You've Got 'Shakespeare DNA' in You—Go Figureth

When it comes to Shakespeare's life, various details are up for debate—including his designated 450th birthday today. Let's celebrate anyway, countrymen, and be amazed at the Bard's genius in our everyday lives!
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William Shakespeare Photo

(Photo: DeAgostini/Getty Images)

To be or not to be...  late. To be or not to be... funny? To be or not to be...  forgiving? To be or not to be .... You see, not everyone is having an existential crisis like Hamlet, but the Bard survives, thrives really, all the way to today because his words are malleable yet sturdy, mutable and utile (yes, it is a word, although not one of Shakespeare’s). To be or not to be embraces not only the magnificent morass of being human, but the minuscule and mundane ...  and, like so much of Shakespeare’s oeuvre, captures it in a way that makes it memorable, pertinent, and ever fresh.

Although I’m partial to Shakespeare’s famous weight loss line: “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt,” I’m sure there’s a line, rhyme, adage, or quip by the Bard that has come trippingly off your tongue completely unbeknownst to you.

DNA Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet Photo

'O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?' An illustration of Juliet on her balcony. (Photo: Culture Club/Getty Images)

The weirder thing is, To be or not to be is so ingrained in our DNA, even children know it. Ergo, a few samples of what I like to call DNA Shakespeare.

What’s in a name? (Stick and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me...unless you're a Montague or a Capulet.)

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers... -- (The ultimate "got your back").

O brave new world... --  (You might recognize Shakespeare's phrases in a lot of book, movie and TV titles.)

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears... -- (He gave them back.)

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub -- (This one often gets separated into two.)

It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury... -- (As does this).

Now is the winter of our discontent... -- (Especially lately).

Alas, poor Yorick! -- (Good for random skulls, and hapless pets).

Out, damned spot! -- (In the laundry room).

The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers. -- (People generally just opt for the last part.)

Is this a dagger which I see before me -- (“Dagger” can be swapped out for ... carton of milk, can of beans, etc.)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day ? -- (Frankly, it depends on the humidity.)

All the world’s a stage... -- (Even after they knew the world was round.)

And finally, but by no means the end:

O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? -- (By the way, Wherefore means Why.)

"My Bad" for Not Knowing

Homer Simpson Photo

This isn't a Shakespearean verse, but it sure sounds like it, d'oh! (Photo: Photofest)

As the longest-running sitcom/animated series in America, The Simpsons has shown homage to the Bard, too. (Are they trying to emulate his longevity?) From a reinterpretation of Hamlet to a "real-life" staging of Macbeth—Bart, along with Homer and Marge—have kept Shakespearean verse alive. D'oh!

Add that to the Shakespeare you say every day that you may  had no idea was from the savvy scribe. To clue you in, here's a beginner's list

Ready. Set. “It was Greek to me,” “slept not one wink” or “wink of an eye,” “play fast and loose,” “green-eyed jealousy,” “tongue-tied" or “in a pickle,” “laughing-stock,” “if the ___ truth were known,” “truth will out,” “fair play,” “knit his brow,” “for goodness’ sake,” “tower of strength,” ”seen better days,” “eye-sore,” “give the devil his due,” “laugh yourself into stitches,” “as dead as a doornail,”  “high time” to “send me packing,” “good riddance,” the long and short of it (actually “the short and the long of it”), “blinking idiot,” “foul play,” and “a foregone conclusion” -- to name a few.

But before we conclude, we’ll give absolution to a recent idiom that’s not on any list...until now. But Lo! It is in Shakespeare: “My bad.” Yep, in good old Sonnet 112.

Better Than the F-Bomb

The Taming of the Shrew Photo

A 1908 advertisement of 'The Taming of the Shrew,' featuring actress Lily Brayton. She sure looks ripe to spew some highbrow poison—Shakespeare style! (Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The F-bomb is so ubiquitous nowadays, it’s hardly shocking to use it anymore. It’s in news articles, on morning shows, and certainly late-night TV. So brush up your Shakespeare and trump the pedestrian curse that the Bard never used -- even though it seems to have debuted in written English in the early 1500s.

Shakespearean insults have been gaining in popularity—insult generators are everywhere on the web. But can you unleash poisonous slings and arrows when the occasion warrants? Such as: Thou loggerheaded lumpish bladder. Thou churlish bat-fowling hedge-pig. Thou paunchy guts-griping malt-worm!

Dump the F-bomb in the dung heap, and use your words, use his, for a sharper brain, razor wit, and gutting insults...or you’re a lily-livered cowardly jolt-head!