Idioms – All that glisters is not gold

Non ci si può avvicinare davvero alla lingua inglese senza conoscere William Shakespeare. Eh sì, perché il Bardo di Stratford-upon-Avon non è stato solo un grande poeta e un incredibile drammaturgo. Tra i suoi molti meriti, infatti, c’è quello di aver contribuito in modo fondamentale anche all’evoluzione della lingua di Sua Maestà, che non a caso viene spesso definita proprio “la lingua di Shakespeare”. Questo perché, nella sua continua ricerca del modo più efficace per esprimere tanto le proprie emozioni quanto quelle dei suoi personaggi, il Bardo è arrivato ad usare in modo originale parole ed espressioni esistenti e ad inventarne addirittura di nuove. Stando ad alcuni studi recenti, sarebbero circa mille le parole da lui coniate, la maggior parte delle quali viene comunemente utilizzata ancora oggi.

Grazie a questo video realizzato per la serie Shakespeare Speaks da BBC Learning English in collaborazione con The Open University, abbiamo l’opportunità di saperne di più su una delle espressioni idiomatiche rese celebri da Shakespeare, peraltro molto utilizzata anche nella nostra lingua. Si tratta di “All that glisters is not gold”, introdotta per la prima volta dal Bardo ne Il Mercante di Venezia.

While you watch the video, try to catch the answers to the following questions – you will find the solution at the bottom of the post:

1) What does Shakespeare’s daughter buy and where does she buy it?
2) Why does she think it is made of gold?
3) Why is Shakespeare convinced that it is not real gold?
4) Who else in the video is fooled by appearance?  Why?
5) What is the important lesson Shakespeare’s daughter learns from this episode?

If you need help, here is the transcript.

It was a sunny afternoon. William Shakespeare is working on his play The Merchant of Venice. His daughter comes to see him.

Daughter: Father, look at my new ring! Isn’t it lovely, gold and shiny…
Will: Dear daughter, it is very beautiful. Where did you get such a pretty thing?
Daughter: From the market. It was much cheaper than the gold merchant!
Will: Is it real gold?
Daughter: Yes, of course!
Will: So, my dear daughter, why is your finger green?
Daughter: Oohhhh!
Will: My dear daughter, you have a lot to learn… sit with me while I work.
Will: The Merchant of Venice. The Prince of Morocco wants to marry the beautiful Portia. But first, he must choose between three boxes: one made of gold, the second of silver, and the third of cheap lead. Only one of the boxes contains a picture of Portia, and if the Prince chooses the wrong one, he cannot marry her. So, dear daughter, which box does he choose?
Daughter: The gold box! Is it real gold?
Will: He chooses the gold box indeed, and indeed it is real gold. The Prince believes that only the most beautiful box can hold the painting of the beautiful Portia. But, in fact, it holds not a picture, but a scroll with these words: All that glisters is not gold…

Robert Harley as The Prince of Morocco:
All that glisters is not gold;
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold:

Daughter: He thought that because the box is beautiful on the outside, something beautiful must be inside… he was wrong.

We’ll leave them there for now. The Merchant of Venice is a play about money, money, money, and the phrase all that glisters is not gold warns us not to be fooled by people or things that look good – because they might not be as good as they look on the surface! In modern English, the word glisters is often changed to glistens or glitters.

Man: Well that car looks fantastic, but all that glitters is not gold. Check the engine before you buy it.
Daughter: Oh father, will you buy me a real gold ring? Pleeeeeaase?
Will: Hmmm… to buy, or not to buy: that is the question.”

È proprio vero, non è tutto oro quello che luccica: all that glitters is not gold.

La trascrizione del video è disponibile anche sul sito di BBC Learning English, dove potete trovare, tra le altre cose, anche delle simpatiche attività di approfondimento.
Nel frattempo, scopriamo un altro idiom coniato da Shakespeare con il post Idioms – to Break the Ice!
Bye for now, j

1) She buys a ring at the market, 2) Because it is lovely and shiny, 3) Because his daughter’s finger is green, 4) The Prince of Morocco in The Merchant of Venice, because he chooses the gold box thinking that it contains the painting of the beautiful Portia but he is wrong, 5) Things are often different from how they appear


Janet L. Dubbini

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar