What You Thought These Famous Literary Quotes Meant VS. What They Actually Mean

National Theater


Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Quote: "This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man."

What you thought: Well, I better get a tattoo of this ASAP. It's the kind of rock-solid, New Age wisdom I'm always looking for. I need to just be myself, and not listen to what other people are trying to tell me!

But actually: If you've read Hamlet, you already know that Polonius is the #1 lamest dad on stage. Most of his time is spent giving weak advice to characters who then roll their eyes at him and walk away. Here, he's telling his son Laertes not to follow his heart, but to watch out for numero uno-- meaning, Laertes should do what's best and most profitable for himself. "True" here means advantageous, not honest. Basically, tt's advocating selfishness, not individuality. When in doubt, remember that Polonius is a weasel, and everything will become clear.

Topics: Books
Tags: romeo and juliet, shakespeare, alice in wonderland, hamlet, classic lit, classic literature, required reading, classic novels, lewis carroll, robert frost, richard iii, literary quotes, famous quotes, john keats, shakespeare's plays, the road less traveled, basically you've been wrong this whole time

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