Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits: Words and Phrases We Still Use Today

University of California at San Diego

Seth Lerer is Distinguished Professor of Literature and former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of California at San Diego. He has published widely on literature and language– most recently on Children’s Literature, Jewish culture, and the life of the theater. He has been awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Truman Capote Prize in Criticism. Among his many publications, he has written the books Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past, Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language, and Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage.



Shakespeare has given us some of the most memorable phrases in the English language: “It was Greek to me;” “The most unkindest cut of all;” “To be or not to be;” “Sound and fury;” and “To thine own self be true.” Why do these, and many others, stay with us? What was there about Shakespeare’s verbal art that makes these sayings last? We will explore the ways in which Shakespeare developed his most unforgettable lines by looking at the traditions of rhetoric and performance in his time. We will see how Shakespeare’s works are more than just a compendium of familiar phrases. They are also a source of rich verbal energy – as meaningful today as they were four hundred years ago. Shakespeare wrote to be remembered. His audience and his readers would have noted down his great phrasings. And later readers and writers found him a continuous source of inspiration. His words of advice, of humor, of insult, of affection, and of wit inspire us to be creative with our language and reveal the impact of Renaissance imagination to this day.




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Linda Sainsbury

Passion for Shakespeare

Loved and so appreciated this Professor’s passion and knowledge of Shakespeare! Learned so much and will remember a lot due to the performance by the Prof. Thank you!

2 years ago

Infectious enthusiasm

Wow – great lecture from someone who his subject. Shakespeare jumped off the screen.

2 years ago
Marc Tanenbaum

To Listen to Professor Lerer is an Hour Well Spent

I loved this talk! A paradigm shift for me as to ways to listen to Dhakespeare’s language. I would love OneDayU to authorize his talk on Star Trek and Shakespeare. Please do! Thank you, Professor Lerer.

2 years ago
Wendy Meer

Seth Lerer and Shakespeare

Excellent. I love Shakespeare. I love him more after Professor Lerer’s lecture. Thank you.

2 years ago
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