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How Shakespeare Changed the Way We Speak English

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William Shakespeare had a way with words that helped shape the way we now speak English.

The 400th anniversary of his death, on April 23, 2016 is approaching Saturday and the English playwright’s impact on common speech can still be heard today. Many of the phrases he coined are used by those who haven’t even read his works.

The line “all that glitters is not gold,” for instance, is Shakespearean, coming from the 1596 play The Merchant of Venice.

Some phrases are clearly attributable to Shakespearean drama, like the famous “all the world’s a stage…” or the infamous line from Julias Caesar “friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears.”

Others, however, can slip in and out of daily conversation without much thought, like “good riddance,” “a sorry sight,” or “in a pickle.”

English was still being standardized when Shakespeare wrote his plays, so many of his phrases became a part of the lexicon, standing the test of time.

Other phrases include:

“As pure as the driven snow” from The Winter’s Tale

“Fight fire with fire” from King John

“There’s method in my madness” from Hamlet

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