Setting the record straight about what Shakespeare did and didn't say.

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Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind.

I wonder if somebody confused “drums of war” for “dogs of war” when they attributed this quote to Julius Caesar?  Nothing about this quote shows up in the play, of course. I suppose there’s at least some possibility that it appears in actual Caesar’s actual writings, since I’m not an expert in those.  But others before me have researched this question and apparently nope, not real Caesar either.  This quote doesn’t appear to exist before 2001.

For more details I’ll let the Urban Legends page have the last word:

It’s odd, to say the least, to find a passage attributed to Julius Caesar (born 100 B.C., died 44 B.C.) that never appeared anywhere in print before 2001. It’s equally odd that while the quotation is cited in dozens of Internet discussions concerning post-9/11 political developments, it never turns up in any articles or books about Julius Caesar himself. If it’s to be found among his own writings, no one has yet been able to pinpoint where.

I also think it’s funny that we get to credit a specific person for incorrectly assigning this one to Shakespeare — Barbra Streisand!?  Quick, what’s the difference between Barbra Streisand and every quote-collecting message board on the Internet?  Streisand acknowledged she was wrong.


March 4, 2014   1 Comment

The greatest question is not whether you have failed, it is whether you are content with failure.

I saw this quote race through multiple versions on Reddit earlier today, and obviously no one really cares to attribute it correctly since I don’t expect anybody truly believes that Shakespeare said it. There’s nothing about this that suggests Shakespeare.  In fact, it’s quite easy to find it attributed both to Abraham Lincoln as well as “ancient Chinese wisdom” if those make you think it’s got more or less credibility.

If you still want to believe it’s by Shakespeare, let me offer another bit of evidence :  The word “failure” did not enter the English language until 1641. It very literally never shows up in Shakespeare’s works.


March 3, 2014   No Comments

If you love and get hurt, love more. If you love more and hurt more, love even more. If you love even more and get hurt even more, love some more until it hurts no more…

“If you love and get hurt, love more.
If you love more and hurt more, love even more.
If you love even more and get hurt even more, love some more until it hurts no more…”

No. Just, no.

I saw this on a page attributed to Shakespeare, on top of a picture of Christopher Marlowe no less.

As always, it’s in several databases attributed to WS but never with an actual play or sonnet or poem. So, no. It’s not Shakespeare. Shakespeare never used the expression “get hurt”, and rarely did he directly speak in second person like that as if he the author is talking to someone.

If anybody can actually show me some variation of this quote that makes it into Shakespeare, I’ll happily update this post. But I don’t think you’re going to find anything close.

December 28, 2013   Comments Off on If you love and get hurt, love more. If you love more and hurt more, love even more. If you love even more and get hurt even more, love some more until it hurts no more…

Time is Too Slow for those who Wait, Too Swift for those who Fear

Instagram is killing me.  By far, *most* of the quotes that people are circulating as Shakespeare are, in fact, not.   Here’s the latest:

“Time is
Too Slow for those who Wait,
Too Swift for those who Fear,
Too Long for those who Grieve,
Too Short for those who Rejoice;
But for those who Love,
Time is not.”

That’s Henry van Dyke, an American author born in 1852.  So to call it Shakespeare is off by almost 300 years and a continent.


December 5, 2013   No Comments

Love to faults is always blind, always is to joy inclined. Lawless, winged, and unconfined, and breaks all chains from every mind.

Something new!  I’d not seen this one before, and had to go look it up.  Sounds a little bit like Shakespeare, but I don’t know, something about the meter (DUH da DUH da DUH da DUH) was too bouncy to be Shakespeare’s style, even in the long poems where sometimes quotes hide that don’t have the same feeling as those that come from the plays.

Anyway, this one is from William Blake if Google Books is any indicator:



I think that my favorite source of misinformation comes from the two-fer on this Yahoo! Answers page.

First we have the answer that, “William Blake borrowed it from Shakespeare, who wrote it in one of his sonnets.”  No mention of which sonnet, of course, and it’s not iambic pentameter.  It’s very easy to check and cite references.  But under “source” the person wrote, “I am a Shakespeare teacher.” Just not a good one I guess.

The second bit of genius comes from the well-meaning person who writes, “I searched and couldn’t find it as anything but a quote so maybe it’s something he never wrote down, only said.”  That’s not the first time I’ve heard that, and it conjures up this hysterical image in my brain of the town drunk passing down his story over the centuries.  “So there I am, sitting next to the Bard of Avon himself William Shakespeare, telling him my problems with women. And you know what he does? He turns to me and says, he says, ‘Love to faults is always blind, always is to joy inclined.’ And I says to him I says, ‘Pal, you need to write that down.’  Well I guess he plum forgot because it doesn’t show up in any of his recorded works, but I swear to you, he said it. I was there.”  Imagine Bill Murray telling his Dalai Lama story in Caddyshack. 🙂


November 26, 2013   2 Comments

The earth has music for those who listen.

Also “The earth has music for those who will listen,” “The earth has its music for those who listen,” and so on.

This one is easily mistaken as Shakespeare because the words remind us of “If music be the food of love play on” while the sentiment closely echoes Caliban’s “Be no afeard, the isle is full of noises, sounds and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.”

However, this one is George Santayana:

“The earth has its music for those who will listen,
Its bright variations forever abound;
With all the wonders that God has bequeathed us,
There is nothing that thrills like the magic of sound.”

Thanks to “That’s Not Shakespeare,” who looks to be as upset about misattributed Shakespeare as I am 🙂


UPDATED September 8, 2014 : I was asked to provide citation that this is Santayana. And you know what? I can’t. It’s quite possible that this quote has fallen victim to that same logic that gets us so many “Not by Shakespeare” quotes, where you find a couple of blogs saying something so it must be true.  I can’t speak for the entirety of Santayana’s work but I can safely say that it’s definitely not in Shakespeare’s work. If anybody can cite exactly where it occurs, we’d all be very grateful!


July 31, 2013   5 Comments

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact than a drunken man is happier than a sober one.

George Bernard Shaw.  At least, that’s according to the Oxford Dictionary of British Literature, and I’m going to take their word for it.

July 25, 2013   No Comments

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.

As I work on ShakeShare, my Shakespeare Quotes app for the iPhone, I’m constantly scanning for new quotes. It is, as you might imagine, very important to me to cite every quote correctly. How could I look myself in the mirror if I let a Not By Shakespeare slip in there?

Today I found this one. Honestly I don’t even understand it. And I am a father to a son. 🙂

All I can find are references to this one as a “Jewish proverb.” Anybody got a definitive database of those??

July 25, 2013   1 Comment

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count The Ways

I admit that a long time ago I thought this was from Shakespeare, alongside “Tis better to have loved and lost…”  Now I know better, but that doesn’t mean that word has spread.

No, this is not by William Shakespeare.  It is in fact Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnets from the Portuguese – Sonnet 43, in fact:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


This is actually a nice reminder that the art of the sonnet neither began nor ended with Mr. Shakespeare.  Others were pretty good at it, too.


May 24, 2012   2 Comments

I Would Challenge You To A Battle Of Wits But I See You Are Unarmed

When I spotted this quote as attributed to Shakespeare I immediately thought of the closest thing I could remember, Beatrice’s zinger in Benedick’s general direction:

  1. Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
  2. conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
  3. now is the whole man governed with one: so that if
  4. he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
  5. bear it for a difference between himself and his
  6. horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
  7. to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his
  8. companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.

[Citation :  Much Ado about Nothing – Act 1, Scene 1. Lines: 56-63.; April 26, 2012

This ends up pretty close.  Roughly translated, “In our last battle of wits he lost most of his, and now he’s only left with one, so I’m going to let him keep it so people can tell the difference between him and his horse.”

Is it even possible to give proper attribution to the quote in question, though?  It seems like the generic sort of thing that many people have thought of over the years.

The best answer , I think, came from the ChaCha board.  Every now and then for one of these quotes I’ll see someone who has asked, “What play is that from?”  Because, as a general rule, if the quote always says “Shakespeare” but never says the play?  That means he never said it.  Anyway, somebody asks what play this wits quote is from.  And the answer that came back was, and I’m not making this up, “It’s not in a play.  William Shakespeare the person said it.”

Oh.  Dear ChaCha answerer, if you have access to documents written by Mr. Shakespeare that the rest of us don’t know about, please share!  You could be a very very rich man.



April 26, 2012   5 Comments