Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Posts Tagged ‘1611’

Milk Of Human Kindness

Posted by Admin on June 10, 2010

The first published version of this phrase appears in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth written sometime between 1603 and 1607.  In Act 1, Scene 5 when Lady Macbeth complains that her husband isn’t ruthless enough with his rivals.

LADY MACBETH
Yet do I fear thy nature; It is too full o’ the milk of human kindness.

Lady Macbeth belittles her husband’s courage and manhood, countering his arguments about sparing Scottish King Duncan’s life until Macbeth finally relents and agrees with her that they should kill their overnight guest.  Of course, from that point on, Macbeth needs no encouragement from his lady to continue with his plans to secure the throne for himself.

There’s a fair bit of discussion about the milk of human kindness in the Old Testament of the Bible however, contrary to popular belief, the phrase itself never appears.

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Knock, Knock! Who’s There?

Posted by Admin on June 8, 2010

Surprise, surprise —  it was William Shakespeare who first penned the immortal “Knock, knock! Who’s there?” in his play Macbeth in Act 2, scene 3 written between 1611 and 1612 and first performed in 1623:

PORTER:
Here’s a knocking indeed! If a man were porter of hell-gate, he should have old turning the key.

Knock within.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there, i’ th’ name of Beelzebub? Here’s a farmer that hanged himself on the expectation of plenty. Come in time, have napkins enough about you, here you’ll sweat for ’t. 

Knock within.

Knock, knock! Who’s there, in th’ other devil’s name? Faith, here’s an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale, who committed treason enough for God’s sake, yet could not equivocate to heaven. O, come in, equivocator.

Knock within.

Knock, knock, knock! Who’s there? Faith, here’s an English tailor come hither for stealing out of a French hose. Come in, tailor. Here you may roast your goose.

Of course, in the play it was no joke. The famous “knock, knock” jokes didn’t start until more than 300 years later. 

In the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Australia, the U.S.A., Canada, South Africa and India, the “knock knock” jokes are well known.  However, in countries such as Brazil and Germany,  “knock knock” jokes are practically unknown.

The “knock knock” joke has been used in at least 31 pop culture movies such as The Santa Clause 2 (2002), Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), Rocky V (1990), Sixteen Candles (1984), An American Werewolf in London (1981), Carry on Dick (1974), and The Fugitive Kind (1959).

I guess the joke’s on William Shakespeare for having found a phrase that lends itself so well to puns and merriment!  Knock, knock!  Who’s there?

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »