Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

Not at the Edge of Contemplation

Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

Not at the Edge of Contemplation

Article excerpt

I have used this segment of the Journal in the past to explore matters that we think we know, that somehow may have been misquoted or misconstrued, or that just do not seem to be true, but are in fact, just that.

   To begin with a little Shakespeare:

   Prospero, in The Tempest, says, "We are such stuff
   As dreams are made on; and our little life
   Is rounded with a sleep."
   Act Four, scene 1.

But we may be more familiar with Humphrey Bogart's lines at the end of "The Maltese Falcon", where he misquoted this as "The stuff that dreams are made of."

How often, in frustration with the legal profession, people will quote Dick the butcher, in Henry the Sixth, Part Two, Act Four, scene 2. "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

While possibly understanding the source of this sense of frustration, (my prior profession having given me a first hand perspective on this), the quotation must not be taken out of context, that is, as a diatribe against all lawyers. Dick the butcher says this in the context of his plan to conspire with Cade to take over England, and in order for their plot to succeed, they would have to overthrow the legal system of England to replace it with their own dictatorial proceedings. They realize that the lawyers would stand as a bulwark against any such attempt, and therefore would have to kill them in order to succeed. So what is at times seen as a pejorative comment on lawyers, it is actually, in essence a tribute to them.

And one of the most frequently misquoted and misunderstood lines is "Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Queen Gertrude's words in Hamlet, Act Three, scene 2, are actually "The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Further, and here I am indebted to Michael Macrone, in his book Brush Up Your Shakespeare. …

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