Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Things Shakespeare DIDN'T Write

'Hell hath no fury' is not
one of Shakespeare's
The recent Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce saga prompted a discussion with a family member about where, "hell hath no fury like a woman scorned" comes from. I had great difficult convincing her that Shakespeare did not write those words, and later found out that her mistake is not an unusual one: "Hell hath no fury..." is regularly misattributed to Shakespeare.

This got me thinking about all the other phrases that are labelled as Shakespeare's, or the instances of misquotations that have seeped into common parlance. So, here are just a few phrases that were definitely NOT written by Shakespeare.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned

People who think this was written by Shakespeare are close in the fact that the words were penned by a playwright and his Christian name was William.

However, they belong to William Congreve, who was a Restoration period dramatist. And while we're being precise, the line, which comes from The Mourning Bride, actually reads, "Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned." This, for my money, is much better than the common paraphrased version.

Poor William Congreve not only had to
walk around with that hair, but he also
has some of his best work
misattributed to another playwright
And, as we're on the subject of poor old William Congreve, that brings us nicely to another of his lines that has been falsely branded as Shakespeare's.

Music has Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast...

This is also from Congreve's The Mourning Bride, and is the very first line from the play.

Not only is this quote often attributed to Bill Shakespeare, but it's also, readily, misquoted as 'savage beast'.

'Tis Better to Have Loved and Lost Than Never to Have Loved at All

I seem to recall, although please feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, that Will Smith mentions this in Men in Black, stating that it was written by Shakespeare. Even if Will Smith didn't say it, many, many, many people have erroneously attributed 'Tis better to have loved...' to The Bard.

In fact, it was written well over two hundred years after Shakespeare's death, and comes from Alfred Tennyson's In Memoriam A. H. H.

So, Farewell Hope and With Hope, Farewell Fear...

'So, farewell hope...' comes from John
Milton's Paradise Lost

This comes not far (some fifty years) after Shakespeare's death, so I can sort of understand the confusion. It is at least from approximately the same era as Shakespeare. 

However, I'm not sure John Milton would appreciate passages of his greatest work being attributed to another poet. This quote is actually from Paradise Lost, published in 1667.

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways...

I find it difficult, given how famous this poem is to believe that anybody would mistake it as Shakespeare's work, but apparently people often do. 

It is, of course, the opening line of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's most famous poem, number 43 from her collection Sonnets From The Portuguese.

Oh! What a Tangled Web we Weave When First we Practice to Deceive

This is another quote from a famous playwright and poet, but it's not Shakespeare. Sir Walter Scott penned this beautifully phrase (and sound advice) in 1808, as part of his epic poem Marmion.

Come Live With Me and Be My Love

This is a quote perhaps more understandably misattributed to our friend Shakespeare, because it was penned by one of his contemporaries. 

If Christopher Marlowe wasn't Shakespeare,
then 'come live with me and be my love' is
regularly misattributed
And, of course, depending on your point of view, you might believe that Christopher Marlowe actually was Shakespeare, in which case, you'd be right to call this a line from his work.

In any event, the quote comes from Marlowe's poem, The Passionate Shepherd to His Love, which was published in 1599.


These are, of course, just a few of the most common quotes misattributed to William Shakespeare. I suppose that it's flattering to The Bard to think that people assume popular literary and poetic phrases are his. However, it's not quite so flattering for the quotes' true authors, whose talents should never be forgotten.

If you'd like to find out more about the things Shakespeare DID write, take a look at What's It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon.

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