Recently for my College English course, I had the good fortune to read the Merchant of Venice. Though I initially had doubts, the play became very interesting to me as I read along. But one passage, during the first casket scene, a the poem inside the golden casket stood out to me. Here it is in full, courtasy of Project Gutenberg:
All that glisters is not gold,
Often haue you heard that told;
Many a man his life hath sold
But my outside to behold;
Guilded timber doe wormes infold:
Had you beene as wise as bold,
Yong in limbs, in iudgement old,
Your answere had not beene inscrold,
Fareyouwell, your suite is cold,
I apologize for the English, I was unable to find a quality version in Modern English. But this is secondary to my actual question, which is…
Did the originate from Shakesphere, and was it used elsewhere?
And is it likely that the first line was also used in one of Tolkein’s poems in the Lord of the Rings, the one that begins with “All that is gold does not glitter” (I apologize if I paraphrased it somewhat, I did not have the book in front of me when I wrote this.), or did he make up a similar line on his own?
Thank you everyone!
Well, there’s an important difference between the two lines.
or more commonly phrased as “Not all that glitters is gold” means that just because something looks like it, it doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Just because it’s shiny, it doesn’t mean it’s gold.
The line from Tolkien,
is a reverse of that. Even though something is valuable, doesn’t mean it is attractive. Meaning Strider, although he looked like a rough, wandering vagabond, he was actually a King in exile.
They both basically mean the same thing though. “Don’t judge a thing solely by it’s appearance.”
yeah the phrase is very common, i doubt Shakespear invented it.
A quick browse through my Bartlett’s reveals:
“Yet gold all is not, that doth golden seem” – Edmund Spenser (1553? - 1599)
“All is not gold that gliseneth.” – Thomas Middleton (1570 - 1627)
“All that glisters is not gold.”-- Shakespeare(1564 - 1616) from Merchant of Venice (as per OP)
“All is not gold that glisters.” – Cervantes (1547 - 1616)
“All, they say, that glitters is not gold.” – John Dryden (1631 - 1700)
Doesn’t help much, I guess, unless we find the specific dates on the specific quotes. Did Middleton copy it from Shakespeare? Did Shakespear copy it from Cervantes or Spenser?
I’ve carried it as far as: it was obviously a fairly common saying by early 1600s. I leave the next research steps to others.
Considering that Tolkien was, before and during his career as fantasy writer, a respected Professor of English Language and Literature at Oxford University, I suspect that he was familiar with most if not all of the quotes Dex cites.
And therefore saw it as a proverb suitable for adaptation in his own epic’s lyric.