The 5 most misquoted lines from Shakespeare

It’s the Olivier Awards on 12 April – the Oscars of the theatre world. But while actors are paid to recall every word of dialogue, the average person gets theatre’s most famous quotes very wrong indeed. Here’s 5 of the most-misquoted lines in Shakespeare – and the actual quotations, in case you need to impress anyone.

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1. “Gild the lily”

A line from King John, often used to suggest someone is overdoing it – “There’s no need to gild the lily, Sandra, you’ve already got the diamond earrings and the necklace on.”

The real line: “To gild refined gold, to paint the lily… is wasteful and ridiculous excess.”

2. “Lead on, Macduff”

From Macbeth. Used to mean “Off we go!” or “After you!” often said by hearty middle-aged men. In fact, the actual line means ‘Start the fight!’

The real line: “Lay on, Macduff, and damned be him who first cries ‘Hold! Enough…”

3. “Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble”

Blame Disney for this one – they changed the line for the film “Duck Tales”, and rhymed it with ‘leave this island on the double’. Not quite the Bard… in fact, his witches were asking for double the trouble.

The real line: “Double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.”

4. “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well.”

Hamlet’s lamentation for the dead jester is a key moment in the play – but is now used to suggest a humorous farewell to someone or something. And it’s usually wrong.

The real line: “Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio – a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy.”

5. “All that glitters is not gold”

Usually used as a warning (and the title of the Girls Aloud biography), this line is from The Merchant Of Venice, and is in fact a warning from Death himself.

The phrase is thought to date from as far back as the 12th century.

The real line: “All that glisters is not gold.”

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