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A Thoroughly Modern Shakespeare

Published: April 23, 2016

Although William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, his work lives on today. But what if the man himself lived on today? How would he suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous modern life? We’ll never truly know, of course, but we can have fun guessing.

The quotations below, collected by Al Graham, show how we think the Bard of Avon might respond to modern life, work, and recreation.

Shakespeare’s Commute to Work

I hope I am not too late.

—King Henry VIII, Act 5, Scene 2

I take … the train. …

—King Henry VIII, Act 4, Scene 1

’Tis more than time that I were there.

—King Henry IV Part I, Act 4, Scene 2

An you get it, you shall get it by running.

—King Lear, Act 4, Scene 6

I have speeded hither with the very extremest inch of possibility.

King Henry IV Part II, Act 4, Scene 3

Do you not see, that I am out of breath?

—Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 5

I ran when I saw others run.

—King Henry IV, Part I, Act 2, Scene 4

The gates shut on me.

—Titus Andronicus, Act 5, Scene 3

Shakespeare Tries Bubble Gum for the First Time

Blow … and crack your cheeks! … blow!

—King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2

You must borrow me Gargantua’s mouth first:

—As You Like It, Act 3, Scene 2

Puff!
Puff in thy teeth … !

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 5, Scene 3

I am scarce in breath, my lord.

—King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2

O Proteus! let this habit make thee blush:

—The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 5, Scene 4

Therein do men from children nothing differ.

—Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, Scene 1

A knack, a toy, a trick …
Away with it!

—The Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 3

Have we eaten on the insane root
That takes the reason prisoner?

—Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 3

O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown!

—Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1

O Time, thou must untangle this, not I.

—Twelfth Night, Act 2, Scene 2

Shakespeare Considers Buying a House

Whose roof’s as low as ours!

—Cymbeline, Act 3, Scene 3

You have here a goodly dwelling.

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 5, Scene 3

These are now the fashion.

—Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

’Tis a meritorious fair design.

—Lucrece, Line 1692

It is shaped, sir, like itself.

—Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene 7

… and room enough
When there is in it but one only …

Julius Caesar, Act 1, Scene 2

See … out of the window.

—The Taming of the Shrew: Act 5, Scene 1

… some fence!

—King John, Act 2, Scene 1

I like this place.

—As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 4

Who lets so fair a house … ?

—Sonnet 13

What are thy rents?

—King Henry V, Act 4, Scene 1

Shakespeare Builds His Dream House

Hew down, and fell the hardest-timber’d oak.

—King Henry VI Part III, Act 2, Scene 1

He talks of wood: it is some carpenter.

—King Henry VI Part I, Act 5, Scene 3

… busy hammers closing rivets up
Give dreadful note of preparation.

King Henry V, Act 4, Prologue

When we mean to build.
We first survey the plot, then draw the model.
And, when we see the figure of the house,
Then must we rate the cost of the erection; …

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 1, Scene 3

… if money go before, all ways do lie open.

—The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Scene 2

… this goodly frame, … this majestical roof …

—Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

A forted residence ’gainst the tooth of time…

—Measure for Measure, Act 5, Scene 1

Steep’d me in poverty to the very lips …

—Othello, Act 4, Scene 2

… I was green in judgment: …

—Anthony and Cleopatra, Act 1, Scene 5

Well, thus we play the fools with the time, and the Spirits of the wise sit in the clouds, and mock us.

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 2, Scene 2

… write me down an ass!

—Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 2

Shakespeare Does His Taxes

I tax not you, you elements.

—King Lear, Act 3, Scene 2

Help, angels!

—Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 3

So many hours must I contemplate.

—King Henry VI Part III, Act 2, Scene 5

You have not the book of riddles about you, have you?

The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 1, Scene 1

This week he hath been heavy, sour, sad,
And much different from the man he was.

—The Comedy of Errors, Act 5, Scene 1

Truly, the souls of men are full of dread.

—King Richard III, Act 2, Scene 3

A thing of custom: ’tis no other;
Only it spoils the pleasure of the time.

—Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 4

 

Shakespeare Attends a Baseball Game

Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?

Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 1

Thou canst not hit it …
Thou canst not hit it, my good man.

Love’s Labour’s Lost: Act 4, Scene 1

O! let him pass!

—King Lear, Act 5, Scene 3

Who makes that noise there?

Measure for Measure, Act 4, Scene 3

… a broad and powerful fan.

Troilus and Cressida, Act 1, Scene 3

     Stop his mouth,
and let him speak no more.

Titus Andronicus, Act 5, Scene 1

Set thee down … !

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1, Scene 1

Another hit; what say you?

—Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2

… one sweet sacrifice.

—King Henry VIII, Act 2, Scene l

He’s safe …

—The Tempest, Act 3, Scene 1

Safe … safe enough.

—Julius Caesar, Act 5, Scene 4

Thou art a robber …

—Cymbeline, Act 4, Scene 2

Shakespeare Doesn’t Like Pop Music

Fair prince, here is good broken music,

—Troilus and Cressida, Act 3, Scene 1

Music do I hear? Ha, ha!

—King Richard II, Act 5, Scene 5

What fire is in mine ears?

Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 1

Ay, Hal; ’tis hot, ’tis hot.

—King Henry IV Part I, Act 5, Scene 3

Too hot, too hot!

—The Winter’s Tale, Act 1, Scene 2

… ’tis no matter how it be in tune.
So it make noise enough.

As You Like It, Act 4, Scene 2

Host: I perceive you delight not in music,
Julia: Not a whit, when it jars so.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 4, Scene 2

What sayest thou to this tune, matter, and method?

—Measure for Measure, Act 3, Scene 2

O fie! the treble jars.

—The Taming of the Shrew, Act 3, Scene 1

The general so likes your music, that he desires you,
For love’s sake, to make no more noise with it.

—Othello, Act 3, Scene 1

Shakespeare Vacations at a Dude Ranch

Now my soul hath elbow-room; …

—King John, Act 5, Scene 7

These shadowy, desert, unfrequented woods,
I better brook than flourishing peopled towns.

—The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 5, Scene 4

Give me my boots, I say; saddle my horse.

—King Richard II, Act 5, Scene 2

For my voice, I have lost it with hollaing, and singing …

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 1, Scene 2

I have held familiarity with fresher clothes; …

—All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 5, Scene 2

Motley’s the only wear.

—As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7

Where’s the cook? Is supper ready … ?

—Taming of the Shrew, Act 4, Scene 1

I eat, and eat I swear—

—King Henry V, Act 5, Scene 1

Shakespeare Ponders the Ski Jump

O what men dare do! what men may do!

—Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1

… a faint cold fear thrills through my veins …

Romeo and Juliet, Act 4, Scene 3

And if they fall, they dash themselves to pieces.

—King Richard III, Act 1, Scene 3

The attempt and not the deed
Confounds us.

—Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2

… I will not jump …

The Merchant of Venice, Act 2. Scene 9

I … am not shaped for sportive tricks …

—King Richard III, Act 1, Scene 1

A chilling sweat o’er-runs my trembling joints …

— Tius Andronicus, Act 2, Scene 3

O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts.
And men have lost their reason.

—Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2

… let’s to billiards …

—Antony and Cleopatra, Act 2, Scene 5

Shakespeare’s World Series Color Commentary

… five in the first …

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 5, Scene 2

… hit it, hit it, hit it …

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 4, Scene 1

Run, boy; run, run, …

—The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 3, Scene 1

O! ’tis a foul …

—The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 4, Scene 4

Let me be umpire …

—King Henry VI Part I, Act 4, Scene 1

And I would call it fair …

—The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

There’s but one down: …

—Macbeth, Act 3, Scene 3

Two of them …

— Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1

… the third’s away.

—Titus Andronicus, Act 4, Scene 2

Shakespeare Visits a Gentleman’s Club

Heigh, … yare, yare!

The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 1

O, … brother !

—Troilus and Cressida, Act 5, Scene 6

I see … a pip …

—The Taming of the Shrew, Act 1, Scene 2

La, la, la, la!

—Timon of Athens, Act 3, Scene 1

What a woman … !

—The Merry Wives of Winsdor, Act 4, Scene 2

A most fine figure!

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1, Scene 2

… get her picture.

—Much Ado About Nothing, Act 2, Scene 3

Ay, me … ! what a dream … !

—A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2, Scene 2

Hear the shrill whistle …

—King Henry V, Act 3, Prologue

A wolf…
He’s in a suit of buff.

—The Comedy of Errors, Act 4, Scene 2

Hey day, what … comes this way!

—Timon of Athens, Act 1, Scene 2

The mayor is here. …

—King Richard III, Act 3, Scene 7

Shakespeare Balances His Checkbook

I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse …

—King Henry IV Part II, Act 1, Scene 2

… welcome the sour cup of prosperity!

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1, Scene 1

What prodigal portion have I spent that I should come to such penury?

—As You Like It, Act 1, Scene 1

… now do I play the touch …

—King Richard III, Act 4, Scene 2

Who steals my purse, steals trash …

—Othello, Act 3, Scene 3

How cam’st thou in this pickle?

The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1

I am ill at reckoning …

—Love’s Labour’s Lost, Act 1, Scene 2

… I am now, sir, muddied in fortune’s mood, and
smell somewhat strong of her strong displeasure.

—All’s Well That Ends Well, Act 5, Scene 2

A good man’s fortune may grow out at heels.

—King Lear, Act 2, Scene 2

Thrift, thrift, Horatio! …

—Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2

 

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  • I personally never much cared for Shakespeare up until fairly recently. My favorite play had always been ‘Taming of the Shrew’. I love and often use the phrase ‘much ado about nothing’ instead of saying ‘that’s no big deal’.

    He wrote and spoke in the manner English was written and spoken then. My own favorite style is 18th and early 19th century, essentially mid-way between his time and the present. Ben Franklin and The Founding Fathers of America era. More up to date and understandable, but with the wonderful class and beauty the spoken and written word possessed, where pride in both was certainly taken.

    It all but disappeared by the 1840’s and scarcely heard at all after The Civil War. I love learning about Colonial American English and finding ways to incorporate it into my writing and speaking, but also realize it’s my own partial antidote to the fallen down “English” spoken today.

  • Maria L Rydstedt

    Delightful

  • Maria L Rydstedt

    Delightful.