A Light Heart Lives Long

Saw “A light heart lives long” today and immediately thought, “Nah, that doesn’t sound like Shakespeare.”  Did some quick googling and it looks like something more in the “old Irish proverb” category (“Maireann croí éadrom i bhfad.“)

But guess what?  If we allow for the words to evolve a little bit over the centuries, however, look what I find in Henry IV Part 2, Act V, Scene 3:

A light heart lives long, a merry heart lives long
Light, merry, same difference.

So it looks like we can give Shakespeare credit for this one after all! It’s a drinking song.

Now, whether or not he’s the first one to say it, that’s a whole different story. But we’ll let all those Instagram and Pinterest posters get off easy this time.


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 About.com 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.


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.


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.

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.


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. 🙂


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??

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.


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

When I spotted this “battle of wits” 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. http://opensourceshakespeare.org/views/plays/play_view.php?WorkID=muchado&Act=1&Scene=1&Scope=scene&LineHighlight=57#57]

Beatrice in Much Ado About NothingThis 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 person.