Folger Shakespeare by DG Rosetti

Portrait of Shakespeare, ca. 1865 [FPm1 (Bd.w. PR2842 1709 copy 3 Ex.ill.). Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License]

In case you hadn’t heard, last Saturday, April 23, marked the four-hundredth anniversary (also known as the quadricentennial) of William Shakespeare’s death. There was much to-do about it in dramatic, literary, and historical circles, and for good reason: The English language, and humankind itself, owes a great debt to the Bard, whose influence persists more than four centuries after his plays hit the London stage.

The staggering scope of that influence is impossible to chronicle in a single blog post, so we’ll let Sir Ian McKellen—whose Shakespearean roles include Hamlet, Romeo, Macbeth, Richard III, Iago, King Lear, and Coriolanus—sum it up for us.

While Shakespeare’s stories and characters endure, the language he utilized to create them also remains today a living, breathing thing. So to celebrate the quadricentennial, Bas Bleu’s editors thought our fellow bluestockings would get a kick out of knowing just how often we’re all quoting Shakespeare in our daily lives. We’ve put together a not remotely comprehensive list of just some of the phrases penned by the Bard that are in common use today.

“As good luck would have it” —The Merry Wives of Windsor

“Kill with kindness” —The Taming of the Shrew

“Faint hearted” —Henry VI Part I

“Good riddance” —Troilus and Cressida

“Bated breath” —The Merchant of Venice

“Full circle” —King Lear

“In a pickle” —The Tempest

“Eaten me out of house and home” —Henry IV Part II

“Knock knock! Who’s there?” —Macbeth

“It’s Greek to me” —Julius Caesar

“Jealousy is the green-eyed monster” —Othello

“Dead as a doornail” —Henry VI Part II

“Wild-goose chase” —Romeo and Juliet

“Off with his head” —Richard III

“I have not slept one wink” —Cymbeline

“Wear my heart upon my sleeve” —Othello

“Send him packing” —Falstaff

“Lie low” —Much Ado About Nothing

“Break the ice” —The Taming of the Shrew

“Laughing stock” —The Merry Wives of Windsor

“Play fast and loose” —King John

Plus, did you know that several modern literary classics owe their titles to the Bard? Twelve are pictured below; test your Shakespeare mettle by matching the book with the play that inspired its title. (We’ll give you a hint: Only nine plays are represented here.) The answers can be found at the bottom of this post; no cheating!

And finally, because four hundred years can’t be commemorated in a single day, keep your eyes peeled for a special Shakespeare spread in our upcoming Summer catalog, which hits mailboxes around Memorial Day. Among our Bard-centric offerings: A special set of all-occasion note cards, designed and letterpress printed exclusively for Bas Bleu, and featuring some of Shakespeare’s best quotations!


Answers, from l to r:  (Row 1) Macbeth, Timon of Athens, Hamlet, The Tempest; (Row 2) Richard III, Twelfth Night, Macbeth, Julius Caesar; (Row 3) Henry V, As You Like It, Hamlet, Macbeth