' blood, but rob 


2 Henry VI. iv. 1. 

Dark night, that from the eye his 

function takes, 
The ear more quick of apprehension 


M. N. Dream, iii. 2. 

Direct not him whose way himself will 

choose ; 
>Tis breath thou lack'st, and that 

breath wilt thou lose. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Delays have dangerous ends. 

1 Henry VI. iii. 2. 

Delay leads impotent and snail-paced 

Richard III. iv. 3. 

Degree being vizarded, 
The unworthiest shews as fairly in the 

Troi. and Cres. i. 3. 

Dogs are as often beat for barking 
As therefore kept to do so. 

Coriol. ii. 3. 

Doubting things go ill often hurts more 
Than to be sure they do ; for certainties 
Either are past remedies, or timely 

The remedy then born. 

Cymbeline, i. 6. 

Death remember'd should be like a 



Sbafcespeare prover&s 

Who tells us life's but breath; to 
trust it, error. 

Pericles, i. 1. 

Distribution should undo excess, 
And each man have enough. 

Lear, iv. 1. 

Diseases, desperate grown, 
By desperate appliance are reliev'd. 

Hamlet, iv. 3. 

Dull not device by coldness and delay. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Dangerous conceits are in their natures 

Which at the first are scarce found to 

distaste ; 

But with a little act upon the blood, 
Burn like the mines of sulphur. 

Othello, Hi. 3. 

Every man shift for all the rest, and 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

let no man care for himself; for all 

is but fortune. 

Tempest, v. 1. 

Ebbing men, indeed, 
Most often do so near the bottom run 

By their own fear or sloth. 

Tempest, ii. 1. 

Experience is by industry achiev'd, 
And perfected by the swift course of 


T. G. of Ver. i. 3. 

Every fault's condemned ere it be 


Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Every lane's end, every shop, church, 
session, hanging, yields a careful man 


W. Tale, iv. 4. 

Every good servant does not all com 
mands ; 
No bond but to do just ones. 

Cymbeline, v. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Every one can master a grief but he 

that has it. 

Much Ado, Hi. 2. 

Every man should take his own. 
M. N. Dream, iii. 2. 

Evils that take leave, 
On their departure most of all shew 


K. John, iii.. 4. 

Every subject's duty is the king's; 
but every subject's soul is his own. 
Henry V. iv. 1. 

ry cloud engenders not a storm. 
3 Henry VI. v. 3. 

Emulation hath a thousand sons, 
That one by one pursue; if you give 


Or hedge aside from the direct forth 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Like to an enter'd tide, they all rush by 

And leave you hindmost. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

Every time 
Serves for the matter that is then born 

in it. 

Ant. and Cleo. ii. 2. 

Every true man's apparel fits your 


Meas. for Meas. iv. 2. 

Extremity is the trier of spirits. 

Coriol. iv. 1. 
Easy it is 
Of a cut loaf to steal a shive. 

T. Andron. ii. 1. 

Every inordinate cup is unblessed, 

and the ingredient is a devil. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Foolery does walk about the orb like 

the sun, it shines everywhere. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

Sbafcegpeare proverbs 

Fast bind, fast find. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 5. 

Fire that is closest kept burns most of 

T. G. of Ver. i. 2. 

Fat paunches have lean pates. 

L. L. Lost, i. 1. 

Fools are as like husbands as pil 
chards are to herrings, the husband 's 
the bigger. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

Friendship is constant in all other 
things, save in the office and affairs of 

Much Ado, ii. 1. 

Fair ladies mask'd are roses in their 

Dismask'd, their damask sweet com 
mixture shewn, 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Are angels vailing clouds or roses 


L. L. Lost, v. 2. 

Far from her nest the lapwing cries 


C. of Errors, iv. 2. 

Falsehood, cowardice, and poor descent, 
Three things that women highly hold 
in hate. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 2. 

Fly pride, says the peacock. 

C. of Errors, iv. 3. 

False face must hide what the false 

heart doth know. 

Macbeth, i. 7. 

Fierce extremes 

In their continuance will not feel them 

K. John, v.. 7. 

Fell sorrow's tooth doth never rankle 



Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Than when it bites, but lanceth not the 

Richard II. i. 3. 

Friendly counsel cuts off many foes. 

1 Henry VI. iii. 1. 

Forbear to judge, for we are sinners 


2 Henry VI. iii. 3. 

Fearful commenting 
Is leaden servitor to dull delay. 

Richard III. iv. 3. 

Fair fruit in an unwholesome dish 
[Is] like to rot untasted. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

Few words to fair faith. 

T. and C. iii. 2. 

Faults that are rich are fair. 

T. of Athens, i. 2. 

Fools are not mad folks. 

Cymbeline, ii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Ere clean it overthrow nature, makes 

it valiant. 

Cymbeline, iii.. 6. 

Fortune brings in some boats that 

are not steer'd. 

Cymbeline, iv. 3. 

Few love to hear the sins they love 

to act. 

Pericles, i. 1. 

Flattery is the bellows blows up sin; 
The thing the which is flatter'd, but a 

To which that blast gives heat and 

stronger glowing. 

Pericles, i, 2. 

Fathers that wear rags 

Do make their children blind; 
But fathers that bear bags 
Shall see their children kind. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Full oft 't is seen, 
Our means secure us; and our mere 

Prove our commodities. 

Lear, iv. 1. 

Foul deeds will rise, 
Though all the earth overwhelm them, 

to men's eyes. 

Hamlet, i. 2. 

Fruits that blossom first will first be 


Othello, ii. 3. 

Full oft we see 
Cold wisdom waiting on superfluous 


All's Well, i. 1. 

God sends a curst cow short horns. 
Much Ado, ii. 1. 

Grace is grace, despite of all con 

Meas. for Meas. i. 2. 

8 113 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Good wine needs no bush. 

As You Like It, epil. 

Great men should drink with harness 
on their throats. 

T. of Athens, I 2. 

Good reasons must, of force, give 

place to better. 

J. Cxsar, iv.. 3. 

v// Great floods have flown 
From simple sources. 

All's Well, ii. 1. 

Great men may jest with saints; 'tis 

wit in them, 
But in the less, foul profanation. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Good alone 

Is good without a name ; vileness is so. 
The property by what it is should go, 

Not by the title. 

All's Well, ii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Grief boundeth where it falls, 
Not with the empty hollowness, but 

Richard II. i. 2. 

Grief makes one hour ten. 

Richard II. i. 3. 

Gnarling sorrow hath less power to 

The man that mocks at it, and sets it 


Richard II. i. 3. 

* "Glory is like a circle in the water, 
Which never ceaseth to enlarge itself, 
Till, by broad spreading, it disperse to 

1 Henry VI. i. 2. 

men have reaching hands. 
2 Henry VI. iv. 7. 

Give to a gracious message 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

A host of tongues; but let ill tidings 

Themselves when they be felt. 

Ant. and Cleo. ii. 5. 

Greatness, once fallen out with fortune, 

Must fall out with men too. 

T. and C. Hi. 3. 

Good words are better than bad 


J. Csesar, v. 1. 

Great griefs medicine the less. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Golden lads and girls all must, 

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust. 
Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Good wine is a good familiar crea 
ture, if it be well used. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Good name, in man and woman, 

Is the immediate jewel of their souls. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Good things should be praised. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Hope is a curtal dog in some affairs. 
Merry Wives, ii. 1. 

Hope is a lover's staff. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Home-keeping youths have ever 

homely wits. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 1. 

He that dies pays all debts. 

Tempest, iii. 2. 

He that is well hanged in this world 
needs to fear no colours. 

T. Night, i. 5. 

Happy are they that hear their own 
detractions, and can put them to 


Much Ado, ii. 3. 

Hold, or cut bow-strings. 

M. N. Dream, i. 2. 

Sbafcespeare f>rox>erbg 

He wants wit that wants resolved will 
To learn his wit to exchange the bad 

for better. 

T. G. of Ver. ii. 6. 

He must observe their mood on whom 

he jests, 

The quality of persons, and the time. 
T. Night, iii. 1. 

He who the sword of heaven will bear 
Should be as holy as severe. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 2. 

Honest as the skin between his brows. 
Much Ado, iii. 5. 

Honest plain words best pierce the 

ear of grief. 

L. L. Lost, v. 2. 

Holy men at their death have good 


Her. of Ven. i. 2. 

1 18 


Hanging and wiving goes by destiny. 
Mer. of Ven. ii. 9. 

He is well paid that is well satisfied. 
Mer. of Ven. iv. 1. 

How full of briars is this working- 
day world! 

As You Like It, i. 3. 

Half won is a match well made. 

All's Well, iv. 3. 

He that a fool doth very wisely hit 
Doth very foolishly, although he smart, 
Not to seem senseless of the bob. 

As You Like It, ii. 7. 

How bitter a thing it is to look into 
happiness through another man's eyes! 
As You Like It, v. 2. 

He that of greatest works is finisher 
Oft does them by the weakest minister. 

All's Well, ii. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Honours thrive 
When rather from our acts we them 

Than our foregoers. 

Airs Well, ii. 3. 

Happy man be his dole! 
Merry Wives, iii. 4; T. of Shrew, i. 1; W. 
Tale, i. 2; 1 Henry IV. ii. 1. 

He that runs fastest gets the ring. 
T. of Shrew, i. 1. 

He that is giddy thinks the world 

turns round. 

T. of Shrew, v. 2. 

How sometimes nature will betray its 

Its tenderness, and make itself a pas 

To harder bosoms! 

W. Tale, i. 2 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

He that is proud eats up himself; 
pride is his own glass, his own trum 
pet, his own chronicle; and whatever 
praises itself but in the deed devours 
the deed in the praise. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

He that loves to be flattered is wor 
thy o' the flatterer. 

T. of Athens, i. 1. 

He 's truly valiant that can wisely 

The worst that man can breathe, and 

make his wrongs 
His outsides ; to wear them like his 

raiment, carelessly, 
And ne'er prefer his injuries to his 

To bring it into danger. 

T. of Athens, in. 5. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Honour and policy, like unsever'd 

I' the war do grow together. 

Coriol. iii. 2. 

Hollow men, like horses hot at hand, 

Make gallant show and promise of 
their mettle; 

But when they should endure the 
bloody spur, 

They fall their crests, and, like deceit 
ful jades, 

Sink in the trial. 

J. Cxsar, iv. 2. 

He that can endure 
To follow with allegiance a fallen lord 
Does conquer him that did his master 


Ant. and Cleo. iii. 13. 

How hard it is to hide the sparks of 
nature ! 

Cymbeline, iii. 3. 

Sbaftegpeare proverbs 

He that sleeps feels not the tooth 

Cymbeline, v.. 4. 

He lives in fame that died in virtue's 


T. and C. i. 1. 

He was a wise fellow, and had good 
discretion that, being bid to ask what 
he would of the king, desired he might 
know none of his secrets. 

Pericles, i. 3. 

How sharper than a serpent's tooth 

it is 
To have a thankless child. 

Lear, i. 4. 

Have more than thou shewest, 
Speak less than thou knowest, 
Lend less than thou owest. 

Lear, i. 4. 

Sbafccgpeare proverbs 

He that has a house to put's head 
in has a good headpiece. 

Lear, iii. 2. 

He that is stricken blind cannot forget 
The precious treasure of his eyesight 


Rom. and Jul. i. 1. 

He jests at scars that never felt a 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

He robs himself that spends a boot 
less grief. 

Othello, i. 3. 

How poor are they that have not 


Othello, ii. 3. 

He that filches from me my good name 
Eobs me of that which not enriches 

And makes me poor indeed. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

He that is robb'd, not wanting what 

is stolen, 
Let him not know't, and he's not 

robb'd at all. 

Othello, Hi. 3. 

Infirmity, that decays the wise, doth 
ever make the better fool. 

T. Night, i. 5. 

In delay there lies no plenty. 

T. Night, ii. 3. 

In the sweetest bud 
The eating canker dwells. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 1. 

Inconstancy falls off ere it begins. 
T. G. of Ver. v. 4. 

Indeed a sheep doth very often stray, 
An if the shepherd be a while away, 
T. G. of Ver. i. 1. 


It is a heretic that makes the fire, 
Not she that burns in >t. 

W. Tale, ii. 3. 

In nature there's no blemish but the 

None can be called deform'd but the 


T. Night, iii. 4. 

In love, the heavens themselves do 

guide the state; 
Money buys lands, and wives are sold 

by fate. 

Merry Wives, v. 5. 

It comes to pass oft, that a terrible 
oath, with a swaggering accent sharply 
twanged off, gives manhood more ap 
probation than ever proof itself could 
have earned them. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

If our virtues 
Did not grow forth of us, 't were all 

As if we had them not. 

Meas. for Meas. i. 1. 

It is excellent 

To have a giant's strength; but it is 

To use it like a giant. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Is the jay more precious than the lark, 
Because his feathers are more beauti 

Or is the adder better than the eel, 
Because his painted skin contents the 


T. of Shrew, iv. 3. 

It Oft falls out 
To have what we would have, we 

speak not what we mean. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 4. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

In time the savage bull doth bear 

the yoke. 

Much Ado, i. 1. 

It is the witness still of excellency 
To put a strange face on his own per 

Much Ado, ii. 3. 

In a false quarrel there is no true 


Much Ado, v. 1. 

If a man do not erect in this age 
his own tomb ere he dies, he shall live 
no longer in monument than the bell 
rings and the widow weeps. 

Much Ado, v 2. 

If a man will be beaten with brains, 
he shall wear nothing handsome about 


Much Ado, v. 4. 

If to do were as easy as to know 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

what were good to do, chapels had 
been churches, and poor men's cottages 
princes' palaces. 

Mer. of Ven. i. 2. 

It is a good divine that follows his 
own instructions. 

Mer. of Ven. i. 2. 

It is a wise father that knows his 

own child. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 2. 

It is a hard matter for friends to 
meet; but mountains may be removed 
with earthquakes, and so encounter. 
As You Like It, iii. 2. 

I had rather have a fool to make me 
merry than experience to make me sad. 
As You Like It, iv. 1. 

I have faced it with a card of ten. 
T. of Shrew, ii. 1. 
9 129 

Sbakespcarc proverbs 

I ne'er heard yet 

That any of these bolder vices wanted 
Less impudence to gainsay what they 

Than to perform it first. 

W . Tale, in. 2. 

Ill deeds are doubled with an evil 


C. of Errors, iii. 2. 

Jn food, in sport, and life-preserving 

To be disturbed would mad or man or 


C. of Errors, v. 1. 

Infected minds 

To their deaf pillows will discharge 
their secrets. 

Macbeth, v. 1. 


Sbafcegpeare proverbs 

If angels fight, 

Weak men must fall, for Heaven still 
guards the right. 

Richard II. iii. 2. 

In poison there is physic. 

2 Henry IV. L 1. 

In everything the purpose must 
weigh with the folly. 

2 Henry IV- ii. 2. 

Ill will never said well. 

Henry V. iii. 7. 

It is certain that either wise bear 
ing or ignorant carriage is caught, as 
men take diseases, one of another; 
therefore, let men take heed of their 


2 Henry IV.. v. 1. 

Ignorance is the curse of God; 
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly 

to heaven. 

2 Henry IV.. iv. 7. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

111 blows the wind that profits no 

3 Henry VI. ii. 5. 

Idle weeds are fast in growth. 

Richard HI. iii. 1. 

If money go before, all ways do lie 


Merry Wives, ii. 2. 

In the wind and tempest of her frown, 
Distinction, with a broad and powerful 


Puffing at all, winnows the light away, 
And what hath mass or matter, by 


Lies rich in virtue, and unmingled. 
T. and C. i. 3. 

It is the bright day that brings forth 

the adder, 
And that craves wary walking. 

J. Ctesar, ii. 1. 


Sbafceepeare proverbs 

In time we hate that which we often 


Ant. and Cleo. i. 3. 

I '11 take thy word for faith, not ask 

thine oath; 
Who shuns not to break one will sure 

crack both. 

Pericles, i. 2. 

Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend, 
More hideous when thou show'st thee 
in a child 

Than the sea-monster! 

Lear, i* 4. 

Infirmity doth still neglect all office 

Whereto our health is bound; we are 
not ourselves 

When Nature, being oppressed, com 
mands the mind 

To suffer with the body. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

In the reproof of chance 

Lies the true proof of men. 

T. and C. i. 3. 

In delay 
We waste our lights in vain, like lamps 

by day. 

Rom. and Jul. i. 4. 

In the fatness of these pursy times, 
Virtue itself of vice must pardon beg; 
Yea, curb and woo for leave to do him 


Hamlet, iii. 4. 

It is their husbands' faults 

If wives do fall. 

Othello, iv. 3. 

Jesters do oft prove prophets. 

Lear, v. 3. 

Beware, my lord, of jealousy; 
It is the green-eyed monster, which 
doth make 

The meat it feeds on. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare {proverbs 

Kindness, nobler ever than revenge. 
As You Like It, iv. 3. 

Keep thy friend 
Under thy own life's key. 

All's Well, i. 1. 

Knavery's plain face is never seen 

till used. 

Othello, ii. 1. 

Love, thou know'st, is full of jealousy. 
T. G. of Ver. ii. 4. 

Love looks not with the eyes, but 

with the mind. 

M. N. Dream, i. 1. 

Love delights in praises. 

T. G. of Ver. ii. 4. 

Love will not be spurred to what it 


T. G. of Ver. v. 2. 

Lovers break not hours, 
Unless it be to come before their time. 
T. G. of Ver. v. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Let us not burden our remembrances 
With a heaviness that 's gone. 

Tempest, v. 1. 

Let still the woman take 
An elder than herself; so wears she to 

So sways she level in her husband's 


T. Night, ii. 4. 

Love is like a child, 
That longs for everything that he can 

come by. 

T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Love sought is good, but given un 
sought is better. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

Let us be keen, and rather cut a little, 
Than fall, and bruise to death. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 1. 

Sbafcegpeare proverbs 

Lawful mercy is 
Nothing akin to foul redemption. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 4. 

Love talks with better knowledge, 
and knowledge with dearer love. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 2. 

Loving goes by haps; 
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some 

with traps. 

Much Ado, iii. 1. 

Life is a shuttle. 

Merry Wives, v. 1. 

Lovers ever run before the clock. 
Mer. of Ven. ii. 6. 

Love all; trust a few; 

Do wrong to none. 

All 1 s Well, i. 1. 

Love that comes too late, 
Like a remorseful pardon slowly car 


Sbafteepeare proverbs 

To the great sender turns a sour 

Crying That 's good that 's gone. 

All's Well, v. 3. 

Let the world slide. 

T. of Shrew, ind. 1. 

Light vanity, insatiate cormorant, 
Consuming means, soon preys upon 

Richard II. ii. 2. 

Light boats sail swift, though greater 
hulks draw deep. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

Let not virtue seek 
Remuneration for the thing it was; 

for beauty, wit, 

High birth, vigour of bone, desert in 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Love, friendship, charity, are subjects 


To envious and calumniating time. 
T. and C. iii. 3. 

Lowliness is young ambition's ladder, 
Whereto the climber-upward turns his 

But when he once attains the upmost 

He then unto the ladder turns his 

Looks in the clouds, scorning the base 

By which he did ascend. 

J. Caesar, ii. 1. 

Let determined things to destiny 
Hold unbewail'd their way. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 6. 

Love's reason 's without reason. 
Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Let go thy hold when a great wheel 
runs down a hill, lest it break thy 
neck with following it; but the great 
one that goes up the hill, let him draw 

thee after. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

Love goes toward love, as schoolboys 

from their books; 
But love from love, toward school with 

heavy looks. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

Love's heralds should be thoughts, 
Which ten times faster glide than the 

sun's beams 
Driving back shadows over lowering 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 5. 

Love moderately; long love doth so. 
Rom. and Jul. ii. 6. 

Loan oft loses both itself and friend. 

Hamlet, i. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Let's teach ourselves that honourable 

Not to outsport discretion. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Let our finger ache, and it indues 
Our other healthful members even to 
that sense 

Of pain. 

Othello, iii. 4. 

Misery makes sport to mock itself. 
Richard II. iL 1. 

Most poor matters point to rich ends, 
Tempest, iii. 1. 

Many a good hanging prevents a bad 


T. Night, i. 5. 

Many can brook the weather, that 

love not the wind. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 2. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Men that hazard all 

Do it in hope of fair advantages. 

Mer. of Ven. ii. 7. 

Mercy is not itself, that oft looks so; 
Pardon is still the nurse of second woe. 
Meas. for Meas. ii. 1. 

Maids, in modesty, say No to that 
Which they would have the profferer 

construe Ay. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 2. 

Most dangerous 
Is that temptation that doth goad us on 

To sin in loving virtue. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

Men were deceivers ever, 

One foot in sea and one on shore, 

To one thing constant never. 

Much Ado, ii. 3. 

Can counsel, and speak comfort to that 



Sbafcespeare fcroverbs 

Which they themselves not feel; but, 

tasting it, 
Their counsel turns to passion, which 

Would give preceptial medicine to 

Fetter strong madness in a silken 

Charm ache with air, and agony with 


Much Ado, v. 1. 

Misery doth part 

The flux of company. 

As You Like It, ii. 1. 

Most friendship is feigning; most 

loving mere folly. 

As You Like It, ii. 7. 

Men have died from time to time, 
and worms have eaten them, but not 

for love. 

As You Like It, iv. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Men are April when they woo, 
December when they wed. 

As You Like It, iv. 1. 

Many a man's tongue shakes out his 

master's undoing. 

All's Well, ii. 4. 

Make the doors upon a woman's wit, 
and it will out at the casement; shut 
that, and 't will out at the keyhole ; 
stop that, 't will fly with the smoke 
out at the chimney. 

As You Like It, iv. 1. 

Maids are May when they are maids 
but the sky changes when they are 


As You Like It, iv. 1. 

Moderate lamentation is the right of 
the dead, excessive grief the enemy 

to the living. 

All f s Well, i. 1. 


Sbafceapeare proverbs 

Misery acquaints a man with strange 


Tempest, ii. 2. 

More are men's ends marked than 

their lives before. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Most subject is the fattest soil to 


2 Henry IV. iv. 4. 

Marriage is a matter of more worth 

Than to be dealt in by attorneyship. 

I Henry VL v. 5. 

Many strokes, though with a little 

Hew down and fell the hardest- 
timbered oak. 

3 Henry VI. ii. 1. 

Men's evil manners live in brass; their 

We write in water. 

Henry VIII. iv. 2. 
10 145 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Men that make 
Envy and crooked malice nourishment 

Dare bite the best. 

Henry VIII. v. 3. 

Men prize the thing ungain'd more 
than it is. 

T. and C. L 2. 

Modest doubt is call'd 
The beacon of the wise. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

Men shut their doors against a 

setting sun. 

T. of Athens, i. 2. 

Many do keep their chambers are 

not sick. 

T. of Athens, Hi. 4. 

Men at some time are masters of their 

fates ; 
The fault ? dear Brutus, is not in our 



Sbafcespeate proverbs 

But in ourselves, that we are under 

J. Cxsar, i. 2. 

Men may construe things after their 

Clean from the purpose of the things 


J. Caesar, i. 3. 

Men's judgments are 
A parcel of their fortunes. 

Ant. and Cleo., Hi. 13. 

Most miserable 
Is the desire that 's glorious ; blest be 


How mean soe 'er, that have their hon 
est wills, 
Which seasons comfort. 

Cymbeline, L 6. 

Men's vows are women's traitors. 
Cymbeline, iii. 4. 

Sbafcegpeare proverus 

Man and man should brothers be; 
But clay and clay differs in dignity, 
Whose dust is both alike. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

More water glideth by the mill 
Than wots the miller of. 

T. Andron, ii. 1. 

Men must endure 

Their going hence, even as their coming 
hither ; 

Ripeness is all. 

Lear, v. 2. 


Are as the time is ; to be tender-minded 
Does not become a sword. 

Lear, v. 3. 

Many wearing rapiers are afraid of 


Hamlet, ii. 2. 

Sbafccspcarc proverbs 

Murder, though it have no tongue, will 

With most miraculous organ. 

Hamlet, ii. 2. 

Men do their broken weapons rather 

Than their bare hands. 

Othello, i. 3. 

Men should be what they seem. 

Othello^ iii. 3. 

Men are not gods; 

Nor of them look for such observances 
As fit the bridal. 

Othello, iii. 4. 

Nice customs curtsy to great kings. 
Henry VI. v. 2. 

Nobody but has his fault. 

Merry Wives, i. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Not to be a-bed after midnight is 
to be up betimes. 

T. Night, ii. 3. 

Nightingales answer daws! 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

No legacy is so rich as honesty. 

All's Well, iii. 5. 

No might nor greatness in mortality 

Can censure scape. 

Meas. for Meas. iii.. 2. 

Near or far off, well won is still 

well shot. 

K. John, L 1. 

Nought 's had, all 's spent, 
Where our desire is got without con 

Macbeth, iii. 2. 

Nature never lends 
The smallest scruple of her excellence, 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

But, like a thrifty goddess, she deter 
Herself the glory of a creditor, 

Both thanks and use. 

Meas. for Meas. i. 1. 

No ceremony that to great ones longs, 
Not the king's crown, nor the deputed 

The marshal's truncheon, nor the 

judge's robe, 
Become them with one half so good a 


As mercy does. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

New honours come upon him, 
Like our strange garments, cleave not 
to their mould 

But with the aid of use. 

Macbeth, i. 3. 

New-made honour doth forget men's 


K. John, i. 1, 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Nature craves 

All dues be render'd to their owners. 
T. and C. ii. 2. 

Nature, as it grows again toward 

Is fashioned for the journey, dull and 


T. of Athens, ii. 2. 

Nothing emboldens sin so much as 


T. of Athens, iii. 5. 

Nature must obey necessity. 

J. Csesar, iv. 3. 

Never anger 
Made good guard for itself. 

Ant. and Cleo. iv. 1. 

Notes of sorrow out of tune are worse 
Than priests and fanes that lie. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

No visor does become black villany 
So well as soft and tender flattery. 

Pericles, iv. 1. 

Nor are those empty-hearted whose low 

Reverbs no hollowness. 

Lear, i. 1. 

Nature, crescent, doth not grow alone 
In thews and bulk; but, as this temple 

The inward service of the mind and 


Grows wide withal. 

Hamlet, i. 3. 

Nothing almost sees miracles but 


Lear, ii. 2. 

Nought so vile that on the earth doth 

But to the earth some special good 

doth give; 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Nor aught so good but, strain'd from 

that fair use, 
Revolts from true birth, stumbling on 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Nor stony tower, nor walls of beaten 

Nor airless dungeon, nor strong links 

of iron, 
Can be retentive to the strength of 


J. Csesar, i. 3. 

One fire burns out another's burning. 
Rom. and JuL i. 2. 

O world, how apt the poor are to 

be proud! 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

One that had rather go with sir 
priest than sir knight. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

Sbaftcepcarc Iproverbs 

One of those gentle ones that will 
use the devil himself with courtesy. 
T. Night, iv. 2. 

Our compell'd sins 

Stand more for number than account. 
Meas. for Meas. ii.. 4. 

Omittance is no quittance. 

As You Like It, iii. 5. 

Our doubts are traitors, 
And make us lose the good we oft 

might win 
By fearing to attempt. 

Meas. for Meas. I. 4. 

Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm, 
More longing, wavering, sooner lost 
and worn, 

Than women's are. 

T. Night, ii. 4. 

Our natures do pursue, 
Like rats that ravin down their proper 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

A thirsty evil ; and when we drink, we 


Meas. for Meas. i. 2. 

Ourselves we do not owe; 

What is decreed must be. 

T. Night, i. 5. 

O place! O form! 
How often dost thou with thy case, 

thy habit, 
Wrench awe from fools, and tie the 

wiser souls 
To thy false seeming! 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 4. 

Outward courtesies would fain pro 
Favours that keep within. 

Meas. for Meas. v. 1. 

One doth not know 
How much an ill word may empoison 


Much Ado, iii. 1. 


Sbafceapeare proverbs 

One man holding troth, 
A million fail, confounding oath on 


M. N. Dream, iii. 2. 

Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie, 
Which we ascribe to heaven. 

All 's Well, i. 1. 

Oft our displeasures, to ourselves un 
Destroy our friends, and after weep 

their dust. 

All's Well, v. 3. 

On our quickest decrees 
The inaudible and noiseless foot of 

Steals, ere we can effect them. 

All f s Well, v. 3. 

Oft expectation fails, and most oft 

Where it most promises; and oft it 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Where hope is coldest, and despair 
most sits. 

All's Well. ii. 1. 

Our rash faults 
Make trivial price of serious things we 


Not knowing them until we know their 

All 's Well, v. 3. 

Our cake's dough on both sides. 
T. of Shrew, i. 1. 

One good deed, dying tongueless, 
Slaughters a thousand waiting upon 


W. Tale, i. 2. 

Oftentimes, to win us to our harm, 
The instruments of darkness tell us 


Win us with honest trifles, to betray us 
In deepest consequence. 

Macbeth, i. 3. 

Sbaheapeare fcroverba 

Oftentimes excusing of a fault 
Doth make the fault the worse. by the ; 


K. John, iv. 2. 

One sudden foil should never breed 


1 Henry VI. Hi. 3. 

One touch of nature makes the whole 

world kin. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

Omission to do what is necessary 
Seals a commission to a blank of 

danger ; 

And danger, like an ague, subtly taints, 
Even then when we sit idly in the sun. 
T. and C. iii. 3. 

One bear will not bite another. 

T. and C. v. 7. 

O, that men's ears should be 
To counsel deaf, but not to flattery! 
T. of Athens, i. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

One fire drives out one fire; one nail, 

one nail; 
Eights by rights falter, strengths by 

strengths do fail. 

Coriol. iv. 7. 

Often, to our comfort, shall we find 
The sharded beetle in a safer hold 
Than is the full-wing'd eagle. 

line, iii. 3. 

Our courtiers say, all 's savage but at 
court ; 

Experience, O, thou disprov'st re 

The imperious seas breed monsters; 
for the dish, 

Poor tributary rivers as sweet fish. 
Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Our very eyes are sometimes like 
our judgments, blind. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 


One sorrow never comes but brings an 

That may succeed as his inheritor. 

Cymbeline, i. 4. 

Opinion 7 s but a fool, that makes us 


The outward habit by the inward man. 

Pericles, ii. 2. 

Our foster-nurse of nature is repose. 

Lear, iv. 4. 

One pain is lessened by another's 


Rom. and Jul. i. 2. 

Our wills and fates do so contrary run 
That our devices still are overthrown. 
Hamlet, iii. 2. 

Our thoughts are ours, their ends 
none of our own. 

Hamlet, iii., 2. 
" 161 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Oft 'tis seen, the wicked prize itself 

Buys out the law. 

Hamlet, iii. 3. 

Our bodies are our gardens, to the 
which our wills are gardeners. 

Othello, i. 3. 

Oh, that men should put an enemy in 
their mouths to steal away their brains ! 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Past cure is still past care. 

L. L. Lost, v. 2. 

Please one, and please all. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

Pity, that fools may not speak wisely 
what wise men do foolishly. 

As You Like It, i. 2. 

Proffers, not took, reap thanks for 

their reward. 

All 's Well, ii. 1. 



Praising what is lost 
Makes the remembrance dear. 

All 'a Well, v. 3. 

Present fears 
Are less than horrible imaginings. 

Macbeth, i. 3. 

Patches set upon a little breach, 
Discredit more, in hiding of the fault, 
Than did the fault before it was so 


K. John, iv. 2. 

Past and to come seem best; things 

present, worst. 

2 Henry IV.. i. 3. 

Pirates may make cheap penny 
worths of their pillage. 

2 Henry VI. i. 1. 

Pleasure and revenge 
Have ears more deaf than adders to 

the voice 
Of any true decision. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Pride hath no other glass 

To shew itself but pride. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

Perseverance . . . 
Keeps honour bright; to have done is 

to hang 
Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail 

In monumental mockery. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

Pity is the virtue of the law, 

And none but tyrants use it cruelly. 
T. of Athens, iii. 5. 

Pitchers have ears. 

T. of Shrew, iv. 4; Richard III. ii. 4. 

Plenty and peace breeds cowards; 
hardness ever 

Of hardiness is mother. 

Cymbeline, iii. 6. 

Proper deformity seems not in the 

So horrid as in woman. 

Lear, iv. 2. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Plate sin with gold, 
And the strong lance of justice hurt- 
less breaks; 
Arm it in rags, a pigmy's straw doth 

pierce it. 

Lear, iv. 6. 

Pleasure and action make the hours 

seem short. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Poor and content is rich, and rich 

enough ; 

But riches, fineless, is as poor as winter 
To him that ever fears he shall be poor. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

Quarrelling . . . 
Is valour misbegot, and came into the 

When sects and factions were newly 


T. of Athens, iii. 5. 


Sbafteapeare proverbs 

Rich honesty dwells, like a miser, in 
a poor house, as your pearl in your 
foul oyster. 

As You Like It, v. 4. 

Riddling confession finds but rid 
dling shrift. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Rich gifts wax poor when givers 

prove unkind. 

Hamlet, iii. 1. 

Repent what J s past ; avoid what is to 

And do not spread the compost on the 

To make them ranker. 

Hamlet, iii. 4. 

Reputation is an idle and most false 
imposition; oft got without merit, and 
lost without deserving. 

Othello, ii. 3. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Scorn at first makes after love the 


T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Steal by line and level. " 

Tempest, iv. 1. 

Still swine eat all the draff. 

Merry Wives, iv.. 2. 

Some kinds of baseness 
Are nobly undergone. 

Tempest, iii. 1. 

Spirits are not finely touch'd 
But to fine issues. 

Meas. for Meas. i. 1. 

Sleep seldom visits sorrow; when it 

It is a comforter. 

Tempest, ii. 1. 

Silence is the perfectest herald of 

Much Ado. ii. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Some sports are painful; and their 

Delight in them sets off. 

Tempest, iii. 1. 

Some are born great, some achieve 
greatness, and some have greatness 
thrust upon them. 

T. Night, ii. 5. 

Some men must love my lady, and 
some Joan. 

L. L. Lost, iii. 1. 

Society (saith the text) is the happi 
ness of life. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 2. 

Sowed cockle reaped no corn. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 3. 

Superfluity comes sooner by white 
hairs, but competency lives longer. 
Mer. of Ven. i. 2. 


Sbafeespeare proverbs 

Soft stillness and the night 
Become the touches of sweet harmony. 
Mer. of Ven. v. 1. 

Since the little wit that fools have 
was silenced, the little foolery that 
wise men have makes a great show. 
As You Like It, i. 2. 

Some sins do bear their privilege on 


K. John, i. 1. 

Sweet are the uses of adversity, 
Which, like the toad, ugly and veno 

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. 
As You Like It, ii. 1. 

Small cheer and great welcome 
makes a merry feast. 

C. of Errors, iii. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Should all despair 

That have revolted wives, the tenth of 

Would hang themselves. 

W. Tale, i. 2. 

Slander lives upon succession; 
Forever housed, where it gets posses 

C. of Errors, in. 1. 

Strong reasons make strong actions. 
K. John, iii. 4. 

Sorrow ends not when it seemeth 


Richard II. i. 2. 

Small showers last long, but sudden 

storms are short. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Sorrow breaks seasons and reposing 


Makes the night morning, and the noon 
tide night. 

Richard III. i. 4. 

Sbafceepeare proverbs 

Sweet love, I see, changing his 

Turns to the sourest and most deadly 


Richard II. iii. 2. 

Self-love is not so vile a sin 

As self-neglecting. 

Henry V. ii. 4. 

Soldiers' stomachs always serve them 


1 Henry VI. ii. 3. 

Small curs are not regarded when they 

But great men tremble when the lion 


2 Henry VI. iii. 1. 

Smooth runs the water where the 

brook is deep. 

2 Henry VI. iii. 1. 

Small things make base men proud. 

2 Henry VI.. iv. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Suspicion ever haunts the guilty mind ; 
The thief doth fear each bush an officer. 
3 Henry VI. v. 6. 

Sweet flowers are slow, and weeds 
make haste. 

Richard III., ii. 4. 

Short summers lightly have a for 
ward spring. 

Richard III. iii. 1. 

Supple knees feed arrogance. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

Sometimes we are devils to ourselves, 
When we will tempt the frailty of our 


Presuming on their changeful potency. 
T. and C. iv. 4. 

Sweet love is food for fortune's 


T. and C. iv. 5. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Soldiers should brook as little 
wrongs as gods. 

T. of Athens, iii. 5. 

Since the affairs of men rest still 

Let's reason with the worst that may 


J. C&sar, v. 1. 

Some innocents scape not the 


Ant. and Cleo. ii. 5. 

Some griefs are med'cinable. 

Cymbeline, iii. 2. 

Service is not service, so being done, 
But being so allowed. 

Cymbeline, iii. 3. 

Stony limits cannot hold love out; 
And what love can do, that dares love 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Whose edge is sharper than the sword ; 

whose tongue 
Outvenoms all the worms of Nile; 

whose breath 
Rides on the posting winds, and doth 

All corners of the world: kings, queens, 

and states, 
Maids, matrons, nay, the secrets of the 

This viperous slander enters. 

Cymbeline, iii. 4. 

Society is no comfort to one not 


Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Some falls are means the happier to 


Cymbeline, iv^ 2. 

Sweet mercy is nobility's true badge. 
T. Andron. i. 1. 

T 74 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp'd, 
Doth burn the heart to cinders where 

it is. 

T. Andron. ii. 4. 

Striving to better, oft we mar what 's 


Lear, i. 4. 

Sad hours seem long. 

Rom. and Jul. i. 1. 

Tender youth is soon suggested. 
T. G. of Ver. Hi. I. 

Thought is free. 

Tempest, Hi. 2; T. Night, i. 3. 

Too light winning 

Makes the prize light. 

Tempest, i. 2. 

Travellers ne'er did lie, 
Though fools at home condemn 'em. 
Tempest, iii. 3. 
J 7S 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The rarer action is 
In virtue than in vengeance. 

Tempest, v.. 1. 

The most forward bud 
Is eaten by the canker ere it blow. 
T. G. of Ver. L 1. 

The shepherd seeks the sheep, and 
not the sheep the shepherd. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 1. 

They do not love that do not shew 

their love. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 2. 

To plead for love deserves more fee 

than hate. 

T. G. of Ver. i. 2. 

Truth hath better deeds than words 

to grace it. 

T. G. of Ver, iL 2. 

The current that with gentle murmur 



Sbafcegpeare proverbs 

Thou know'st, being stopp'd, impa 
tiently doth rage. 

T. G. of Ver. ii. 7. 

That man that hath a tongue, I say, 

is no man, 
If with his tongue he cannot win a 


T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

The strongest oaths are straw 

To the fire i> the blood. 

Tempest, iv. 1. 

To die is to be banish'd from myself. 
T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

'T is the curse in love, and still ap- 

When women cannot love where they 're 


T. G. of Ver. v. 4. 

Time is the nurse and breeder of all 


T. G. of Ver. iii. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

To be slow in words is a woman's 

only virtue. 

T. G. of Ver. Hi. 1. 

This weak impress of love is as a figure 
Trenched in ice; which, with an hour's 

Dissolves to water, and doth lose his 


T. G. of Ver. iii. 2. 

There is no slander in an allowed 
fool, though he do nothing but rail; 
nor no railing in a known discreet man, 
though he do nothing but reprove. 
T. Night, i. 5. 

? T was never merry world 
Since lowly feigning was called conv 


T. Night, iii. 1. 

There is no love-broker in the world 
can more prevail in man's commenda 
tion with woman than report of valour. 
T. Night, iii. 2. 



'T is not for gravity to play at 
cherry-pit with Satan. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

That in the captain >s but a choleric 


Which in the soldier is flat blasphemy. 
Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

That that is, is. 

T. Night, iv. 2. 

There is no darkness but ignorance. 

T. Night, iv. 2. 
The whirligig of time brings in his 


T. Night, v. 1. 

Thieves for their robbery have au 

When judges steal themselves. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 

The miserable have no other medicine 

But only hope. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The poor beetle, that we tread upon, 
In corporal sufferance finds a pang as 

As when a giant dies. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 

Truth is truth 
To the end of the reckoning. 

Meas. for Meas. v. 1. 

Thoughts are no subjects; 
Intents but merely thoughts. 

Meas. for Meas< v. 1. 

The sense of death is most in ap 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 

The weariest and most loathed worldly 

That age, ache, penury, and imprison 

Can lay on nature, is a paradise 

To what we fear of death. 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 
1 80 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Trouble being gone, comfort should 


Much Ado, i. 1. 

Time goes on crutches till love have 

all his rites. 

Much Ado, ii. 1. 

To be a well-favoured man is the 
gift of fortune; but to write and read 

comes by nature. 

Much Ado, iii. 3. 

The fashion wears out more apparel 

than the man. 

Much Ado, iii. 3. 

To strange sores strangely they 

strain the cure. 

Much Ado, iv. 1. 

'Tis all men's office to speak patience 
To those that wring under the load of 
sorrow ; 

But no man's virtue, nor sufficiency, 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

To be so moral when he shall endure 

The like himself. 

Much Ado, v. 1. 

The course of true love never did 

run smooth. 

M. N. Dream, i. 1. 

There 's not one wise man among 
twenty that will praise himself. 

Much Ado, v. 2. 

There was never yet philosopher 
That could endure the toothache pa 
However they have writ the style of 


And made a push at chance and suffer 

Much Ado, v. 1. 

The heresies that men do leave 
Are hated most of those they did 


M. N. Dream, ii. 2. 


Sbafceepeare proverbs 

The moon was a month old when Adam 

was no more, 
And raught not to five weeks when he 

came to fivescore. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 2. 

There 's no such sport as sport by 

sport o'erthrown. 

L. L. Lost, V. 2. 

The words of Mercury are harsh af 
ter the songs of Apollo. 

L. L. Lost, v. 2. 

The quality of mercy is not strain'd, 
It droppeth as the gentle rain from 

Upon the place beneath. 

Mer. of Ven. iv. 1. 

They are as sick that surfeit with 
too much as they that starve with 


Mer. of Ven. i. 2. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The brain may devise laws for the 
blood; but a hot temper leaps o'er a 

cold decree. 

Mer. of Ven.. i. 2. 

The devil can cite Scripture for his 


Mer. of Ven. i.. 3. 

The world is still deceived with 


Mer. of Ven. iiL 2. 

The weakest kind of fruit 
Drops earliest to the ground. 

Mer. of Ven.. iv.. 1. 

The dulness of the fool is the 
whetstone of the wits. 

As You Like It, i. 2. 

The man that hath no music in himself, 
Nor is not mov'd with concord of 

sweet sounds, 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and 

Her. of Ven. v. 1. 

The nightingale, if she should sing by 

When every goose is cackling, would 

be thought 

No better a musician than the wren. 
Mer. of Ven. v. 1. 

Tongues in trees, books in the running 

Sermons in stones, and good in every 

As You Like It, ii. 1. 

To some kind of men 
Their graces serve them but as enemies. 
As You Like It, ii.. 3. 

Travellers must be content. 

As You Like It, ii.. 4. 

Sbaftegpeare proverbs 

The oath of a lover is no stronger 
than the word of a tapster; they are 
both the confirmers of false reckonings. 
As You Like It, iii. 4. 

Those that are good manners at the 
court are as ridiculous in the country 
as the behaviour of the country is most 
mockable at the court. 

As You Like It, iii. 2. 

Time travels in divers paces with 
divers persons. 

As You Like It, iii. 2. 

The sight of lovers feedeth those in 


As You Like It, iii. 4. 

Time is the old justice that examines 

all offenders. 

As You Like It, iv. 1. 

There is no fettering of authority. 
All's Well, ii. 3. 

Sbaftcepeare proverbs 

The fool doth think he is wise, but 
the wise man knows himself to be a 


As You Like It, v. 1. 

The hind that would be mated by 
the lion must die for love. 

All 's Well, i. 1. 

The fated sky 

Gives us free scope; only doth back 
ward pull 
Our slow designs when we ourselves 

are dull. 

All's Well, i. 1. 

Though honesty be no puritan, yet 
it will do no hurt; it will wear the 
surplice of humility over the black 
gown of a big heart. 

All's Well, i. 3. 

'T is often seen 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Adoption strives with nature; and 

choice breeds 

A native slip to us from foreign seeds. 
Att'8 Well, i. 3. 

The web of our life is of a mingled 
yarn, good and ill together; our virtues 
would be proud, if our faults whipped 
them not; and our crimes would 
despair, if they were not cherished by 

our virtues. 

Alt' 8 Well, iv. 3. 

The bitter past, more welcome is the 


All's Well, v. 3. 

There 's small choice in rotten apples. 
T. of Shrew, i. 1. 

Though little fire grows great with 

little wind, 
Yet extreme gusts will blow out fire 

and all. 

T. of Shrew, ii. 1. 

1 88 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

'T is not the many oaths that make the 

But the plain single vow that is vow'd 


All's Well, iv. 2. 

The poorest service is repaid with 


T. of Shrew, iv. 3. 

Tis the mind that makes the body 

And as the sun breaks through the 

darkest clouds, 

So honour peereth in the meanest habit. 
T. of Shrew, iv. 3. 

Time it is, when raging war is done, 
To smile at scapes and perils over 

T. of Shrew, v. 2. 

The silence often of pure innocence 
Persuades when speaking fails. 

W. Tale, ii. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Though gold bides still 
That others touch, yet often touching 

Wear gold. 

C. of Errors, ii. 1. 

To have an open ear, a quick eye, 

and a nimble hand, is necessary for a 

cutpurse; a good nose is requisite also, 

to smell out work for the other senses. 

W. Tale, iv. 4. 

Though authority be a stubborn 
bear, yet he is oft led by the nose with 

W. Tale, iv, 4. 

There 's a time for all things. 

C. of Errors, ii. 2. 

There 's many a man hath more 

hair than wit. 

C. of Errors, ii.. 2. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

'T is holy sport to be a little vain, 
When the sweet breath of flattery con 
quers strife. 

C. of Errors, iii. 2. 

Time and the hour runs through 

the roughest day. 

Macbeth, i. 3. 

To alter favour ever is to fear. 

Macbeth, i. 5. 

The labour we delight in physics pain. 
Macbeth, ii. 3. 

The venom clamours of a jealous 

Poison more deadly than a mad dog's 


C. of Errors, v. 1. 

There 's no art 
To find the mind's construction in the 


Macbeth, i. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Things bad begun make strong them 
selves by ill. 

Macbeth, Hi. 2. 

To shew an unfelt sorrow is an office 
Which the false man does easy. 

Macbeth, ii. 3. 

Things without all remedy 
Should be without regard. 

Macbeth, iii. 2. 

The flighty purpose never is o'ertook 
Unless the deed go with it. 

Macbeth, iv. 1. 

The poor wren, 

The most diminutive of birds, will fight, 
Her young ones in her nest, against 

the owl. 

Macbeth, iv. 2. 

The grief that does not speak 
Whispers the o'erfraught heart, and 

bids it break. 

Macbeth, iv. 3. 


Sbafccspcare proverbs 

. Things at the worst will cease, or else 

climb upward 
To what they were before. 

Macbeth, iv. 2. 

The night is long that never finds 
the day. 

Macbeth, iv. 3. 

The better act of purposes mistook 
Is to mistake again. 

K. John, iii. 1. 

Truth hath a quiet breast. 

Richard II. i. 3. 
There is no sure foundation set on 


No certain life achieved by others' 

K. John, iv. 2. 

This England never did, nor never 

13 193 

Sbafcespeare fl>rot>erb$ 

Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, 
But when it first did help to wound 


K. John, v. 7. 

The more fair and crystal is the sky, 
The uglier seem the clouds that in it 


Richard II. i.. 1. 

That which in mean men we entitle 

Is pale, cold cowardice in noble 


Richard II. i. 2. 

Things sweet to taste prove in di 
gestion sour. 

Richard II. i. 3. 

There is no virtue like necessity. 

Richard II. i. 3. 
The apprehension of the good 
Gives but the greater feeling to the 

Richard II. i. 3. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The tongues of dying men 
Enforce attention, like deep harmony. 
Richard II. ii. 1. 

Then all too late conies counsel to be 

Where will doth mutiny with wit's 


Richard II. ii. 1. 

The setting sun, and music at the close, 
As the last taste of sweets, is sweetest 

Writ in remembrance more than things 

long past. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

The lion will not touch the true 

1 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

The camomile, the more it is trodden 

on, the faster it grows. 

1 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The devil rides upon a fiddlestick. 
1 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

The latter end of a fray, and the be 
ginning of a feast, 
Fits a dull fighter, and a keen guest. 
1 Henry IV. iv. 2. 

Tell truth, and shame the devil. 
1 Henry IV.. iiL 1. 

Treason is but trusted like the fox, 
Who, ne'er so tame, so cherish'd, and 

lock'd up, 

Will have a wild trick of his ancestors. 
1 Henry IV. v. 2. 

Two stars keep not their motion in 

one sphere. 

1 Henry IV. v. 4. 

The thing that's heavy in itself 
Upon enforcement flies with greatest 


2 Henry IV. i. 1. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The undeserver may sleep when the 
man of action is called on. 

2 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

There is a history in all men's lives, 
Figuring the nature of the times 


2 Henry IV. iii. 1. 

? T is ever common 

That men are merriest when they are 
away from home. 

Henry V. i. 2. 

The better part of valour is dis 

1 Henry IV. v. 4. 

Though patience be a tired mare, 

yet she will plod. 

Henry V. ii. 1. 

That's a valiant flea that dare eat 
his breakfast on the lip of a lion. 

Henry V. iii. 7. 


There is some soul of goodness in 

things evil, 

Would men observingly distil it out. 
Henry V. iv. 1. 

'T is good for men to love their pres 
ent pains, 

Upon example; so the spirit is eas'd. 

And when the mind is quicken'd, out 
of doubt, 

The organs, though defunct and dead 

Break up their drowsy grave, and 
newly move 

With casted slough and fresh legerity. 
Henry V. iv. 1, 

There are few die well that die in a 


Henry V. iv. 1. 

The empty vessel makes the greatest 


Henry V. iv. 4. 



The smallest worm will turn, being 

trodden on; 
And doves will peck in safeguard of 

their brood. 

3 Henry VI. ii. 2. 

That 's a perilous shot out of an 
elder gun, that a poor and a private 
displeasure can do against a monarch. 
Henry V. iv. 1. 

The man that once did sell the lion's 

While the beast liv'd was kilPd with 

hunting him. 

Henry V. iv. 3. 

The fox barks not when he would 
steal the lamb. ' 

2 Henry VI. iii. 1. 

Thrice is he arm'd that hath his quar 
rel just; 


Sbafccspcarc proverbs 

And he but naked, though lock'd up 

in steel, 
Whose conscience with injustice is 


2 Henry VI. iii. 2. 

Things ill got have ever bad success. 

3 Henry VI. ii. 2. 

The sun shines hot, and, if we use 

Cold biting winter mars our hop'd-for 


3 Henry VI. iv. 8. 

The bird that hath been limed in a bush 
With trembling wings misdoubteth ev 
ery bush. 

3 Henry VI. v. 6. 

Talkers are no good doers. 

Richard HI. i. 3. 

They that stand high have many blasts 

to shake them, 
And if they fall, they dash themselves 

to pieces. 

Richard IIL i. 3. 

Sbafceepeare proverbs 

True hope is swift, and flies with swal 
low's wings; 

Kings it makes gods, and meaner crea 
tures kings. 

Richard HI. v. 2. 

To climb steep hills 
Requires slow pace at first. 

Henry VIII. i. 1. 

The fire that mounts the liquor till 't 

run o'er, 

In seeming to augment it wastes it. 
Henry VIII. i. 1. 

Things done well, 
And with a care, exempt themselves 

from fear; 
Things done without example, in their 


Are to be fear'd. 

Henry VIII. i. 2. 

Truth loves open dealing. 

Henry VIII. iii. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The hearts of princes kiss obedience, 
So much they love it. 

Henry VIII. Hi., 1. 

'T is better to be lowly born, 
And range with humble livers in 

Than to be perk'd up in a glistering 

And wear a golden sorrow. 

Henry VIII. ii. 3. 

'T is a kind of good deed to say well, 
And yet words are no deeds. 

Henry VIII. iii. 2. 

Those that tame wild horses 
Pace them not in their hands to make 

them gentle, 
But stop their mouths with stubborn 

bits, and spur them, 
Till they obey the manage. 

Henry VIII. v. 3. 

Sbafeespeare proverbs 

To persist 

In doing wrong extenuates not wrong, 
But makes it much more heavy. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

The worthiness of praise distains his 

If that the prais'd himself bring the 
praise forth; 

But what the repining enemy com 

That breath fame blows; that praise, 
sole pure, transcends. 

T. and C. i. 3. 

'T is a cruelty 
To load a falling man. 

Henry VHL v. 3. 

The amity that wisdom knits not, 
folly may easily untie. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

The elephant hath joints, but none 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

for courtesy; his legs are legs for 
necessity, not for flexure. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

The raven chides blackness. 

T. and C. ii. 3. 

Time is like a fashionable host, 
That slightly shakes his parting guest 

by the hand, 
And with his arms outstretch'd, as he 

would fly, 

Grasps in the comer. 

T. and C. Hi. 3. 

The present eye praises the present 


T. and C. Hi. 3. 

Things in motion sooner catch the eye 

Than what not stirs. 

T. and C. Hi. 3. 

The gods are deaf to hot and peev 
ish vows. 

T. and C.. v. 3. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The providence that 's in a watchful 

Knows almost every grain of Plutus' 

Finds bottom in the uncomprehensive 

Keeps place with thought, and almost, 

like the gods, 
Does thoughts unveil in their dumb 


T. and C. iii. 3. 

Those wounds heal ill that men do 

give themselves. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

To such as boasting shew their scars 

A mock is due. 

T. and C. iv. 5. 

The fire i' the flint 
Shews not till it be struck. 

T. of Athens, i. I. 

Sbafte0peare ftroverbs 

'T is not enough to help the feeble up, 
But to support him after. 

T. of Athens, i. 1. 

The devil knew not what he did 
when he made man politic; he crossed 

himself by it. 

T. of Athens, iii. 3. 

'T is mad idolatry 
To make the service greater than the 


T. and C. ii. 2. 

To revenge is no valour, but to bear. 
T. of Athens, iii. 5. 

The learned pate 
Ducks to the golden fool, 

T. of Athens, iv. 3. 

There is no time so miserable but a 
man may be true. 

T. of Athens, iv. 3. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The gods sent not 

Corn for the rich men only. 

Coriol. i. 1. 

The veins unfilPd, our blood is cold, 
and then 

We pout upon the morning, are unapt 

To give or to forgive; but when we 
have stuffd 

These pipes and these conveyances of 
our blood 

With wine and feeding, we have sup 
pler souls 

Than in our priest-like fasts. 

Coriol. v. 1. 

The eye sees not itself 

But by reflection by some other things. 

J. Caesar, i. 2. 

'Tis meet 
That noble minds keep ever with their 

likes ; 

For who so firm that cannot be 
seduc'd? J. Cassar, i. 2. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

To promise is most courtly and 
fashionable; performance is a kind of 
will or testament, which argues a 
great sickness in his judgment that 

makes it. 

T. of Athens, v. 1. 

'T is fond to wail inevitable strokes, 
As 't is to laugh at 'em. 

Coriol. iv. 1. 

Those that with haste will make a 

mighty fire 
Begin it with weak straws. 

J. Csesar, i. 3. 

The abuse of greatness is, when it 

Remorse from power. 

J. Csesar, ii.. 1. 

The evil that men do lives after them, 
The good is oft interred with their 


J. Csar, lii.. 2. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

That we shall die we know; 'tis but 

the time, 
And drawing days out, that men stand 


J. Csesar, iii. 1. 

There is a tide in the affairs of men, 
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to 

' fortune ; 

Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
J. Csesar, iv. 3. 

There 's beggary in the love that can 

be reckoned. 

Ant. and Cleo. i. 1. 

The nature of bad news infects the 


Ant. and Cleo. i. 2. 

The loyalty well held to fools does 
make our faith mere folly. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 13. 

Sbaheepeare fcrovetbs 

'T is better playing with a lion's whelp 
Than with an old one dying. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 13. 

To be furious 
Is to be frighted out of fear; and in 

that niood 
The dove will peck the estridge. 

Ant. and Cleo. in. 13. 

To business that we love we rise 

And go to 't with delight. 

Ant. and Cleo. iv. 4. 

The soul and body rive not more in 

Than greatness going off. 

Ant. and Cleo.. iv. 13. 

The cloy'd will 

That satiate yet unsatisfied desire, 
that tub 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Both filled and running, ravening first 

the lamb 
Longs after for the garbage. 

Cymbeline, i. 6. 

'T is gold 
Which makes the true man kill'd, and 

saves the thief; 
Nay, sometime, hangs both thief and 

true man. 

Cymbeline, ii. 3. 

Though those that are betray'd 
Do feel the treason sharply, yet the 

Stands in worse case of woe. 

Cymbeline, iii. 4. 

To lapse in fulness 
Is sorer than to lie for need; and 

Is worse in kings than beggars. 

Cymbeline, iii. 6. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The sweat of industry would dry and 

But for the end it works to. 

Cymbeline, iii. 6. 

Triumphs for nothing, and lamenting 


Is jollity for apes, and grief for boys. 
Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Though mean and mighty, rotting 
Together, have one dust, yet reverence 
(That angel of the world) doth make 

Of place 'tween high and low. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Thersites' body is as good as Ajax', 
When neither are alive. 

Cymbeline, iv. 2. 

Thanks to men 

Of noble minds is honourable meed. 
T. Andron. i. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The raven doth not hatch a lark. 
T. Andron. ii. 3. 
'Tis time to fear when tyrants seem 

to kiss. 

Pericles, i. 2. 

Tyrants' fears 
Decrease not, but grow faster than the 


Pericles, i. 2. 

Time's the king of men; 
He 's both their parent, and he is their 

And gives them what he will, not what 

they crave. 

Pericles, ii. 3. 

Truth can never be confirm'd enough, 
Though doubts did ever sleep. 

Pericles, v. 1. 

To plainness honour 's bound 
When majesty stoops to folly. 

Lear, i. 1. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Time shall unfold what plaited cun 
ning hides; 
Who cover faults, at last shame them 


Lear, i. 1. 

Truth ? s a dog must to kennel ; he 
must be whipped out, when Lady, the 
brach, may stand by the fire and 


Lear, i. 4. 

That sir which serves and seeks for 


And follows but for form, 
Will pack when it begins to rain, 
And leave thee in the storm. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

To wilful men, 

The injuries that they themselves pro 
Must be their schoolmasters. 

Lear, ii. 4. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

There was. never yet fair woman but 

she made mouths in a glass. 

Lear, iii. 2. 

The art of our necessities is strange 
That can make vile things precious. 

Lear, iii. 2. 

The worst is not 
So long as we can say, " This is the 


Lear, iv. 1. 

The mind much sufferance doth o'er- 

When grief hath mates, and bearing 


Lear, iii. 6. 

'Tis the times' plague when mad 
men lead the blind. 

Through tatter'd clothes small vices do 

appear ; 
Robes and furr'd gowns hide all. 

Lear, iv. 6. 

Sbafcespeare proverbe 

The best quarrels, in the heat, are 


By those that feel their sharpness. 

Lear, v. 3. 

The gods are just, and of our pleasant 

Make instruments to plague us. 

Lear, v. 3. 

The weakest goes to the wall. 

Rom. and Jul. i. 1. 

Turn giddy, and be holp by back 
ward turning. 

Rom. and Jul. i. 2. 

That book in many's eyes doth share 

the glory, 
That in gold clasps locks in the golden 


Rom. and Jul. i. 3. 

Two may keep counsel, putting one 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 4. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

The sweetest honey 
Is loathsome in his own deliciousness, 
And in the taste confounds the 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 6. 

Too swift arrives as tardy as too 


Rom. and Jul. ii* 6. 

They are but beggars that can count 

their worth. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 6. 

'T is an ill cook that cannot lick his 

own fingers. 

Rom. and Jul. iv. 2. 

There are more things in heaven and 


Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 

Hamlet, i. 5. 

To be honest, as this world goes, is 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

to be one man picked out of ten 


Hamlet, ii. 2. 

There is nothing either good or bad 
but thinking makes it so. 

Hamlet, ii. 2. 

The great man down, you mark his 

favourite flies; 
The poor advanc'd makes friends of 


Hamlet, iii. 2. 

To know a man well were to know 


Hamlet, v. 2. 

'Tis in ourselves that we are thus, 

or thus. 

Othello, i. 3. 

There's none so foul, and foolish 

But does foul pranks which fair and 

wise ones do. 

Othello, ii. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The hand of little employment hath 

the dantier sense. 

Hamlet, v. 1. 

There 's a divinity that shapes our 

Rough-hew them how we will. 

Hamlet, v.- 2. 

There is a special providence in the 

fall of a sparrow. 

Hamlet, v. 2. 

'Tis the curse of service 
Preferment goes by letter and affection, 
Not by the old gradation where each 

Stood heir to the first. 

Othello, i. 1. 

To mourn a mischief that is past and 

Is the next way to draw more mis 
chief on. 

Othello, i. 3. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

The robb'd that smiles steals some 
thing from the thief. 

Othello, i. 3. 

To be too busy is some danger. 

Hamlet, iii. 4. 

'T is the sport, to have the enginer 
Hoist with his own petar. 

Hamlet, iii. 4. 

Trifles light as air 

Are to the jealous confirmations strong 
As proofs of holy writ. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

'T is better to be much abus'd 
Than but to know ? t a little. 

Othello, iii. 3. 

'T is not a year or two shews us a 


Othello, iii. 4. 

They laugh that win. 

Othello, iv. 1. 


Sbafcespcarc proverbs 

Those that do teach young babes 
Do it with gentle means and easy 


Othello, iv. 2. 

Unquiet meals make ill digestions. 
C. of Errors, v. 1. 

Upon a homely object love can wink. 
T. G. of Ver. ii. 4. 

Unheedful vows may needfully be 


T. G. of Ver. ii. 6. 

Unbidden guests 
Are often wel comes t when they are 


1 Henry VI. ii. 2. 

Uneasy lies the head that wears a 


2 Henry IV. Hi. 1. 

Use every man after his desert, and 

who should scape whipping? 

Hamlet, ii. 2. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Use almost can change the stamp of 

And master the devil, or throw him 

With wondrous potency. 

Hamlet, iii. 4. 

Violent fires soon burn out them 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Virtue cannot live 
Out of the teeth of emulation. 

J. Csssar, ii. 3. 

Virtue is bold, and goodness never 


Meas. for Meas. iii. 1. 

Venus smiles not in a House of tears. 
Rom. and Jul. iv. 1. 

Virtue itself turns vice, being mis 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

And vice sometime 's by action 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Vice repeated is like the wandering 

Blows dust in others 7 eyes, to spread 


Pericles, i. 1. 

Virtue is beauty; but the beauteous- 
Are empty trunks, o'erflourish'd by 

the devil. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

Value dwells not in particular will; 
It holds his estimate and dignity 
As well wherein 'tis precious of itself 

As in the prizer. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

Virtue and cunning are endowments 



Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Than nobleness and riches: careless 

May the two latter darken and ex 

But immortality attends the former, 

Making a man a god. 

Pericles, iii. 2. 

Violent delights have violent ends, 
And in their triumph die ; like fire and 

Which as they kiss consume. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 6. 

Virtue itself scapes not calumnious 


Hamlet, i. 3. 

Wives may be merry, and yet honest 


Merry Wives, iv. 2. 

Were man but constant, he were 


T. G. of Ver. v. 4. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Words are very rascals since bonds 
disgraced them. 

T. Night, iii. 1. 

When maidens sue 
Men give like gods. 

Meas. for Meas. i. 4. 

Wisdom wishes to appear most bright 
When it doth tax itself. 

Meas. for Meas. ii. 4. 

Where fair is not, praise cannot 

mend the brow. 

L. L. Lost, iv. 1. 

What cannot be eschew'd must be 


Merry Wives, v. 5. 

For women are as roses, whose fair 

Being once display'd, doth fall that 

very hour. 

T. Night, ii, 4. 

Sbafcespeare iproverbs 

Wise men, that give fools money, 
get themselves a good report after 
fourteen years' purchase. 

T. Night, iv. 1. 

We cannot weigh our brother with 


Meas. for Meas. ii. 2. 

We must not make a scarecrow of the 


Setting it up to fear the birds of prey, 
And let it keep one shape till custom 

make it 
Their perch, and not their terror. 

Meas. for Meas. ii.. 1 

What king so strong 
Can tie the gall up in the slanderous 

tongue ? 

Meas. for Meas. iii. 2. 

With mirth and laughter let old 

wrinkles come. 

Mer. of Ven. i. 1. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Where two raging fires meet together, 
They do consume the thing that feeds 

their fury. 

T. of Shrew, ii. 1. 

What need the bridge much broader 
than the flood? 

The fairest grant is the necessity. 

Much Ado, i. 1. 

What we have, we prize not to the 

Whiles we enjoy it; but being lack'd 

and lost, 

Why then we rack the value. 

Much Ado, iv. 1. 

We do pray for mercy, 
And that same prayer doth teach us 
all to render 

The deeds of mercy. 

Mer. of Ven. iv. 1. 

Who ever loved that loved not at 

first sight? 

As You Like It, iii. 5. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Words do well 

When he that speaks them pleases 
those that hear. 

As You Like It, iii. 5. 

Wit, whither wilt? 

As You Like It, iv, 1. 

We must do good against evil. 

All's Well, ii. 5. 

What 's gone, and what ? s past help, 

Should be past grief. 

W. Tale, iii. 2. 

Will you take eggs for money? 

W. Tale, i. 2. 

When the sun shines let foolish gnats 

make sport, 
But creep in crannies when he hides 

his beams. 

c of m)r8> 

Words to the heat of deeds too cold 
breath gives. 

Macbeth, ii. 1. 


Sbahespeare proverbs 

When our actions do not, 
Our fears do make us traitors. 

Macbeth, iv. 2. 

Who dares not stir by day must walk 

by night; 
And have is have, however men do 

catch. T-T r . H 

K. John, i. 1. 

When fortune means to men most good, 
She looks upon them with a threaten- 
ing eye. R John> m 4 _ 

When workmen strive to do better 

than well, 
They do confound their skill in 


Where words are scarce, they are sel 

dom spent in vain, 

For they breathe truth that breathe 
their words in pain. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

When law can do no right, 
Let it be lawful that law bar no wrong. 
K. John, iii. 1. 

Woe doth the heavier sit 

Where it perceives it is but faintly 


Richard II. i. 3. 

With eager feeding food doth choke 

the feeder. 

Richard II. ii. 1. 

Wise men ne'er sit and wail their woes, 
But presently prevent the ways to wail. 
Richard II. iii. 2. 

What doth gravity out of his bed at 


1 Henry IV. ii. 4. 

Wake not a sleeping wolf. 

2 Henry IV. i. 2. 

When lenity and cruelty play for a 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

kingdom, the gentler gamester is the 

soonest winner. 

Henry V. Hi. 6. 

When the fox hath once got in his nose, 
He '11 soon find means to make the body 


3 Henry VI. iv.. 7. 

Wrens may prey where eagles dare 

not perch. 

Richard HI. i. 3. 

Wise men ne'er sit and wail their loss, 
But cheerly seek how to redress their 


Richard II. iii. 2. 

When clouds appear, wise men put 

on their cloaks. 

Richard III. iL 3. 

We may outrun 
By violent swiftness that which we 

run at, 
And lose by over-running. 

Henry VIII. i. 1. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

We must not stint 
Our necessary actions, in the fear 
To cope malicious censurers. 

Henry VIII. i. 2. 

What we oft do best, 
By sick interpreters '(once weak ones) 

Not ours, or not allowed; what worse, 

as oft, 

Hitting a grosser quality, is cried up 
For our best act. 

VIII. i. 2. 


Is that poor man, that hangs on 
princes' favours. 

Henry VIII. iii. 2. 

When degree is shak'd, 
Which is the ladder to all high designs, 
The enterprise is sick. 

T. and C. i. B. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

We may not think the justness of each 

Such and no other than the event doth 

form it. 

T. and C. ii. 2. 

What the declined is, 
He shall as soon read in the eyes of 

As feel in his own fall; for men, like 

Shew not their mealy wings but to the 


T. and C. iii. 3. 

Welcome ever smiles, 
And farewell goes out sighing. 

T. and C. iii. 3. 

When we for recompense have prais'd 

the vile, 
It stains the glory in that happy verse 

Which aptly sings the good. 

T. of Athens, i. 1. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Who cannot keep his wealth must 

keep his house. 

T. of Athens, iiL 3. 

We call a nettle but a nettle, and 
The faults of fools but folly. 

Coriol ii. 1. 

Who can speak broader than he that 
has no house to put his head in? Such 
may rail against great buildings. 

T. of Athens, iii. 4. 

Who cannot condemn rashness in 

cold blood? 

T. of Athens, iii. 5. 

What custom wills, in all things 

should we do 't, 
The dust on antique time would lie 

And mountainous error be too highly 


For truth to o'er-peer. 

Coriol. ii. 3. 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

When the sea is calm, all boats alike 
Shew mastership in floating. 

Coriol. iv. 1. 

We have all 
Great cause to give great thanks. 

Coriol.. v.- 4. 

What can be avoided 
Whose end is purpos'd by the mighty 


J. Caesar, ii. 2. 

W T hat our contempts do often hurl from 

We wish it ours again; the present 


By revolution lowering, does become 
The opposite of itself. 

Ant. and Cleo. i. 2. 

When love begins to sicken and decay, 
It useth an enforced ceremony; 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

There are no tricks in plain and sim 
ple faith. 

J. Caesar, iv. 2. 

Words before blows. 

J. Caesar, v. 1. 

What the gods delay, they not deny. 
Ant. and Cleo. ii. 1. 

We, ignorant of ourselves, 
Beg often our own harms, which the 

wise powers 
Deny us for our good; so find we 

By losing of our prayers. 

Ant. and Cleo* ii. 1. 

When good will is shew'd, though 't 

come too short, 
The actor may plead pardon. 

Ant. and Cleo. ii. 5. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Who seeks, and will not take when 

once 't is offered, 
Shall never find it more. 

Ant. and Cleo. ii. 7. 

Who does P the wars more than his 

captain can, 
Becomes his captain's captain. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 1. 

Women are not 
In their best fortunes strong, but want 

will perjure 
The ne'er-touch'd vestal. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii., 12. 

Wisdom and fortune combating to 
If that the former dare but what it 

No chance may shake it. 

Ant. and Cleo. iii. 13. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

When we in our viciousness grow hard, 

(O misery on 't!) the wise gods seel 
our eyes, 

In our own filth dross our clear judg 
ments; make us 

Adore our errors; laugh at us, while 
we strut 

To our confusion. 

Ant. and Cleo. iiL 13. 

When valour preys on reason 

It eats the sword it fights with. 

Ant. and Cleo. in.. 13. 

Wishers were ever fools. 

Ant. and Cleo. iv. 15. 

Winning will put any man into 
courage. Cymbelme, i, 4. 


Can snore upon the flint, when resty 

Finds the down pillow hard. 

Cymbeline, iii, 6. 

Sbaftespeare proverb 

Who has a book of all that monarchs 

He ? s more secure to keep it shut than 


Pericles, i. 1. 

When the mind 's free the body 's 


Lear, iii. 4. 

When we our betters see bearing our 

We scarcely think our miseries our 


Lear, iii. 6. 

Wisdom and goodness to the vile seem 


Lear, iv. 2. 

What 's in a name? that which we call 

a rose 
By any other name would smell as 


Rom. and Jul. ii. 2. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Where unbruised youth, with unstuff'd 

Doth couch his limbs, there golden 

sleep doth reign. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Wisely, and slow; they stumble that 
run fast. 

Rom. and Jul. ii. 3. 

Who not needs shall never lack a 

friend ; 
And who in want a hollow friend doth 

Directly seasons him his enemy. 

Hamlet, iii. 2. 

Words without thoughts never to 
heaven go. 

Hamlet, iii. 3. 

When sorrows come, they come not 
single spies, 

But in battalions. 

Hamlet, iv. 5. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

We cannot all be masters, nor all 

Cannot be truly followed. 

Othello, i. 1. 

When remedies are past, the griefs are 

By seeing the worst, which late on 

hopes depended. 

Othello, L 3. 

What cannot be preserved when fortune 


Patience her injury a mockery makes. 

Othello, i. 3. 

When devils will their blackest sins 

put on, 
They do suggest at first with heavenly 


Othello, ii.. 3. 

What wound did ever heal but by 
degrees ? 

Othello, ii. 3. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Young ravens must have food. 

Merry Wives, i. 3. 

Youth is bought more oft than 

begged or borrowed. 

T. Night, iii. 4. 

Your if is the only peace-maker; 
much virtue in if. 

As You Like It, rw 5. 

Your date is better in your pie and 
your porridge than in your cheek. 
All's Well, i. 1. 

You may ride's 
With one soft kiss a thousand furlongs, 

With spur we heat an acre. 

W. Tale, i. 2. 

Y r oung bloods look for a time of 


J. Csesar, iv. 3. 

You do but bar the door upon your 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

own liberty, if you deny your griefs to 

your friend. 

Hamlet, iii. 2. 

Your dull ass will not mend his pace 

with beating. 

Hamlet, v. 1. 


(From the Sonnets and Other Poems) 

Rain added to a river that is rank 
Perforce will force it overflow the 


Venus and Adonis, 71. 

Make use of time, let not advantage 

Beauty within itself should not be 

Fair flowers that are not gather'd in 

their prime 
Rot and consume themselves in little 


V. and A. 129. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Love is a spirit all compact of fire, 
Not gross to sink, but light, and will 


V. and A. 149. 

Torches are made to light, jewels to 

Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the 

Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants 

to bear; 
Things growing to themselves are 

growth's abuse. 

V. and A. 163. 

For lovers say, the heart hath treble 

When it is barr'd the aidance of the 


V. and A. 329. 

An oven that is stopp'd, or river 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Burneth more hotly, swelleth with 

more rage. 

So of concealed sorrow may be said; 
Free vent of words love's fire doth 

assuage ; 
But when the heart's attorney once is 

The client breaks, as desperate in his 


V. and A. 331. 

Affection is a coal that must be cool'd ; 
Else, suffered, it will set the heart on 

The sea hath bounds, but deep desire 

hath none. 

V. and A. 388. 

Who is so faint that dares not be so 

To touch the fire, the weather being 


V. and A. 401. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Who wears a garment shapeless and 

Who plucks the bud before one leaf put 

If springing things be any jot 

They wither in their prime, prove no 
thing worth; 

The colt that 's back'd and burden'd 
being young 

Loseth his pride and never waxeth 


V. and A. 415. 

The mellow plum doth fall, the green 

sticks fast, 

Or being early pluck'd is sour to taste. 
V. and A. 527. 

What wax so frozen but dissolves with 

And yields at last to every light 

impression ? 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Things out of hope are compass'd oft 

with venturing, 
Chiefly in love, whose leave exceeds 

Affection faints not like a pale-fac'd 

But then wooes best when most his 

choice is froward. 

V. and A.. 565. 

Foul words and frowns must not re 
pel a lover; 

What though the rose have prickles; 
yet 't is pluck'd. 

Were beauty under twenty locks kept 

Yet love breaks through and picks them 

all at last. 

V. and A. 573. 

For where Love reigns, disturbing 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Doth call himself Affection's sentinel, 
Gives false alarms, suggesteth mutiny, 
And in a peaceful hour doth cry " Kill, 

kill ! " 

Distempering gentle Love in his desire, 
As air and water do abate the fire. 
V. and A., 649. 

Danger devise th shifts, wit waits on 


V. and A. 690. 

Rich preys make true men thieves. 
V. and A. 724. 

The lamp that burns by night 
Dries up his oil to lend the world his 


V. and A.. 755. 

Foul-cankering rust the hidden treas 
ure frets, 
But gold that's put to use more gold 


V. and A. 767. 


Sbafcespeare proverbe 

The path is smooth that leadeth on to 


V. and A. 788. 

Love comforteth like sunshine after 


But Lust's effect is tempest after sun; 
Love's gentle spring doth always fresh 

Lust's winter comes ere summer half 

be done; 
Love surfeits not, Lust like a glutton 

Love is all truth, Lust full of forged 


V. and A. 799. 

How love makes young men thrall and 

old men dote; 

How love is wise in folly, foolish-witty. 

V. and A. 837. 

O hard-believing love, how strange it 



Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Not to believe, and yet too credulous! 
Thy weal and woe are both of them 

extremes ; 
Despair and hope makes thee 

The one doth flatter thee in thoughts 

In likely thoughts the other kills thee 


V. and A. 985. 

Grief hath two tongues, and never wo 

man yet 
Could rule them both without ten wo- 

men's wit. 

Fie, fie, fond love, ^thou art so full of 

As one with treasure laden hemm'd 

with thieves; 

Trifles, unwitnessed with eye or ear, 
Thy coward heart with false bethink 

ing grieves. 

V. and A. 1021. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Beauty itself doth of itself persuade 
The eyes of men without an orator. 

Lucrece, 29. 

For by our ears our hearts oft tainted 


Lucrece, 38. 

For unstain'd thoughts do seldom 

dream on evil; 
Birds never lim'd no secret bushes 


Lucrece, 87. 

Despair to gain doth traffic oft for 

And when great treasure is the meed 

Though death be adjunct, there's no 

death supposed. 

Lucrece, 131. 

Those that much covet are with gain 

so fond, 


Sbaftespeare proverbs 

For what they have not, that which 
they possess 

They scatter and unloose it from their 

And so, by hoping more, they have but 

Or, gaining more, the profit of excess 

Is but to surfeit, and such griefs 

That they prove bankrupt in this poor- 
rich gain. 

Lucrece y 134. 

True valour still a true respect should 


Lucrece, 201. 

Who buys a minute's mirth to wail a 


Or sells eternity to get a toy? 
For one sweet grape who will the vine 



Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Or what fond beggar, but to touch the 

Would with the sceptre straight be 

strucken down? 

Lucrece, 213. 

And extreme fear can neither fight 

nor fly, 
But coward-like with trembling terror 


Lucrece, 230. 

Who fears a sentence or an old man's 

Shall by a painted cloth be kept in 


Lucrece, 244. 

All orators are dumb when beauty 
pleadeth ; 

* * * * 

Love thrives not in the heart that shad 
ows dreadeth. 

Lucrece, 268. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Respect and. reason wait on wrinkled 

Sad pause and deep regard beseems the 


Lucrece, 275. 

Pain pays the income of each precious 

Huge rocks, high winds, strong pirates, 

shelves and sands, 
The merchant fears, ere rich at home 

he lands. 

Lucrece, 334. 

Thoughts are but dreams till their 

effects be tried. 

Lucrece, 353. 

Against love's fire fear's frost hath 


Lucrece, 355. 


Sbahcspcave proverbs 

Who sees the lurking serpent steps 


Lucrece, 362. 

The fault unknown is as a thought 

unacted ; 

A little harm done to a great good end 
For lawful policy remains enacted. 
The poisonous simple sometimes is 


In a pure compound; being so applied, 
His venom in effect is purified. 

Lucrece, 527. 

He is no woodman that doth bend his 


To strike a poor unseasonable doe. 

Lucrece, 581. 

For stones dissolved to water do con 

Lucrece, 592. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Soft pity enters at an iron gate. 

Lucrece, 594. 

For kings like gods should govern ev 
ery thing. 

O, be remembered, no outrageous thing 
Prom vassal actors can be wip'd away ; 
Then kings' misdeeds cannot be hid in 


Lucrece, 602. 

For princes are the glass, the school, 

the book, 
Where subjects' eyes do learn, do read, 

do look. 

Lucrece, 615. 

The cedar stoops not to the base 

shrub's foot, 
But low shrubs wither at the cedar's 


Lucrece, 663. 


Sbahespeare proverbs 

Shame folded up in blind concealing 

When most unseen, then most doth 


Lucrece, 675. 

And fellowship in woe doth woe 

As palmers' chat makes short their 


Lucrece, 790. 

Why should the worm intrude the 

maiden bud? 
Or hateful cuckoos hatch in sparrows' 

nests ? 
Or toads infect fair founts with venom 


Or tyrant folly lurk in gentle breasts? 
Or kings be breakers of their own 

behests ? 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

But no perfection is so absolute 
That some impurity doth not pollute, 

Lucrece, 848. 

The sweets we wish for tarn to loathed 

Even in the moment that we call them 

Unruly blasts wait on the tender 

Unwholesome weeds take root with 

precious flowers; 
The adder hisses where the sweet birds 


What virtue breeds iniquity devours: 
We have no good that we can say is 


But ill-annexed Opportunity 
Or kills his life or else his quality. 

Lucrece, 868. 

The patient dies while the physician 
sleeps ; 



The orphan pines while the oppressor 

feeds ; 
Justice is feasting while the widow 

weeps ; 
Advice is sporting while infection 


Lucrece, 904. 

Time's office is to fine the hate of foes. 

Lucrece, 936. 

O Time, thou tutor both to good and 


Lucrece, 995. 

The moon being clouded presently is 

But little stars may hide them when 

they list 

Lucrece, 1007. 

The crow may bathe his coal-black 

wings in mire, 
And unperceiv'd fly with the filth 



Sbaftespeare proverbs 

But if the like the snow-white swan 

The stain upon his silver down will 


Lucrece, 1009. 

Gnats are unnoted wheresoe'er they fly, 
But eagles gaz'd upon with every eye. 

Lucrece, 1013. 

True grief is fond and testy as a child, 
Who wayward once, his mood with 

nought agrees; 
Old woes, not infant sorrows, bear them 

Continuance tames the one; the other 

Like an unpractised swimmer plunging 

With too much labour drowns for want 

of skill. 

Lucrece, 1094. 

Sbafcespeare proverbe 

Sad souls are slain in merry company; 
Grief best is pleas'd with griefs 

society ; 

True sorrow then is feelingly sufflc'd 
When with like semblance it is sym- 


Lucrece, 1110. 

'T is double death to drown in ken of 
shore ; 

He ten times pines that pines behold 
ing food; 

To see the salve doth make the wound 
ache more; 

Great grief grieves most at that would 
do it good; 

Deep woes roll forward like a gentle 

Who, being stopp'd, the bounding 
banks overflows; 

Grief dallied with nor law nor limit 


Lucrece, 1114. 


Sbafteepeare proverbs 

They that lose half with greater 

patience bear it 
Than they whose whole is swallow'd in 


Lucrece, 1158. 

Their gentle sex to weep are often 

Grieving themselves to guess at others' 

And then they drown their eyes or 
break their hearts. 

For men have marble, women waxen, 

And therefore are they form'd as mar 
ble will. 

Lucrece, 1237. 

Though men can cover crimes with 

bold stern looks, 
Poor women's faces are their own 

faults' books. 

Lucrece, 1252. 


Sbafcespeare provcrbe 

And who cannot abuse a body dead? 

Lucreee, 1267. 

And that deep torture may be call'd a 

When more is felt than one hath power 

t0 tel1 ' Lucreee, 1287. 

To see sad sights moves more than 

hear them told; 

For then the eye interprets to the ear 
The heavy motion that it doth behold, 
When every part a part of woe doth 


'T is but a part of sorrow that we hear ; 
Deep sounds make lesser noise than 

shallow fords, 
And sorrow ebbs, being blown with 

wind of words. Lucrece> 1324 

But they whose guilt within their bo 
soms lie 

Imagine every eye beholds their blame. 

Lucreee, 1342. 

Sbaftespeare proverbs 

Why should the private pleasure of 

some one 
Become the public plague of many 


Lucrece, 1478. 

Had doting Priam check'd his son's 

Troy had been bright with fame and 

not with fire. 

Lucrece, 1490. 

Short time seems long in sorrow's 

sharp sustaining. 
Though woe be heavy, yet it seldom 

And they that watch see time how slow 

it creeps. 

Lucrece, 1573. 

It easeth some, though none it ever 

To think their dolour others have 


Lucrece, 1581. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

No flood by raining slaketh. 

Lucrece, 1677. 

If children pre-decease progenitors, 
We are their offspring, and they none 

of ours. 

Lucrece, 1756. 

The old bees die, the young possess 

their hive. 

Lucrece, 1769. 

Nature's bequest gives nothing but 

doth lend, 
And being frank she lends to those 

are free. 

Sonnet 4. 

But flowers distill'd, though they with 

winter meet, 
Leese but their show; their substance 

still lives sweet. 

Sonnet 5. 

That use is not forbidden usury 
Which happies those that pay the will- 

in loan - Sonnet 6. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Sweets with sweets war not, joy de 
lights in joy. 

Sonnet 8. 

Look, what an unthrift in the world 

doth spend 
Shifts but his place, for still the world 

enjoys it; 
But beauty's waste hath in the world 

an end, 
And, kept unus'd, the user so destroys 


Sonnet 9. 

Rough winds do shake the darling 

buds of May, 
And summer's lease hath all too short 

a date; 
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven 

And often is his gold complexion 

dimm'd ; 


Sbafceepeare proverbs 

And every fair from fair sometime 

By chance or nature's changing course 


Sonnet 18. 

O, learn to read what silent love hath 

To hear with eyes belongs to love's 

fine wit. 

Sonnet 23. 

The painful warrior famoused for 


After a thousand victories once foil'd, 
Is from the book of honour razed quite, 
And all the rest forgot for which he 


Sonnet 25. 

The offender's sorrow lends but weak 

To him that bears the strong offence's 


Sonnet 34. 

Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon 
and sun, 

And loathsome canker lives in sweet 
est bud. 

Sonnet 35. 

And yet, love knows, it is a greater 

To bear love's wrong than hate's 

known injury. 

Sonnet 40. 

And when a woman wooes, what wo 
man's son 
Will sourly leave her till she have 


Sonnet 41. 

For nimble thought can jump both sea 

and land 
As soon as think the place where he 

would be. 

Sonnet 44. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

O, how much more doth beauty beaute 
ous seem 

By that sweet ornament which truth 
doth give! 

The rose looks fair, but fairer we it 

For that sweet odour which doth in 

it live. 

Sonnet 54. 

Like as the waves make towards the 

pebbled shore, 

So do our minutes hasten to their end; 
Each changing place with that which 

goes before, 
In sequent toil all forwards do 


Sonnet 60. 

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor 

boundless sea, 
But sad mortality o'ersways their 



Sbafcespeare proverbs 

How with this rage shall beauty hold 

a plea, 
Whose action is no stronger than a 


Sonnet 65. 

That thou art blam'd shall not be thy 

For slander's mark was ever yet the 


The ornament of beauty is suspect, 
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest 

So thou be good, slander doth but 

Thy worth the greater, being woo'd of 


Sonnet 70. 

The summer's flower is to the summer 

Though to itself it only live and die, 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

But if that flower with base infection 


The basest weed outbraves his dignity; 
For sweetest things turn sourest by 

their deeds, 
Lilies that fester smell far worse than 


Sonnet 94. 

How many lambs might the stern wolf 

If like a lamb he could his looks 

translate ! 

Sonnet 96. 

That love is merchandised whose rich 

The owner's tongue doth publish every 


Sonnet 102. 

And sweets grown common lose their 

dear delight. 

Sonnet 102. 

Sbaftegpeare proverbs 

Let me not to the marriage of true 


Admit impediments. Love is not love 
Which alters when it alteration finds, 
Or bends with the remover to remove. 
O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark 
That looks on tempests and is never 


Sonnet 116. 

Love's not Time's fool, though rosy 

lips and cheeks 
Within his bending sickle's compass 

Love alters not with his brief hours 

and weeks, 
But bears it out even to the edge of 


Sonnet 116. 

And ruin'd love, when it is built anew, 

Grows fairer than at first, more strong, 

far greater. 

Sonnet 119. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

But, ah, who ever shunn'd by 


The destin'd ill she must herself essay? 
Lover's Complaint, 155. 

O most potential love! vow, bond, nor 

In thee hath neither sting, knot, nor 

For thou art all, and all things else 

are thine. 

Lover's Complaint, 264. 

Love's arms are proof 'gainst rule, 
'gainst sense, 'gainst shame. 

And sweetens, in the suffering pangs 
it bears, 

The aloes of all forces, shocks, and 


Lover's Complaint, 271. 

O father, what a hell of witchcraft lies 
In the small orb of one particular 



Sbafcespeare jproverbs 

But with the inundation of the eyes 
What rocky heart to water will not 


Lover's Complaint, 288. 

So that in venturing ill we leave to be 
The things we are for that which we 


Lucrece, 148. 

But will is deaf and hears no heedful 


Lucrece, 495. 

For marks descried in men's nativity 
Are nature's faults, not their own 


Lucrece, 538. 

And moody Pluto winks while Orpheus 


Lucrece, 553. 

Mud not the fountain that gave drink 

to thee; 
Mar not the thing that cannot be 


Lucrece 577. 


Sbafcespeare proverbs 

Men's faults do seldom to themselves 

appear ; 
Their own transgressions partially 

they smother. 

Lucrece, 633. 

Small lights are soon blown out, huge 

fires abide, 
And with the wind in greater fury 


Lucrece, 647. 

The mightier man, the mightier is the 

That makes him honour'd or begets 

him hate. 

Lucrece, 1004. 





INTRODUCTORY. These notes are neither 
in quantity nor in quality such as I would 
write for a school edition of a Shake 
speare play. I assume that the average 
reader has a general acquaintance with 
the plays at least those that are read in 
school or seen upon the stage and that 
he has a dictionary in which obsolete or 
archaic words can be looked up if neces 
sary. The only notes on words are such 
as he would not think of looking up be 
cause they are still in everyday use (like 
cite, conceit, fancy, opinion, etc.) ; but in 
Shakespeare's day they were sometimes 
used in a sense now obsolete which the 
reader might not suspect, but a knowledge 
of which is essential to a correct under 
standing of the passage. Other notes call 
attention to something which the uncriti 
cal reader may not know, but which I 
think will interest him, as I am sure it 


280 notes 

did me when I first learned of it. Others 
may remind him of what I have said in 
my preface, which if he has read it (some 
people do read a preface) he may have 
forgotten namely, that, in order to under 
stand a passage separated from the con 
text, it is sometimes necessary " to know 
who says it, or to whom, or when or how 
he says it." Certain notes, referring to 
passages of similar or contrasted meaning 
elsewhere in the book, may be welcome to 
readers interested in the " comparative " 
study of the " proverbs." The raison d' etre 
of other notes calls for no explanation. 
Of course no reader will need or care for 
all of the notes, but what one does not need 
or care for may be of service or interest to 
somebody else. Teachers often make the 
mistake of requiring the student to read 
or study all the notes in annotated editions 
of literature, but here the reader may 
" skip " at his own sweet will. 

Every reader, I think, will thank me for 
adding the references in the text of the 
book to the play or poem from which the 
" proverbs " are drawn, if only for aid 
in looking up the context when he is in 
clined to do it. It is often difficult for 
those who are quite familiar with Shake- 



speare to " locate " a stray quotation, even 
if it is a comparatively common one. To 
do this in a social circle of cultivated peo 
ple may be as perplexing or amusing an 
exercise as finding the answer to a charade 
or enigma. I frequently receive letters 
from teachers or others who have not ac 
cess to a Concordance (not so common a 
reference book in schools and the smaller 
public libraries as it ought to be), asking 
where in Shakespeare a particular passage 
occurs. I remember getting such a letter 
once when I was teaching in a summer 
school, where I had a Shakespeare class of 
fifty or more students, mostly teachers in 
high schools or academies. The passage was 
almost the only one which I am somewhat 
surprised to see that Mrs. Cowden-Clarke 
omits, and which I should have inserted if 
I had not scrupulously avoided any addition 
to her selection from the plays: 

" To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, 
To throw a perfume on the violet, 
To smooth the ice, or add another hue 
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light 
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to 

Is wasteful and ridiculous excess." 

282 Wotes 

No member of the class could tell or 
guess where it is. On questioning them I 
found that they would look for it in some 
romantic or sentimental connection. Not 
one of them suspected its being in one of 
the historical plays, and in one of the very 
last scenes in the play where they would 
expect to find it. Judge for yourselves if 
you do not know where it is, and care 
to search for it without consulting a 

ING. The passages will show that the poet 
uses these five words with little or no 
attempt at discrimination. 

I. Adage occurs in 3 Henry VI. i. 4. 
5 126:i 

" Unless the adage must be verified, 
That beggars mounted ride their horse to 

Horse is here plural, as elsewhere in 
hakespeare; used also for the possessive 

1 For the convenience of the reader who 
may wish to look up the references in the 
Notes, the line-number (" Globe " edition) 
is appended to the act and scene. 



case, as in 2 Henry VI. iv. 3. 14: "at my 
horse heels." 

2. Macbeth, i. 7. 45: 

' Letting ' I dare not ' wait upon ' I would,' 
Like the poor cat i' the adage." 

The adage hinted at is given by Hey- 
wood, Proverbs (1566), thus: "The cat 
would eate fishe, and would not wet her 
feete." It is also found in Low Latin and 
in French. The fact that it is not given 
by Shakespeare proves that it was familiar 
at the time. 

II. Maxim occurs only in Troilus and 
Cressida, i. 2. 318: 

" Therefore this maxim out of love I teach, 
Achievement is command; ungain'd, be 

It is explained, if it need be, by the context. 

( jk III. Proverb occurs in Two Gentlemen 
/of Verona, iii. 1. 305: 

V " Launce. And thereof comes the prov 
erb, ' Blessing of your heart, you brew good 

^ 2. Merry Wives, iii. 1. 107: " Host [of 
Sir Hugh]. He gives me the proverbs and 
the no-verbs." 



3. Id. iii. 5. 154: "If I have horns to 
make me mad, let the proverb go with 
me : I '11 be horn-mad." Literally, mad 
like a vicious bull; but mostly used in al 
lusion to cuckoldom. See i. 4. 51 of the 
same play, etc. 

4. Comedy of Errors, iii. 1. 51 : " Have 
at you with a proverb: Shall I set in my 
staff? " The question was proverbial, but 
it has not been satisfactorily explained. 
Probably it conveys a gross allusion. Here 
it is addressed to the servant Luce, who 
replies: " Have at you with another; that's 
When? can you tell?" This was "a 
phrase expressing scorn at the demand or 
menace of another" (Schmidt). It occurs 
again in 1 Henry IV. ii. 1. 43, where Gads- 
hill asks the carrier to lend him a lantern, 
and the latter, who suspects Gadshill to be 
a thief, replies: "Ah, when? canst tell?" 

5. Much Ado, v. 1. 17: "Patch grief 
with proverbs." 

6. Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 2. 

" And the country proverb known, 
That every man should take his own." 

7. Merchant of Venice, ii. 2. 158: 
" Launcelot. The old proverb is very well 



parted between my master Shylock and 
you, sir; you have the grace of God, and 
he hath enough." The allusion is to the 
Scotch proverb, " The grace of God is gear 

8. Id. ii. 5. 55: "Fast bind, fast find." 
See p. 42 above. 

9. Winter's Tale, ii. 3. 96: 

"It is yours; 
And, might we lay the old proverb to your 

So like you, 't is the worse." 

10. King John, ii. 1. 137: 

"You are the hare of whom the proverb 


Whose valour plucks dead lions by the 

Erasmus gives the proverb in his Adagia 
(see p. 55 above) thus: " Mortuo leoni et 
lepores insultant " (even hares insult a 
dead lion) ; and in The Spanish Tragedy 
(1588?) we find: " So hares may pull dead 
lions by the beard." 

11. 1 Henry IV. i. 2. 132: "He [Fal- 
staff] was never yet a breaker of proverbs; 
he will give the devil his due." See also 
Henry V. iii. 7. 127 below. 


12. Henry V. iii. 7. 72. " Constable [to 
Dauphin']. Yet do I not use my horse for 
my mistress, or any such proverb so little 
kin to the business." 

13. Id. iii. 7. 124: 

" Orleans. Ill will never said well ! 

Constable. I will cap that proverb with 

* There is flattery in friendship/ 

Orleans. And I will take up that with 

* Give the devil his due/ 

Constable. Well placed. . . . Have at 
the eye of that proverb, with * A pox of the 

Orleans. You are the better at proverbs! * 
by how much ' A fool's bolt is soon shot/ " 
We have here an allusion to the game of 
" capping proverbs," which was like that 
of " capping verses." For " fool's bolt " 
(a blunt-headed arrow) compare As You 
Like It, v. 4. 67. 

14. 2 Henry VI. iii. 1. 170: 

"The ancient proverb will be well effected, 
' A staff is quickly found to beat a dog/ " 

15. Coriolanus, i. 1. 209. See the pas 
sage, p. 44 above. f < 

16. Hamlet, iii. 2. 359: "Ay, sir, but 
' while the grass grows ' the proverb is 
something musty." The complete proverb 


occurs in Whetstone's Promos and Cas 
sandra, 1578: "Whyle grass doth growe, 
oft sterves the seely steede; " and the 
Paradise of Daintie Devises, 1578: "While 
grass doth growe, the silly horse he 

17. Romeo and Juliet, i. 4. 37: 

" For I am proverb'd with a grandsire 

phrase : 
I '11 be a candle-holder and look on." 

That is, one who holds a candle as an as 
sistant, but does not join in the game or 

IV. Saw. 1. Lucrece, 244: "An old 
man's saw." 

2. Love's Labour's Lost, v. 2. 932: 

"And coughing drowns the parson's saw." 

3. As You Like It, ii. 7. 156: "Full of 
wise saws and modern instances." 

4. Id. iii. 5. 32. See p. 39 above. 

5. Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 413 : " A couple 
or two of most wise saws." 

6. 2 Henry VI. i. 3. 61 : " Holy saws of 
sacred writ." 

7. Hamlet, i. 5. 100: "All saws of 
books, all forms, all pressures past." 

8. Lear, ii. 2. 167: 


" Good king, that must approve the com 
mon saw, 

Thou out of heaven's benediction comest 
To the warm sun! " 

The common form of the proverb was 
" Out of God's blessing into the warm 
sun ! " that is, " Out of house and home ! " 
There may be an allusion to this in Ham 
let's " I am too much i' the sun " (i. 2. 67) ; 
that is, deprived of my right to the throne. 
V. Saying. 1. Two Gentlemen of Ve 
rona, v. 2. 11: 

" But pearls are fair; and the old saying 


Black men are pearls in beauteous ladies' 

Black here, as often in Shakespeare and 
his contemporaries, means of dark com 
plexion; but in a book of Shakespeare 
quotations arranged under subjects (edited 
by a clergyman, thirty or more years ago), 
this passage is put under " Negroes." 

2. Measure for Measure, ii. 2. 133: 
" Why do you put these sayings upon me? " 

3. Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 1. 121: 
" Shall I come upon thee with an old 
saying? " 

ftotes 289 

4. Merchant of Venice, ii. 9. 82 : " Let 's 
see once more this saying grav'd in gold " 
(the inscription on the golden casket). 

5. Id. iii. 7. 36: 

" The ancient saying is no heresy, 
* Hanging and wiving goes by destiny.' " 

6. As You Like It, iii. 2. 136: "Civil 

7. Id. v. 1. 34: "I do now remember a 
saying : ' The fool doth think he is wise, 
but the wise man knows himself to be a 
fool.' " 

8. Henry V. i. 2. 166: 

" But there 's a saying very old and true : 
' If that you will France win, 
Then with Scotland first begin/" 

9. Id. iv. 4. 73: "But the saying is 
true, ' The empty vessel makes the great 
est sound.' " 

Compare p. 122 : " Hollow men," etc., and 
p. 153 : " Nor are those empty-hearted," 

10. Richard III. ii. 4. 16 : " Good faith, 
good faith, the saying did not hold " re 
ferring to the proverb quoted in the speech 
that precedes : " Small herbs have grace, 
great weeds do grow apace." Mrs. Cowden- 


2go Iftotes 

Clarke does not quote this proverb, but 
she gives (p. 172) York's paraphrase of it 
in the same speech. 

11. Troilus and Cressida, iv. 4. 15: 

" ' heart ! ' as the goodly saying is 

1 heart, heavy heart, 
Why sigh'st thou without breaking? ' ' 

Passages from popular songs often became 

It will be seen that many of these 
quotations are not given by Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke, some of the " proverbs " or " say 
ings " being merely alluded to by the 
poet, or given only in part, or not easily 
detached from the context, or otherwise 

Page 80. A fresh tapster. This was re 
garded as one of the most menial of 
employments, and is often the subject of con 
temptuous or sarcastic comment. Compare 
As You Like It, iii. 4. 34: "The oath of a 
lover is no stronger than the word of a 
tapster," etc. 

Page 81. After execution, etc. That is, 
a judge sometimes regrets a sentence after 
it is too late. 

Page 81. Surfeit. Compare pp. 87, 108, 
and 217. 


Page 84. Aged honour cites, etc. That 
is, betokens or indicates. 

Page 84. A young man married, etc. 
There is a pun in married and marr'd. 

Page 85. In fancy's course. Here fancy, 
as often, means love. 

Page 85. But not take in the mind. As 
often, take in is here synonymous with 
subdue. Compare Coriolanus, i. 2. 24 : " To 
take in many towns," etc. 

Page 86. "At hand," quoth pick-purse. 
A pickpocket is always prompt to see his 
opportunity. As Autolycus says (Winter's 
Tale, iv. 4. 700) : " Every lane's end, every 
shop, church, session, hanging, yields a 
careful man work." 

Page 88. Broker. Often used in a bad 
sense in Shakespeare's day; especially for 
a procurer or go-between. Compare Ham 
let, i. 3. 127 : " Do not believe his vows ; 
for they are brokers, . . . implorators of 
unholy suits," etc. See also p. 178. 

Page 89. A beggar's book. Bucking 
ham's sneer at Wolsey. 

Page 91. A lower place, etc. Compare 
p. 97 : " Better leave undone," etc. ; and p. 
237: "Who does i' the wars," etc. 

Page 92. All solemn things, etc. Ex 
plained by the context. 


Page 93. Assume a virtue, etc. This 
passage has sometimes been criticised as 
suggesting hypocrisy; and it might be so 
understood if not interpreted by the con 
text, to which the reader should refer if 
he is not familiar with it. 

Page 94. Calumny. Compare pp. 98, 
99, 146, 170, 174, etc. 

Page 99. Covering discretion, etc. Re 
ferring to Henry's wild ways before he 
came to the throne. 

Page 102. Court holy-water. A proverbial 
expression for flattery; like the French 
" eau benite de la cour." 

Page 102. Conceit. The usual meanings 
in Shakespeare are conception, idea, imagi 
nation not the modern " self-conceit." 

Page 103. The pregnant enemy. The 
word pregnant in Elizabethan English 
often means, as here, " clever, ingenious, 
or artful;" as also "disposed, prompt, 
ready," and " clear, evident, or highly 
probable." Shakespeare uses it often in 
all these senses, but never with the usual 
modern meaning; and the same is true 
of pregnancy (cleverness) and pregnantly 
(clearly, evidently), each of which he has 
only once. 

Page 104. Degree. Rank, nobility; as 

IRotes 293 

repeatedly in the speech from which this 
passage is taken. Compare Macbeth, iii. 4. 
1 : " You know your own degrees ; sit 
down;" Othello, ii. 3. 97: "Thou art but 
of low degree," etc. See also p. 232. 

Page 105. Distribution. A good motto 
for the socialist! Shakespeare uses the 
word distribution only here and in Coriola- 
nus, i. 9. 35. 

Page 106. The swift course of time. 
For other references to time, see pp. 114, 
115, 128, 133, 139, 190, etc. 

Page 106. Every lane's end, etc. See 
on p. 86 above. 

Page 107. Every one can master a grief, 
etc. Compare pp. 142, 181, and 182. 

Page 108. Every true man's apparel, 
etc. True man was the familiar antithesis 
to thief. Compare p. 211 below, and many 
passages / y^ the plays. 

Page 409: Easy it is, etc. Because it 
is not so easily detected as if cut from a 
whole loaf. The proverb was often ap 
plied to cases like that in the play. Shive 
(slice) is used by Shakespeare (if he wrote 
this part of the play) only here. 

Page 110. Are angels vailing clouds. 
This obsolete verb vail has been often con 
founded sometimes by editors and critics 

294 IRotes 

of Shakespeare with veil. It means to 
lower or let fall (French avaler) , and is 
used by the dramatist oftener than veil. 
The noun vail he has only in Troilus, v. 8. 
7: "The vail [setting] and darking of the 
sun." The present passage is obscure, and 
has been much disputed. The most prob 
able explanation is that it means " letting 
fall the clouds that have hidden or obscured 
the view of the angels." 

Page 111. Faults that are rich are fair. 
Compare pp. 165 and 215. 

Page 112. Famine, etc. " Hunger breaks 
stone walls," as another proverb (see p. 44) 
puts it (Coriolanus, i. 1. 210). 

Page 113. Our means secure us. The 
Proverbs of 1847 has " mean secures," fol 
lowing Pope's reading. The sense would 
then be, " Our moderate condition is our 
security," or as Wright, who adopts that 
reading, explains it : " Things we think 
meanly of our mean or moderate condi 
tion are our security." But the early 
editions have " means," as mine and most 
others do. The meaning would then be: 
" The advantages we enjoy make us care 
less " (Schmidt), or, as Knight puts it, 
" The means, such as we possess, are our 
securities." The Cowden-Clarkes, in their 



last edition, adopt " means," paraphrasing 
thus : " Our means render us over-confident 
or rashly trusting." Secure in this sense 
of " make careless and confident " is found 
elsewhere in Shakespeare; as in Timon of 
Athens, ii. 2. 185: "Secure thy heart;" 
and in Othello, i. 3. 10 : "I do not so secure 
me in the error," etc. 

Page 114. Great men may jest, etc. 
Compare p. 179 : " That in the cap 
tain 's but a choleric word," etc. Both 
these are in two successive speeches of 

Page 117. Hope is a curtal dog. That 
is, one with a docked tail, such a dog being 
thought unfit for the chase. Compare 
Comedy of Errors, iii. 2. 151: "She had 
transformed me to a curtal dog, and made 
me turn i' the wheel " (reduced me to the 
menial condition of a turnspit). 

Page 117. To fear no colours. A 
proverbial expression, meaning " to fear 
no enemy," the allusion being to military 
colours or standards. Compare Falstaff's 
jocose use of the expression in 2 Henry IV. 
v. 5. 94: "Fear no colours; go with me to 

Page 117. Home-keeping youths have 
ever homely wits. There is a play on 

296 IROtCd 

home and homely (not refined, unculti 
vated) ; as in Milton, Comus, 748 : 

" It is for homely features to keep home; 
They had their name thence." 

" Travel was the passion of Shakespeare's 
day the excitement of those who did not 
specially devote themselves to war, dis 
covery, or learning. ... A spirit of in 
quiry was spread among the higher classes 
which made it an ' impeachment ' to their 
age not to have looked upon foreign coun 
tries in their season of youth and activity " 
(C. Knight). In the same play (i. 3. 15) 
Panthino says to Antonio, in commending 
travel for Proteus (Antonio's son) : 

" [It] would be great impeachment to his 

In having known no travel in his youth." 

Page 117. Hold or cut bowstrings. 
Come what may; an allusion to archery. 

Page 118. To learn, etc. Learn for 
teach was formerly good English. 

Page 119. He that a fool doth very 
wisely hit, etc. The passage in the folio 
is evidently corrupt, the third line reading 
thus : " Seeme senseless of the bob." Some 

"Notes 297 

modern editors read " Not to seem ; " others, 
" But to seem." The meaning in both is 
essentially the same, but the latter is per 
haps more Shakespearian. The sense then 
is: He whom a fool happens to hit well is 
very foolish unless he appears not to feel 
the rap. 

Page 120. Happy man be his dole! 
May happiness be his lot ! found five times 
in Shakespeare. Dole in the sense of 
" dealing, share, portion " he uses else 
where ; as also in the sense of " dolour, 

Page 129. / have faced it with a card 
of ten. That is, with " as sure a card as 
ever won the game" (Titus Andronicus, v. 
1. 100). Shakespeare has many other al 
lusions to card-playing. The word deck 
(for a pack of cards) occurs in 3 Henry 
VI. v. 1. 44: 

" But whiles he thought to steal the single 


The king was slily finger'd from the 

Page 134. Doth make, etc. The origi 
nal text (1623) has "doth mock," and 
there is no good reason for changing it, as 


some editors do. As Dr. Furness says: 
" The meat that jealousy feeds on is the 
victim of jealousy, the jealous man, who is 
mocked with trifles light as air." 

Page 135. Lovers break not hours, etc. 
Compare p. 137: "Lovers ever run before 
the clock." 

Page 136. Let still the woman take, 
etc. Foolishly supposed by some to have 
been suggested by Shakespeare's own mar 

Page 137. Foul redemption. Illegal or 
disgraceful release or acquittal. 

Page 138. Let the world slide. Com 
pare Taming of the Shew, ind. 2. 146 : " Let 
the world slip ; " and 1 Henry IV. iv. 1. 96 : 
" That dafF d the world aside, and bid it 

Page 145. Men's evil manners, etc. 
Compare p. 208. See also introduction, 
p. 46. 

Page 147. The desire that's glorious. 
That is, " ambitious," as Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke explains it in one of her few foot 
notes. Another is on p. 149 (" Men are 
not gods," etc.), where "men," as she says, 
" implies husbands." 

Page 149. Murder, though it have no 
tongue, etc. " Murder will out." The 


passage is a striking illustration of Mrs. 
Cowden-Clarke's remark in her preface, 
that Shakespeare sometimes " paraphrases 
some of our commonest proverbs in his own 
choice and elegant diction." Compare p. 
95: "Blood will have blood," etc., and p. 
113: "Foul deeds will rise," etc. 

Page 150. Nightingales answer daws. 
Malvolio's contemptuous reply to the mis 
chievous Maria when she is teasing him: 
"At your request! yes; nightingales an 
swer daws! " The daw was reckoned a 
foolish bird. Compare 1 Henry VI. ii. 4. 
18 : " No wiser than a daw." In Corio- 
lanus (iv. 5. 47) when the servant of Au- 
fidius says to the disguised exile, " What 
an ass it is! then thou dwellest with daws 
too ! " the Roman replies, " No, I serve not 
thy master." 

Page 150. Nature never lends, etc. 
This passage, and that on p. 127 (" If our 
virtues," etc.) and that on p. 167 (" Spirits 
are not finely touch M," etc.) are all from 
the same speech one of the most admi 
rable and most eloquent of those in which 
Shakespeare one of the most " demo 
cratic " of poets, though Hazlitt, Walt 
Whitman, and others cannot see it sets 
forth the primal duty of living for others. 


Page 151. No ceremony that to great 
ones longs. That is, belongs; but longs is 
no contraction of belongs, as Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke and other editors and commen 
tators often print it. So hest, fore, scape, 
and sundry other words are often mis 
printed, though used by Shakespeare and 
his contemporaries in prose as well as in 
verse. Scape is used in prose on p. 221. 

Page 152. Nothing emboldens sin so 
much as mercy. Sometimes true, of 
course, but not inconsistent with Portia's 
noble plea for mercy and the fine passage 
from Measure for Measure on p. 150 (" No 
ceremony," etc.) and others included in the 
present collection. 

Page 153. Nor are those empty-hearted, 
etc. Those are not necessarily heartless 
who (like Cordelia, to whom this refers) 
are not loud and voluble in expressing their 
affection which may be mere " hollow- 
ness," like that of her sisters. 

Page 154. One fire burns out t etc. A 
proverbial saying which the poet uses else 
where. Compare Romeo and Juliet, i. 2. 
46 : " Tut, man, one fire burns out an 
other's burning;" Julius Csssar, iii. 1. 171: 
" As fire drives out fire, so pity pity;" 
and Two Gentlemen of Verona, ii. 4. 193: 



" Even as one heat another heat expels, 
Or as one nail by strength drives out 

See also p. 160. 

Page 159. One touch of nature makes 
the whole world kin. One natural trait is 
characteristic of all men; and, as the con 
text shows (see p. 90), the trait referred to 
is " that they slight familiar merit and pre 
fer trivial novelty." Grant White adds to 
this paraphrase a page or so in ridicule of 
the " sentimental twaddle " of the common 
perversion of the line into an exposition of 
" brotherhood among all mankind," while 
it is " one of the most cynical utterances of 
an indisputable moral truth, disparaging to 
the nature of all mankind, that ever came 
from Shakespeare's pen." That is clearly 
what Ulysses, into whose mouth Shake 
speare puts it, means and enlarges upon in 
the rest of the passage ; but quotations from 
the plays are often thus used to express a 
meaning, or shade of meaning, which is 
different from his, but it does not always 
imply a misunderstanding of the passage, 
and is not necessarily objectionable. 

Page 160. Rights by rights falter. The 
original text has " fouler," which Mrs. 


Cowden-Clarke retained, as Knight and a 
very few editors have done, explaining it 
as meaning lesser or inferior. It is gen 
erally agreed, however, that there is some 
corruption, and the " Cambridge " edition 
records no less than fourteen attempts at 
emendation, of which falter (suggested by 
Dyce) seems to me the best. If Shake 
speare wrote " faulter " (as the word was 
often spelt) it might easily be misprinted 
" fouler." Rights by rights is the full 
counterpart to strengths by strengths, and 
a verb is required to balance fail; and a 
verb is substituted in nearly all the emen 
dations. Besides, when Shakespeare uses 
foul to express character or quality, it is 
always in the sense of wicked, disgraceful, 
corrupt, etc. He has " foul wrong " but 
never " foul right." To explain " fouler " 
as lesser, inferior, or weaker is a " trick of 
desperation " to defend a reading merely 
because it is the earliest one. 

Page 161. One sorrow never comes, etc. 
" Misfortunes never come single." Com 
pare Hamlet, iv. 5. 79: 

"When sorrows come they come not single 

But in battalions; " 

Hotes 303 

Id. iv. 7. 164 : " One woe doth tread upon 
another's heel," etc. 

Page 164. Proper deformity, etc. Proper 
here, as often, means native or natural. 

Page 165. Plate sin with gold, etc. Com 
pare p. 215 : " Through tatter'd clothes," 

Page 165. But riches fineless. Infinite 
riches. Shakespeare has fineless only here. 

Page 167. Steal by line and level. If 
this was not a proverbial phrase, it was 
certainly an old and familiar metaphor, 
though I am not aware that any editor or 
critic has called attention to it. The New 
English Dictionary quotes Timme, Calvin 
on Genesis, 1578: "The deeds of men are 
to be examined by God's level and line," 
etc. In the present passage it is sug 
gested to Stephano by the line from which 
they are stealing clothes. Level in this 
sense occurs nowhere else in Shakespeare. 

Page 167. Some kinds of baseness. 
That is, of menial labour. Baseness is re 
peated in this sense a few lines below in 
the same speech; also in Hamlet, v. 2. 34, 
where " to write fair " (like a common 
scrivener or copyist) is called a " baseness." 

Page 168. Superfluity comes sooner by 
white hairs. The rich are more likely to 


" live fast " and to become prematurely 

Page 169. Some sins, etc. The Bas 
tard's extenuation of his mother's guilt. 

Page 172. Short summers lightly have 
a forward spring. As Mrs. Cowden-Clarke 
notes, lightly here means " commonly, us 
ually." It is the only instance of that 
sense in Shakespeare; but we find it as 
early as Wiclif (1380) and other old 
writers. Ray (1670) among his Proverbs 
has the punning one, " There 's lightning 
lightly before thunder." 

Page 172. Sweet love, etc. Compare 
" The course of true love never did run 
smooth" (p. 182). 

Page 173. Being so allowed. That is, 
acknowledged; as often in Shakespeare. 

Page 174. Travellers ne'er did lie, etc. 
Separated from the context this seems to 
mean that travellers' tales are not so in 
credible as they are often supposed to be; 
but the speaker is referring to something 
that has just occurred which, to those who 
had not seen it, would seem far more 
marvellous than anything ever reported 
by travellers. For " travellers' lies," com 
pare p. 84. 

Page 175. Tender youth is soon sug- 

IRotes 305 

gested. That is, tempted (to sin) ; the 
most frequent sense of the word in Shake 
speare. Compare Richard II. iii. 4. 75: 

" What Eve, what serpent, hath suggested 

To make a second fall of cursed man? " 

Page 177. To die, etc. Explained by 
the context. 

Page 178. To be slow in words, etc. 
Here also (as in the note on p. 174), the 
context explains what is said. Speed has 
put it down in his catalogue of a woman's 
" vices ; " and Launce exclaims : " O villain, 
that set this down among her vices ! To 
be slow in words," etc. 

Page 178. There is no love-broker, etc. 
See note on p. 88 above. 

Page 179. To play at cherry-pit. A 
game in which cherry-stones were pitched 
into a small hole. Compare the proverb 
about the need of a long spoon in feeding 
with the devil; to which we have an al 
lusion in The Tempest (ii. 2. 102), where 
Stephano, when on the point of giving 
Caliban a drink from his bottle, says: 
" Mercy, mercy ! This is a devil, and no 
monster! I will leave him; I have no 

306 Hotes 

long spoon." In not a few other instances, 
Shakespeare alludes to a familiar proverb 
without quoting it in full. See, for in 
stance, on the reference to " the poor cat 
i' the adage," p. 283; and Hamlet's "while 
the grass grows " p. 286. Compare also p. 
290 above. 

Page 180. Thoughts are no subjects. 
"No real existing things" (Schmidt). 

Page 181. To be a well-favoured man, etc. 
One of Dogberry's sage sayings, as 
few readers will need to be reminded. 
A friend jocosely suggests that Dogberry 
is half right, since good elocution and 
good writing (in the literary sense) are 
often natural gifts rather than acquired 
by education. 

Page 183. And r aught not. Raught is 
the old past tense of reach. 

Page 186. The word of a tapster. See 
on p. 80 above. Tapsters had the reputa 
tion of cheating their customers. 

Page 190. Though gold bides still, etc. 
The passage is evidently corrupt as printed 
in the folio of 1623, and has been variously 
emended. The allusion is to the touch 
stone as used to test gold, and occurs in 
Shakespeare at least ten times. Compare 
Richard III. iv. 2. 8: 

floteg 307 

" Ah, Buckingham, now do I play the 

To try if thou be current gold indeed ! " 

Page 191. To be a little vain. That 
is, " false," or deceitful, as Mrs. Cowden- 
Clarke notes. 

Page 191. To alter favour ever is to 
fear. " To change countenance and de 
portment " (Mrs. Cowden-Clarke) . For 
this sense of favour compare Proverbs, 
xxxi. 30. 

Page 193. The better act, etc. A pas 
sage that can hardly be understood with 
out reference to the context. 

Page 196. The devil rides upon a fid 
dlestick! A proverbial expression, which 
Schmidt thinks may mean " Here we have 
a pretty sight! this is wondrous sport! " 
The Cowden-Clarkes (in their edition of 
Shakespeare) say that it " had its origin 
in the Puritans' denouncement of music 
and dancing." 

Page 196. The latter end of a fray, etc. 
An example of a construction a form of 
" chiasm," so called found occasionally 
in other writers of the time, but particu 
larly in Shakespeare, who uses it more 
than forty times. Compare Macbeth, i. 3. 60 : 

" Speak then to me, who neither beg nor 

Your favours nor your hate"; 

and Id. ii. 3. 48: 

" Tongue nor heart 
Cannot conceive nor name thee ! " 

In Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 1. 113, 
114, five verbs are followed by five nouns; 
and in Antony and Cleopatra, iii. 2. 15-18, 
we have six nouns and six verbs. Often 
the order of nouns and verbs is irregular: 
as in Lucrece, 615, 616: 

" For princes are the glass, the school, the 


Where subjects' eyes do learn, do read, 
do look." 

Page 196. Two stars . . . in one 
sphere. An allusion to the Ptolemaic as 
tronomy, according to which each planet 
was fixed in a hollow crystalline sphere by 
the motion of which it was carried in its 
course. Compare Hamlet, iv. 7. 15 : " As 
the star moves not but in his sphere," etc. 

Page 198. There are few die well, etc. 
Because they are unprepared for death. 

Page ' 200. Things ill . . . bad suc 
cess. Shakespeare often uses success in 

"Wotee 309 

its original sense of issue or result (that 
which succeeds, or follows), whether good 
or bad. Thus we find "good success," 
" vile success," " dangerous success," etc. 

Page 203. The elephant hath joints, etc. 
It was an old notion that the animal had 
no joints in his legs. Compare All Fools, 
1603 : " I hope you are no elephant, you 
have joints," etc. Sir Thomas Browne dis 
cusses the matter soberly in his Vulgar 

Page 204. The gods . . . peevish vows. 
The usual, if not the only meaning of 
peevish in Shakespeare is " silly, child 
ish, thoughtless." Compare Richard III. 
iv. 4. 417: "And be not peevish found in 
great designs," etc. 

Page 208. 'T is fond to wail, etc. It is 
foolish, etc. the usual meaning of fond 
in Shakespeare. Even in the sense of 
" loving, tender " it often involves the idea 
of foolishly doting on the person or object. 

Page 208. The abuse, etc. Here, as in 
the great majority of instances in Shake 
speare, remorse is pity or mercy as still 
in remorseless. 

Page 208. The evil that men do, etc. 
See p. 46 above; and compare p. 145: 
" Men's evil manners," etc. 


Page 211. 'T is gold, etc. For thief 
and true man see on p. 108 above. 

Page 212. Triumphs for nothing, etc. 
See on " The latter end of a fray," etc., p. 
196 above. 

Page 215. The worst is not, etc. 'Be 
cause, as Edgar says immediately before 
this, " And worse I may be yet." There is 
a more hopeful view in what Ross says in 
Macbeth, iv. 2. 24: 

" Things at the worst will cease, or else 

climb upward 
To what they were before " 

where, as here, " the worst " refers to 
what now seems the worst. 

Page 217. The sweetest honey, etc. 
Compare Sonnet 102. 12 : " And sweets 
grown common lose their dear delight." 
See also on Surfeit, p. 81. 

Page 222. Virtue cannot live, etc. 
" Emulation " here, as generally in Shake 
speare, means envy or jealousy. Com 
pare p. 224 : " Virtue itself scapes not 
calumnious strokes." 

Page 223. > Virtue and cunning, etc. 
" Cunning " here, as Mrs. Cowden-Clarke 
notes, means " knowledge, skill," as very 

Page 225. Words are very rascals, etc. 
There is some quibble on the word bonds 
in this passage, but it has not been clearly 

Page 225. When it doth tax itself. That 
is, reproach or disparage itself. The 
point of the remark is evident from the 
simile that follows (referring to the black 
masks worn by ladies in the theatre) : 

" As these black masks 
Proclaim an enshield [shielded] beauty ten 

times louder 
Than beauty could display'd." 

Page 226. Setting it up to fear the 
birds of prey. That is, to frighten them; 
a common " causative " use of fear. Com 
pare Taming of Shrew, i. 2. 211: "Fear 
boys with bugs " (bugbears) , etc. 

Page 226. What king so strong, etc. 
Compare the passages on slander, pp. 98, 
99, 170, 174, 271, etc. 

Page 227. The fairest grant is the ne 
cessity. The necessity of the demand is 
the best reason for granting it. 

Page 228. Wit, whither wilt? A very 
common proverbial expression, the point 
of which has never been clearly explained. 
" It was much in use when any one was 


either talking nonsense or usurping a 
greater share in conversation than justly 
belonged to him" (Steevens). In Hey- 
wood's Royal King the Captain, in re 
sponse to the question, says, " Wit will to 
many ere it comes to you " which Fur- 
ness thinks may throw some light on the 
obscurity of the phrase. 

Page 228. Will you take eggs for 
money ? Will you let yourself be duped? 
An egg was a synonym for anything 
worthless. Compare Coriolanus, iv. 4. 21: 
" Not worth an egg." 

Page 232. By sick interpreters once 
weak ones, etc. Here once means " some 
times " (Mrs. Cowden-Clarke) . 

Page 232. When degree, etc. For de 
gree see on p. 104 above. 

Page 236. When good will is shew'd, 
etc. Compare what Theseus says of the 
clown actors in Midsummer Night's Dream, 
v. 1. 90, when Hippolyta expresses her fear 
that the play will be ridiculous: 

" Our sport shall be to take what they 

mistake ; 
And what poor duty cannot do, noble 

Takes it in might, not merit;" 

IRotes 313 

that is, judges it by the ability of the ac 
tors, not by its intrinsic merit. 

Page 237. Who does V the wars, etc. 
Compare p. 91 (" A lower place," etc.) and 
p. 97 ("Better leave undone," etc.). 

Page 237. Women, etc. "It should be 
borne in mind that it is Octavius Caesar 
who says this; and, indeed always, in quot 
ing Shakespeare for the purpose of apply 
ing his axioms, it should be remembered 
to what characters he assigns their utter 
ance " (Mrs. Cowden-Clarke). See also 
pages 45-49 above. 

Page 238. Weariness, etc. Compare the 
King's speech, 2 Henry IV. iii. 1. 3-30. 

Page 238. Seel our eyes, etc. Here 
" seel " is not an old spelling of " seal " 
(often substituted by careless editors) but 
an obsolete word of wholly different de 
rivation. It was a term in falconry for 
closing the eyelids by passing a fine thread 
through them; this was done to hawks 
until they became tractable. Shakespeare 
uses the word four times. It needs explana 
tion because " seal " makes perfect sense, 
and the words are easily confounded by 
persons unfamiliar with archaic English. 

Page 240. When sorrows come, etc. 
See on p. 161. 

Page 242. Your date, etc. That is, it 
is better before you have eaten it than 
afterward. Compare the context. 

Page 245. Not gross to sink, etc. Com 
pare Comedy of Errors, iii. 2. 52 : " Let 
Love, being light, be drowned if she sink." 

Page 245. An oven that is stopp'd, etc. 
Another example of " chiasm." See on p. 
196: "The latter end of a fray," etc. 

Page 249. True men. See on p. 108: 
" Every true man's apparel," etc. 

Page 254. A painted cloth. Alluding 
to the mottoes or maxims often put on the 
hangings of painted canvas used in the 
cheaper class of houses instead of tapestry. 
Compare As You Like It, iii. 2. 291: "I 
answer you right painted cloth, from 
whence you have studied your questions." 

Page 256. A little harm, etc. Compare 
the sophistical plea of Bassanio in The 
Merchant of Venice, iv. 1. 215 : " To do a 
great right, do a little wrong," etc. 

Page 257. For princes, etc. For the 
construction, see p. 308 above. 

Page 260. Time's office is to fine the 
hate of foes. Some critics take fine to 
mean " refine, soften ; " others as mean 
ing "to bring to an end," which seems to 
me preferable. 

Vlote0 315 

Page 261. True grief is fond, etc. 
Here fond means foolish, as on p. 208: 
" 'T is fond to wail," etc. We have an 
other example in " fond beggar," p. 254. 

Page 262. 'T is double death, etc. Here, 
as in other of the longer quotations, we 
have a succession of single-line and two- 
line " proverbs." See preface, p. vii. In 
the last line confusion means ruin or 
destruction, the most frequent sense in 

Page 265. Moo. More; used by Shake 
speare more than thirty times, but only 
with plural or collective nouns; often 
changed to more in modern editions. In 
the present passage, as in certain others, 
the rhyme requires it. 

Page 266. Nature's bequest, etc. Com 
pare Measure for Measure , i. 1. 37 : " Na 
ture never lends," etc. 

Page 266. Leese. Lose; an obsolete 
word used by Shakespeare only here. 

Page 269. Loathsome canker. That is, 
the canker-worm. Compare pp. 125 and 
176. See also Sonnet 70 : " For canker 
vice the sweetest buds doth love." 

Page 270. The rose looks fair, etc. 
Shakespeare prized the rose more for its 
fragrance than for its beauty, contrasting 

316 "Wotes 

it several times with the odourless wild 
rose the " canker," as in the lines that 
follow the present quotation: 

" The canker-blooms have full as deep a 


As the perfumed tincture of the roses, 
Hang on such thorns, and play as 

When summer's breath their masked buds 


But, for their virtue only is their show, 
They live unwoo'd and unrespected fade, 
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not 

Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours 


In Much Ado (i. 3. 28) Don John, refer 
ring to his brother, says : " I had rather 
be a canker in a hedge than a rose in 
his grace." The preservation of the fra 
grance by distillation after the rose is 
dead is referred to again in Sonnet 5: 

" For never-resting time leads summer on 
To hideous winter and confounds him 

there ; 
Sap check'd with frost and lusty leaves 

quite gone, 

Rotes 317 

Beauty o'ersnow'd and bareness every 

Then, were not summer's distillation left, 
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass, 
Beauty's effect with beauty were bereft, 
Nor it nor no remembrance what it was." 

Then follow the lines quoted on p. 266. 
See also the equally beautiful passage on 
virginity in Midsummer Night's Dream, i. 
1. 55: 

" Thrice blessed they that master so their 


To undergo such maiden pilgrimage; 
But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd 
Than that which withering on the virgin 

Grows, lives, and dies in single blessed- 

Page 272. That love is merchandised, 
etc. Treated like an article of merchan 
dise which one boasts of possessing; 
vulgarised by the publicity given to it. 
Compare Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 3. 239: 

"Pie, painted rhetoric! 0, she needs it 


To things of sale a seller's praise be 

3i8 flotes 

Page 274. Vow, bond, nor space, etc. 
Another instance of " chiasm." See on 
page 196: "The latter end of a fray," etc. 


Page 80. A cheveril glove. Made of 
cheveril, a soft kid leather. The sentence 
that follows the passage explains it : " How 
quickly the wrong side may be turned out 
ward! " Compare Henry VIII. ii. 3. 32: 
" Your soft cheveril conscience ... if you 
might please to stretch it; " and Romeo 
and Juliet, ii. 4. 87: "a wit of cheveril that 
stretches from an inch narrow to an ell 

Page 113. A curst cow. This curst, 
though derived from curse, was used in 
senses now obsolete; as shrewish, waspish, 
vixenish, and (when applied to beasts) 
vicious, fierce, etc. In the Winter's Tale 
(iii. 3. 135) bears are said to be "never 
curst but when they are hungry." The 
word occurs often in The Taming of the 
Shrew, and elsewhere of the same type of 
women. It is always spelt curst in this 
sense. Cursed in the ordinary sense is 
generally dissyllabic. 

Page 116. A good familiar creature. 

For this obsolete sense of created thing, 
compare 1 Timothy, i. 4 : " every creature 
of God " (referring to " meats," etc.) ; 
Bacon, New Atlantis: "God's first creature 
was light," etc. 

Page 153. Reverbs. The only instance 
of the word in Shakespeare or elsewhere, 
I believe. He has reverberate three times. 

Page 154. Sir priest. Not used merely 
in antithesis to Sir knight, but a common 
titles of priests; as in As You Like It, 
iii. 3. 43 : " Sir Oliver Martext : " Twelfth 
Night, iv. 2. 25 : " Sir Topas the curate," 

Page 161. His inheritor. The neuter 
its was just coming into use in Shake 
speare's day. The only instance in this 
collection of " proverbs " is from the 
Winter's Tale, i. 2. 151 (p. 120 above). 
The only instance in the Bible is in Leviti 
cus, xxv. 5, where the edition of 1611 has 
the old plural it (" it own accord) which 
occurs in Shakespeare fifteen times, while 
its (or it's) is found only ten times. 

Page 166. Most false imposition. Schmidt, 
in his Lexicon, explains imposition here 
as " imposture," but no example of that 
sense has been found before 1672. It is 
clearly used, as in at least six other pas- 

3 2o "Wotes 

sages in Shakespeare, to mean something 
imposed, enjoined, ordered, or attributed. 
Compare Merchant of Venice, i. 2. 114: 
" Your father's imposition depending on 
the caskets," etc. 

Page 202. Glistering. Not a misprint 
for " glistening," as some might take it to 
be a word not used by Shakespeare or 
Milton. Both have glitter. 

Page 210. Estridge. Like estrich, an 
old form of ostrich. 

Page 238. Resty sloth. Too fond of 
rest, torpid; as in Sonnet 100: " Rise, resty 

Page 272. Lilies that fester, etc. A line 
found also in Edward III. ii. 1, a scene 
that some critics ascribe to Shakespeare. 

Page 275. Pluto winks. Shuts his eyes, 
goes to sleep; as often in Shakespeare. 


Clarke, iiary Cowden 
2892 Shakespeare proverbs