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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds [? Tonderai ?] now talks about how he first encountered Shakespeare. He says the often heard phrases that Shakespeare had written without realising that they were actually quotations from Shakespeare. As you listen, note down the three phrases that [? Tonderai ?] mentions. In Zimbabwe, where I had my formative years– so that’s to say I was born there and lived there until I was 12 years old– we always heard Shakespearean lines or Shakespeare words spoken without realising that they were actually Shakespearean words and Shakespearean lines. So “all that glitters is not gold” is something that we would say. “Constant as the northern star” is something that we would say. “To be or not to be,” something that we would say.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds Because our culture, our Zimbabwean culture, is so full of proverbs, and words, and exciting word play. So we grew up around that. And I have to say that it’s only years later that I realised that a lot of what we were speaking as young children was actually Shakespeare. [? Tonderai ?] mentioned three phrases from Shakespeare. The first was “all that glitters is not gold.” To glitter means to shine with bright reflected light or to sparkle. “All that glitters is not gold,” means that something that looks attractive isn’t always really valuable. Imagine that you know someone who owns an incredible amount of money, and you’re a bit jealous. But they might say, actually my job is really boring.

Skip to 1 minute and 55 seconds I Have to work a 16-hr day. I’m away from my family most of the time. So “all that glitters is not gold,” because it might look as though you’re wealthy friend is very lucky. But, actually, their life isn’t as perfect as you thought. Shakespeare introduced this phrase in his play, The Merchant of Venice, and we still use it today. The second phrase [? Tonderai ?] mentioned was “constant as the northern star.” And it comes from Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar. Caesar compares himself to what we now call the North Star, which stays in exactly the same place in the sky all the time.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 seconds The final quotation from Shakespeare that [? Tonderai ?] mentioned was from Hamlet, “to be or not to be.” In this context, “to be” means to exist, to be alive. Hamlet feels depressed and is asking whether it’s better for him to stay alive or to kill himself. It’s perhaps the best known quotation from any of Shakespeare’s works and is now used in many different contexts. Perhaps, you have used it yourself.

Shakespeare's phrases

Tonderai talks about how he first encountered Shakespeare.

Here are the three phrases he mentions:

Do you know what each phrase means?

Look at some more everyday expressions that come from the works of Shakespeare:

  • A foregone conclusion
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • There’s method in my madness

Do you recognise them? Look at this list of phrases from Shakespeare.

  • Share your favourite Shakespearean expressions with other learners.
  • Are there any whose meaning is unclear? Ask other learners to help you.

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This video is from the free online course:

Exploring English: Shakespeare

British Council